Why do I love Ginger?

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After coming to America, I noticed that everyone consumed a lot of cold food, especially liquids.  This is much different than in China.  Later when I began my practice I noticed that this was having an effect on the patients that were coming to me.  So, I began experimenting with different ways to introduce items into their diet that would help them learn how to start thinking about balance which is such an important principle in Chinese life.  Eventually, I started purchasing organic ginger to process into powder.  Now I am able to supply it to my patients.  In the process, I have learned that ginger has many other characteristics that are just becoming recognized in America.  Some of these attributes have been known in other parts of the world for a very long time; however, that knowledge was based upon a different perspective.  In China the way we think about and engage the world is all about balance.  There is the idea of yin and yang and we think about food in that context. 

Now, people in the west are taking notice of natural means of treating adverse physical conditions and, as a result, many are showing an interest in herbal medicines as an option to usual prescriptions.  Along with that interest comes the curiosity and inquiry of those who have an interest in the medical delivery system in this country.  To be expected then is an attempt to evaluate alternative modalities in the same way that conventional practice is analyzed.  This will briefly summarize some of the information about ginger that has been generated from the research done in the last ten years or so.

Ginger has been used for thousands of years as an ingredient for cooking and for medicine to treat a variety of conditions.  Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a member of the Zingiberaceae family which also includes turmeric (Cucuma longa) and galangal (Alpina galangal) (Lakin, Ford and Tepper, 2015).  It is the underground root or rhizome of a perennial plant that may grow to three feet in height with grass-like leaves up to a foot in length and yellowish-orange petals.  It contains 80.9% moisture, 2.3% protein, 0.9% fat, 1.2% minerals, 2.4% fiber and 12.3% carbohydrates (Zadeh & Kor, 2014). 

Traditionally, ginger is used in several of the world’s medicinal systems, including those of China, India and the Middle East.  Most of the world’s supply of ginger comes from India, China, Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand and Nigeria (Mbaveng & Kuete, 2017).  India and China together produce over 50% of the supply and are believed to have used ginger medicinally for 5,000 years (Bode & Dong, 2011, Dhanik, Arya & Nand, 2017).  Ginger was exported from India into the Roman Empire where its use spread to Europe and the West.  Queen Elizabeth I supposedly is credited with the idea of the gingerbread man (Bode, 2011). 

Interest in ginger as an alternative to conventional medication has grown substantially and is not being used only as a traditional medicinal herb but also in conventional medicine.  Scientists have found evidence to support several medicinal functions of ginger which will be described below.  Ginger is comprised of several compounds.  Those that are biologically active include:  gingerol; paradol; shogaol; zingerone; Zerumbone; 1-Dehydro-(10) gingerdione; terpeoids; and ginger flavonoids.  Two types of ginger are used in herbal medicine:  fresh and dried; resulting in some differences in medicinal function.  Unstable compounds in fresh ginger convert to stable compounds during the drying process (Qin & Xu, 2009).  In Chinese medicine fresh and dried ginger would be used for different purposes since the former is characterized by mild warmth and mild pungency while the latter has a strong warmth and strong pungency (Qin & Xu, 2009).  The dominant constituent in fresh ginger is gingerol and in dry ginger it is shogaol. 

The biological activities associated with ginger’s active compounds are: 

Gingerol:  anti-oxidant; anti-tumor via induction of apoptosis, modulation of genetics; anti-inflammatory and analgesic; anti-microbial; and,hepato-protective.

Paradol:  anti-oxidant; anti-cancerous; and anti-microbial.

Shogaol:  anti-oxidant; anti-inflammatory; anti-cancer via inhibition of cell invasion reduction of matrix metalloproteinase-9 expression, anti-proliferation and anti-invasion.

Zingerone:  anti-oxidant; anti-inflammatory; and, anti-bacterial.

Zerumbone:  anti-tumor; and anti-microbial.

1-Dehydro-(10) gingerdione:  regulation of inflammation genes.

Terpenoids:  Induce apoptosis by activation of p53.

Ginger flavonoids:  anti-oxidant (Rahmani, et al.).

            Uses of ginger in a therapeutic setting includes acting as an aid in digestion.  This is one of the benefits that has been enjoyed in China and elsewhere for a very long time.  It is also considered a diaphoretic helping to lower body heat.  Reduction of discomfort from nausea and vomiting due to motion sickness, morning sickness and pregnancy have also been reported (Chandra, Einarson & Koren, 2002, Ebrahimi, Maltepe &Einarson, 2010).  There are reports that ginger has been helpful in reducing weight loss due to nausea following chemotherapy (Qin & Xu, 2009).

            People with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis experience less pain when they ingest ginger regularly.  In an invitro trial, ginger was as effective as betamethasone in alleviating inflammation (Ribel-Madsen, et al., 2012).  Other forms of inflammation, headaches, ulcerative colitis are also alleviated with the regular use of ginger.

