Ginger as Antiparasitic and Antimicrobial

Ginger as Antiparasitic and Antimicrobial


ginger power and tincture.jpg

Many beneficial uses of ginger have been presented and discussed in previous posts.  Such features as its action as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory agent.  Perhaps you may not have been aware of its ability to assist in the treatment and prevention of the diseases associated with pathogenic microbes and those related to parasites.  Below are excerpts from articles that describe some of those diseases, their causes and some of the ways ginger might be used in their treatment.     


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are three main classes of parasites that can cause disease in humans: protozoa, helminths, and ectoparasites. 


Protozoa are microscopic, one-celled organisms that can be free-living or parasitic in nature. They are able to multiply in humans, which contributes to their survival and also permits serious infections to develop from just a single organism.  The protozoa that are infectious to humans can be classified into four groups based on their mode of movement:


1.     Sarcodina – the ameba, e.g., Entamoeba

2.     Mastigophora – the flagellates, e.g., Giardia, Leishmania

3.     Ciliophora – the ciliates, e.g., Balantidium

4.     Sporozoa – organisms whose adult stage is not motile e.g., Plasmodium, Cryptosporidium


Helminths are large, multicellular organisms that are generally visible to the naked eye in their adult stages. Like protozoa, helminths can be either free-living or parasitic in nature. There are three main groups of helminths that are human parasites:


1.     Flatworms (platyhelminths) – these include the trematodes (flukes) and cestodes (tapeworms).

2.     Thorny-headed worms (acanthocephalins) – the adult forms of these worms reside in the gastrointestinal tract. The acanthocephala are thought to be intermediate between the cestodes and nematodes.

3.     Roundworms (nematodes) – the adult forms of these worms can reside in the gastrointestinal tract, blood, lymphatic system or subcutaneous tissues. Alternatively, the immature (larval) states can cause disease through their infection of various body tissues.


Ectoparasites is the term generally used to refer to organisms such as ticks, fleas, lice, and mites that attach or burrow into the skin and remain there for relatively long periods of time.  They are important in causing diseases in their own right, but are even more important as vectors, or transmitters, of many different pathogens that in turn cause tremendous morbidity and mortality from the diseases they cause (CDC, 2016).


In the New Scientist article found at the link in the reference, there are several pages that can be navigated with photographs (See also Exhibits 1 through 9).  The descriptions of helminths that can be found there follow:

1.     Hookworm (Necator americanus) is a parasitic nematode that begins life outside the body and is transmitted through contaminated water or fruits and vegetables. Its larvae grow inside human intestines attaching to the wall and feed on the blood of the host.

2.     Roundworms (Ascaris lumbricoides) are the largest intestinal nematodes affecting humans, growing to 15 to 35 centimeters in length. They are transferred by ingestion.  The eggs hatch and penetrate the intestinal wall entering the bloodstream making it to the lungs where it is coughed up and swallowed, returning to the gut.

3.     Flatworms (Schistosoma mansoni, S. haematobium, S. japonicum) live in the bloodstream of the host causing schistosomiasis or bilharzia.  They penetrate the skin of victims in contact with contaminated water and cause inflammation damaging organs, particularly the liver.

4.     Tapeworm (Taenia solium) is a parasite transmitted in infected food.  It attaches itself to the intestine with hooks on its head and can survive in humans up to 25 years.

5.     Pinworm (Enterobius vermicularis) is a common human parasite causing enterobiasis (New Scientist, 2009).

Giardia is a microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal illness known as giardiasis. Giardia (also known as Giardia intestinalis, Giardia lamblia, or Giardia duodenalis) is found on surfaces or in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with feces from infected humans or animals.  Giardia is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it tolerant to chlorine disinfection (CDC, 2015).

Giardia lamblia is one of the most common protozoal infections in human especially children.  The present study proved the effectiveness of ginger and cinnamon dichloro-methane extracts as promising natural therapeutic agents against G. lamblia (Mahmoud, Attia, Said & Ibraheim, 2014).

