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Ginger 

Botanical name(s):

Zingiber officiale Roscoe. Family: Zingiberaceae

Other name(s):

ginger root, zingiberis rhizoma

General description

Ginger is a perennial plant. It has grass-like leaves. The spice ginger is made from the root of the ginger plant. It’s been used for more than 2,500 years. The root contains essential oils and resins. These give ginger its odor and spicy flavor. They’re also responsible for its medicinal uses.

Ginger has active ingredients called gingerols. This is the medicinal part of the plant. Gingerols are cardiotonic in animals. In humans, ginger helps treat nausea during pregnancy.

Medically valid uses

Ginger is used mainly to treat nausea, upset stomach, and other stomach issues. Ginger reduces nausea through a direct effect on the stomach rather than on the central nervous system.

There are conflicting reports about whether ginger increases the speed of stomach emptying. A large study showed it had no effect. But it increases movement of the rest of the gastrointestinal system.

Ginger has been used to treat nausea due to mild gastrointestinal infections and pregnancy. It also treats nausea due to vertigo, nausea after surgery, and vomiting from chemotherapy.  Studies show mixed results for these effects. But research shows that ginger is safe and effective for pregnancy-related nausea, such as morning sickness. These effects are due to the gingerols.

Ginger also contains gomgerol and shogaol. They both aid in pain relief and decrease inflammation.

Unsubstantiated claims

There may be benefits that have not yet been proven through research.

Ginger may work as an anti-inflammatory substance. It may help treat arthritis and arthralgia. It may also decrease pain in arthritis.

Ginger is thought to get in the way of how prostaglandins and leukotrienes are made. These are natural chemicals that cause inflammation.

Gingerols are being studied as an anti-cancer substance. Gingerols may interfere with tumorigenesis. This is the generation of tumors.

Dosing format

Ginger is available in the form of oral tablets, crystals, and powder. It’s also made into dried or fresh root tea.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

In normal doses, ginger may cause heartburn and bloating. 

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare providers before taking any herbal medicines.

There are no major food or medicine interactions linked with ginger. But some experts think it may change the effects of blood thinners (anticoagulants). Talk with your healthcare provider before taking ginger if you take blood thinner medicine.

Online Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Godsey
Online Medical Reviewer: Diane Horowitz MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019