The Benefits of Ginger in Prevention and Treatment of Cancer

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For many centuries ginger has been used throughout the world as an additive in food and drink preparation.  Because of its positive health effects, it also has become a medicinal herb and has been studied to understand the manner of its biological action.  Cancer is a frightening word because it is a dreadful disease affecting people around the world.  In the United States it is the second leading cause of death.


Findings in a review of scientific literature indicate that ginger has been shown to assist in both prevention and treatment of cancer.  Often the studies have been focused on the mechanisms of action or, in other words, how it works.  It is reported that experiments show the important parts of its effectiveness are due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant characteristics.  In the following summary it is shown to have a measurable beneficial effect on several types of cancer.  These include cancer of the:  breast, lung, intestines, pancreas, prostrate, stomach and, uterus.  Altogether these comprise the most prevalent and deadly forms of the disease.


Research Summary


It is well known that cancer is a major public health issue around the world.  In the United States it remains the second leading cause of mortality, close behind heart disease.  Five types of cancer for men and women account for the majority of the estimated new cases and deaths for each gender in 2019 (Siegel, Miller & Jemal, 2019).  See Table 1and Exhibit 1, at the end.


To understand the application and health benefits of the constituents of ginger, particularly shogaols, the following is presented in order to describe the methods of examination and the results of recent research.  These paragraphs are taken directly from articles found in scientific journals with minor editing for context and clarity. Each is cited and all are listed in the References section and can be accessed using the links provided there.


Zingiber officinale Roscoe (ginger) has been used all over the world as a spice and a medicinal herb.  This research article is a literature review of the ethnobotany, pharmacology, phytochemistry and biological activities of ginger comprising over 100 sources. The pharmacological activities of Z. officinale include:  antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-pyretic, immunomodulatory, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-obesity, reno-protective, anti-platelet aggregation, anti-angiogenic, hepato-protective, larvicidal, anti-emetic, neuroprotective, anthelmintic, and gastroprotective and cardiovascular (Dhanik, Arya & Nand, 2017).


Distinctively, however, the differences between fresh and dried gingers are enumerated demonstrating why dried and fresh ginger are used for different clinical purposes (Qin & Xu, 2009).  [Note: For my products, I have processed ginger in such a way as to produce higher concentrations of shogaols which is characterized as being “hotter.” Ginger Extract is prepared by depositing organic, hand-cut, dehydrated ginger in ethanol (24% w/v) for approximately 10 days before sampling and filtering it into an application bottle, then labeling and shipping the product.]


Evidence from in vitro, animal, and epidemiological studies suggest that ginger and its active constituents suppress the growth and induce apoptosis of variety of cancer types including skin, ovarian, colon, breast, cervical, oral, renal, prostate, gastric, pancreatic, liver, and brain cancer. These properties of ginger and its constituents could be associated with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimutagenic properties as well as other biological activities.  Ginger extract has been found to possess chemopreventive and antineoplastic properties and to be effective against various gastro-intestinal (GI) cancers such as gastric, pancreatic, liver, colorectal, and cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct).  Ginger extract and its constituents possess chemopreventive and antineoplastic properties in gastric cancer. (Prasad, & Tyagi, 2015).


Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed type of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer related mortality among females worldwide.  The high mortality rates associated with breast cancer are mainly caused by the metastatic spread of tumor cells from the site of their origin to other parts of the body.  Shogaols (6-, 8- and 10-shogaol) inhibited PMA-stimulated MDA-MB-231 cell invasion with an accompanying decrease in MMP-9 (matrix metalloproteinase 9) secretion. 6-Shogaol was identified to display the greatest anti-invasive effect (Ling, Yang, Tan, Chui, & Chew, (2010).  (Note: PMA is phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate protein activator.  MDA-MB-231 is an invasive (metastatic) breast cancer cell line that was discovered at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.  MMP-9 is matrix metalloproteinase 9, a zinc-dependent protease that plays a key role in tumor invasion and metastasis.)


Shogaols are the dehydration products of related gingerols during storage or thermal processing.  Contents of shogaols and gingerols in ginger preparations can vary significantly.  High levels of shogaols from the extract of dry ginger may have stronger cancer preventive effect than ginger with high concentrations of gingerols such as extract from fresh ginger. Results showed that shogaols had much stronger growth inhibitory effects than gingerols on human lung cancer cells and human colon cancer cells (Sang et al., 2009).


This study found that [6]-shogaol, a major bioactive component in ginger extract is extensively metabolized in cancer cells with most of its metabolites having measurable activities against human lung and colon cancer cells (Zhu, Warin, Soroka, Chen & Sang, 2013).


Colorectal cancer (CRC) remains a significant cause of mortality.  In this randomized controlled trial (RCT) ginger has been shown to inhibit COX (cyclooxygenase, an enzyme associated with the development of cancer) to decrease the incidence and multiplicity of adenomas and decrease PGE2 (Prostaglandin E2, a bioactive lipid which effects inflammation and cancer) concentrations in subjects at normal risk for CRC (Zick et al., 2014).