            It is also reported that ginger has the effect of reducing oxidation that brings on ischemia and senility.  Chinese have named ginger “revived grass” because those who consume it regularly over an extended period of time remain young (Qin & Xu, 2009).   

            The components of ginger may also have anti-tumor and anti-cancer.  After the components were isolated, testing showed that they had their apoptotic and cytotoxic assessed and it was determined that the extracts of ginger have preventive action against cytotoxicity (Butt, Naz, Sultan & Qayyum, 2013).     

            Dyspepsia and other upper gastrointestinal discomfort is improved with the use of ginger.  This is a feature that has been known for a long time as with digestion mentioned above.  Ginger may be useful in treating colic and diarrhea and it may accelerate gastric emptying.

            Ginger is efficient in promoting cerebral circulation, reducing blood flow velocity and improving ischemia, metabolism and hypoxia “thereby positively protecting brain” (Qin & Xu, 2009, p. 75).

            Ginger helps stimulate the circulatory system.  It improves circulation in the extremities and it nourishes the skin with increased blood flow.  Blood pressure is also improved.

            Early studies show some promise that ginger may decrease the threat of heart attack or stroke.  Dried ginger given to patients with coronary heart disease inhibited platelet aggregation.

            Ginger is effective in treating menstrual issues such as delayed periods, pain in ovulation and blood clots. 

            Other activities of ginger include its antimicrobial properties.  In some places ginger is such an effective antimicrobial that it is used as a food preservative.  Ginger has been tested as an asthma treatment (Townsend, et al., 2013).  Although some of the work has been done on animals, there is research that deals with several other areas of great interest.  In a chapter of a recent book on ginger the pharmacology of Zingiber officinale was outlined as:

            Ginger in the treatment and prevention of arthritis;

            Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities;

            Anti-cancer activity;

            Anti-diabetic activity;

            Hepatoprotective effects;

            Nephroprotective effects;

            Antioxidant activity; and,

            Other pharmacological activities. (Mbaveng &Kuete,2017)

            It is interesting that these very important categories of effects and activities are emerging in conventional or ‘western’ medicine now.  In a study done in Iran, a literature search was undertaken with certain terms relating to historic medical records were to be matched with terms currently in use relating to the effects of ginger.  The authors found that those conditions identified in ITM (Iranian Traditional Medicine) that were treated with ginger had treatment effects quite similar to what has been identified by modern research (Khodaie & Sadegpoor, 2015).  Perhaps it could be that the truth relating to health can be ascertained through synthesis as well as through analysis.



Akimoto, M., Iizuka, M., Kanematsu, R., Yoshida, M., & Takenaga, K. (2015). Anticancer effect of ginger extract against pancreatic cancer cells mainly through reactive oxygen species-mediated autotic cell death. PLoS ONE, 10(5), e0126605. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0126605

Bode, A. M., Dong, Z. (2011). The amazing and mighty ginger. In: I.F. Benzie & S. Wachtel-Galor, (Eds). Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 7. Retrieved from:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/#

Butt, M. S., Naz, A., Sultan, M. T., & Qayyum, M. M. N. (2013). Anti-oncogenic perspectives of spices/herbs: A comprehensive review. EXCLI Journal, 12, 1043–1065.

Chandra, K., Einarson, A., & Koren, G. (2002). Taking ginger for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Canadian Family Physician, 48, 1441–1442.

Dhanik, J., Arya, N., Nand, V. (2017).  A review on Zingiber officinale.  Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, 6(3), 174-184.  Retrieved from www.phytojournal.com/archives/2017/vol6issue3/PartC/6-2-17-350.pdf

Ebrahimi, N., Maltepe, C., & Einarson, A. (2010). Optimal management of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. International Journal of Women’s Health, 2, 241–248.

Funk, J. L., Frye, J. B., Oyarzo, J. N., Chen, J., Zhang, H., & Timmermann, B. N. (2016). Anti-inflammatory effects of the essential oils of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) in experimental rheumatoid arthritis. PharmaNutrition, 4(3), 123–131.  http://doi.org/10.1016/j.phanu.2016.02.004 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/#


Islam, M. A., Alam, F., Solayman, M., Khalil, M. I., Kamal, M. A., & Gan, S. H. (2016). Dietary Phytochemicals: Natural swords combating inflammation and oxidation-mediated degenerative diseases. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 5137431. http://doi.org/10.1155/2016/5137431

Khodaie, L., & Sadeghpoor, O. (2015). Ginger from ancient times to the new outlook. Jundishapur Journal of Natural Pharmaceutical Products, 10(1), e18402.