Whole ginger extract (GE) exerts significant growth-inhibitory and death-inducing effects in a spectrum of prostate cancer cells.  Oral consumption of the extract of whole ginger, a commonly consumed vegetable worldwide, significantly inhibits prostate tumor progression.  GE strongly suppresses the expression of cyclins/cdks (cyclin-dependent kinases, enzymes that modify proteins) that intricately orchestrate cell cycle progression (Karna, et al., 2011).


Ginger extract has potent anticancer activity against pancreatic cancer cells by inducing reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated autosis, a non-apoptotic and non-necrotic form of cell death (Akimota, Iizuka, Kanematsu, Yoshida & Takenaga, 2015; Liu & Levine, 2014; and, Munuoz-Pinedo & Martin, 2014)).  [6]-Shogaol and [6]-Gingerol are the major components of ginger extract, and both have been shown to exhibit anti-proliferative and apoptosis-inducing activities in tumor cells. While [6]-gingerol had cell growth-inhibitory activity at very high concentrations, [6]-shogaol exerted potent activity at relatively low concentrations (Akimota, et al., 2015).


Over the years, there has been a worldwide interest in ginger as a dietary supplement because of its various health beneficial effects. Shogaols, the dehydrated form of gingerols exist in higher amounts in dried ginger and have been reported to possess antitumor effects and to date, findings have revealed that they are likely to induce cancer cell death via multiple mechanisms. Earlier studies suggested that anticancer effects of 6-shogaol were associated with apoptosis, autophagy, antiinvasion, and antiproliferation. In the present study, we have demonstrated that 6-shogaol could significantly inhibit the growth of HeLa human cervical cancer cells (Liu, et al., 2012).  (HeLa is a cell line derived from cervical cancer cells taken from Henrietta Lacks and is used in medical research (Johns Hopkins, 2019).)



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.

Dhanik, J., Arya, N., Nand, V. (2017).  A review on Zingiber officinale.  Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, 6(3), 174-184.  Retrieved from

Johns Hopkins (2019, April 2). The Legacy of Henrietta Lacks [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Karna, P., Chagani, S., Gundala, S. R., Rida, P. C., Asif, G., Sharma, V., … Aneja, R. (2011). Benefits of whole ginger extract in prostate cancer. The British journal of nutrition, 107(4), 473–484. doi:10.1017/S0007114511003308 Retrieved from

Ling, H., Yang, H., Tan, S. H., Chui, W. K., & Chew, E. H. (2010). 6-Shogaol, an active constituent of ginger, inhibits breast cancer cell invasion by reducing matrix metalloproteinase-9 expression via blockade of nuclear factor-κB activation. British journal of pharmacology, 161(8), 1763–1777. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.00991.x Retrieved from

Liu, Q., Peng, Y-B., Qi, L-W., Cheng, X-L., Xu, X-J., Liu, L-L…Li, L. (2012) The cytotoxicity mechanism of 6-Shogaol-treated HeLa human cervical cancer cells revealed by label-free shotgun proteomics and bioinformatics analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1-12

Liu, Y., & Levine, B. (2014). Autosis and autophagic cell death: the dark side of autophagy. Cell death and differentiation, 22(3), 367–376. doi:10.1038/cdd.2014.143 Retrieved from

Muñoz-Pinedo, C., & Martin, S.J. (2014). Autosis: a new addition to the cell death Tower of Babel. Cell death & disease, 5(7), e1319. doi:10.1038/cddis.2014.246 Retrieved

Prasad, S., & Tyagi, A. K. (2015). Ginger and its constituents: role in prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal cancer. Gastroenterology research and practice, 2015, 142979. doi:10.1155/2015/142979 Retrieved from

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

Sang, S., Hong, J., Wu, H., Liu, J., Yang, C. S., Pan, M.-H., … Ho, C.-T., (2009). Increased growth inhibitory effects on human cancer cells and anti-inflammatory potency of Shogaols from Zingiber officinale relative to Gingerols. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 57(22), 10645–10650.

Siegel, R.L., Miller, K.D., Jemal, A., (2019).  Cancer statistics.  CA: A cancer journal for clinicians. 69/1, (7-34). Retrieved from

Zhu, Y., Warin, R.F., Soroka, D.N., Chen, H., & Sang, S.’ (2013). Metabolites of ginger component [6]-Shogaol remain bioactive in cancer cells and have low toxicity in normal cells: chemical synthesis and biological evaluation. PLoS ONE, 8(1), e54677.

Zick, S.M., Turgeon, D.K., Ren, J., Ruffin, M.T., Wright, B. D., Sen, A., … Brenner, D. E., (2014). 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. doi:10.1002/mc.22163 Retrieved from

Exhibit 1 and Table 1

(Source: Siegel, Miller & Jemal, 2019)

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Lily ChoiComment