Lakhan, S. E., Ford, C. T., & Tepper, D. (2015). Zingiberaceae extracts for pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition Journal, 14, 50. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-015-0038-8


Li, Y., Tran, V. H., Duke, C. C., & Roufogalis, B. D. (2012). Preventive and protective properties of Zingiber officinale (ginger) in diabetes mellitus, diabetic complications, and associated lipid and other metabolic disorders: A brief review. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: eCAM, 2012, 516870. http://doi.org/10.1155/2012/516870


Liu, R., Heiss, E. H., Sider, N., Schinkovitz, A., Gröblacher, B., Guo, D., Atanasov, A. G. (2015). Identification and characterization of [6]-shogaol from ginger as inhibitor of vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 59(5), 843–852. http://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.201400791

Mazidi, M., Gao, H.-K., Rezaie, P., & Ferns, G. A. (2016). The effect of ginger supplementation on serum C-reactive protein, lipid profile and glycaemia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Food & Nutrition Research, 60, 10.3402/fnr.v60.32613. http://doi.org/10.3402/fnr.v60.32613

Mbaveng, A.T., & Kuete V. (2017) Zingiber officinale. In V. Kuete (Ed.) Medical Spices and Vegetables from Africa (pp. 627-639). London: Academic Press.  https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-809286-6.00032-


Moosavi, J. (2009). The place of Avicenna in the history of medicine. Avicenna Journal of Medical Biotechnology, 1(1), 3–8.  Retrieved from



Osborn D, (2015) The four humors.  Retrieved from  http://www.greekmedicine.net/b_p/Four_Humors.html


Qin, F., & Xu, H. (2009). Active compounds in gingers and their therapeutic use in complimentary medication.  Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Science and Biotechnology, 2(2), 72-78.  Retrieved from https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Active-Compounds-in-Gingers-and-Their-Therapeutic-Qin-Xu/e3308daa7c3c6aa0e90aeeac21116da90afcaf96

Rahmani, A. H., shabrmi, F. M. A., & Aly, S. M. (2014). Active ingredients of ginger as potential candidates in the prevention and treatment of diseases via modulation of biological activities. International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Pharmacology, 6(2), 125–136.

Rayati, F., Hajmanouchehri, F., & Najafi, E. (2017). Comparison of anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of Ginger powder and Ibuprofen in postsurgical pain model: A randomized, double-blind, case–control clinical trial. Dental Research Journal, 14(1), 1–7.

Ribel-Madsen, S., Bartels, E.M., Stockmarr, A., Borgwardt, C.C., Dannskiold, B., Bliddal, H. (2012).  A synoviocyte model for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis; response to ibuprofen, betamethasone, and ginger extract-a cross-sectional in vitro study. Arthritis. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/505842

Ryan, J. L., & Morrow, G. R. (2010). Ginger. Oncology Nurse Edition, 24(2), 46–49.  Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5008850/

Shawahna, R., & Taha, A. (2017). Which potential harms and benefits of using ginger in the management of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy should be addressed? A consensual study among pregnant women and gynecologists. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 17, 204. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-017-1717-0

Simonds, N., (1999). A spoonful of ginger: irresistible health-giving recipes from Asian kitchens [E-reader version].  Retrieved from https://play.google.com/store/books

Terry, R., Posadzki, P., Watson, LK., Ernst, E. (2011).  The use of ginger (Zingiber officinale) for the treatment of pain: a systematic review of clinical trials.  Pain Medicine, 12(12), 1808-18.  http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01261.x


Townsend, E. A., Siviski, M. E., Zhang, Y., Xu, C., Hoonjan, B., & Emala, C. W. (2013). Effects of ginger and its constituents on airway smooth muscle relaxation and calcium regulation. American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, 48(2), 157–163. http://doi.org/10.1165/rcmb.2012-0231OC

Weber, W., Killen, J. (2015). Ayurvedic medicine: in depth.  Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/ayurveda/introduction.htm


Yu, Y., Zick, S., Li, X., Zou, P., Wright, B., & Sun, D. (2011). Examination of the pharmacokinetics of active ingredients of ginger in humans. The AAPS Journal, 13(3), 417. http://doi.org/10.1208/s12248-011-9286-5

Zadeh, J., Kor, N., (2014).  Physiological and pharmaceutical effects of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) as a valuable medical plant.  European Journal of Experimental Biology, 4(1), 87-90.  Retrieved from http://www.imedpub.com/abstract/physiological-and-pharmaceutical-effects-of-ginger-zingiber-officinale-roscoeas-a-valuable-medicinal-plant-15271.html

Zick, S. M., Turgeon, D. K., Ren, J., Ruffin, M. T., Wright, B. D., Sen, A., … Brenner, D. E. (2015). Pilot Clinical Study of the Effects of Ginger Root Extract on Eicosanoids in Colonic Mucosa of Subjects at Increased Risk for Colorectal Cancer. Molecular Carcinogenesis, 54(9), 908–915. http://doi.org/10.1002/mc.22163

Zingiber officinale. (2018, February 12).  Retrieved from  https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/zingiber-officinale



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Lily ChoiComment