Trichomonas vaginalis, a flagellate, is the most common pathogenic protozoan of humans in industrialized countries.  It resides in the female lower genital tract and the male urethra and prostate, where it replicates by binary fission. The parasite does not appear to have a cyst form and does not survive well in the external environment. Trichomonas vaginalis is transmitted among humans, its only known host, primarily by sexual intercourse (CDC, 2017c).

Trichomoniasis is the most common sexually transmitted protozoan disease in the world. Metronidazole is the choice drug for trichomoniasis treatment, however, metronidazole resistant Trichomonas vaginalis (T. vaginalis) has been reported. Natural products are becoming the source of many new drugs, and Zingiber officinale (Ginger) is a widely used ingredient in traditional medicine.

Ginger ethanol extract induces programmed cell death (apoptosis) in T. vaginalis. It is recommended that due to the known teratogenic effect of metronidazole, ginger can be considered as an alternative drug for metronidazole (Arbabi, Delvari, Kashan, Taghizadeh & Hooshyar, 2016).

The process of programmed cell death, or apoptosis, is generally characterized by distinct morphological characteristics and energy-dependent biochemical mechanisms. Apoptosis is considered a vital component of various processes.  The ability to modulate the life or death of a cell is recognized for its immense therapeutic potential (Elmore, 2007).  Apoptosis is a genetically regulated form of cell death. It is distinguished from death by necrosis by the absence of an associated inflammatory response (Renehan, Booth & Potten, 2001).

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that is known to cause the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis. Both the parasite and the disease are commonly known as “Crypto.” (CDC, 2017d).

Hymenolepiasis is caused by two cestodes (tapeworm) species, Hymenolepis nana (the dwarf tapeworm, adults measuring 15 to 40 mm in length) and Hymenolepis diminuta (rat tapeworm, adults measuring 20 to 60 cm in length). Hymenolepis diminuta is a cestode of rodents infrequently seen in humans and frequently found in rodents (CDC, 2017a).

Pinworm infection is caused by a small, thin, white roundworm called Enterobius vermicularis. Although pinworm infection can affect all people, it most commonly occurs among children, institutionalized persons, and household members of persons with pinworm infection (CDC, 2013).

Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, is a disease caused by parasitic worms. Although the worms that cause schistosomiasis are not found in the United States, people are infected worldwide. In terms of impact this disease is second only to malaria as the most devastating parasitic disease (CDC, 2018).  Schistosomiasis is caused by digenetic blood trematodes.  Schistosoma mansoni is found in parts of South America and the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East (CDC, 2017b).

The molluscicidal and antischistosomal activities of ginger have been the subject of several studies. Anthel­mintic (antiparasitic to worms) activity of ginger was demonstrated in vitro and in vivo. The antischistosomal activity of ginger extract was also reported against Schistosoma mansoni.  Gingerol and shogaol were identified as potent molluscicidal constituents of ginger against S. mansoni (Mbaveng & Kuete, 2017).

Foodborne illnesses are a major concern for consumers, the food industry, and food safety authorities. In recent years, considerable effort has been made to find natural antimicrobials that can inhibit bacterial and fungal growth in foods in order to improve quality and shelf-life.  Ginger has strong antibacterial and to some extent antifungal properties. Studies have revealed that a methanol extract of Z. officinale rhizomes possesses significant antibacterial activity against Escherichia coli, Salmonella enteriditis and Staphylococcus aureus (Dhanik, Arya & Nand, 2017).  Ginger has strong antibacterial and to some extent antifungal properties.  The ginger extract has antimicrobial action at levels equivalent to 2000 mg/ ml of the spice.  Ginger inhibits aspergillus, a fungus known for production of aflatoxin, a carcinogen (Zadeh & Kor, 2014).

Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by yeasts that belong to the genus Candida. Some of the hundreds of Candida species can cause infection in humans; the most common is Candida albicans.  Candidiasis in the vagina is commonly referred to as a “yeast infection” (CDC, 2019).

Investigators have shown that, ginger and its constituents play a vital role in the pre­vention of microbial growth or act as anti-microbial agents.  Ginger has antimicrobial activity against E coli, Salmonella typhi and Bacillus subtilis and ethanolic extract of ginger showed widest zone of inhibition against Salmonella typhi.  The ethanolic extract of ginger powder has pronounced inhibitory activi­ties against Candida albicans (Rahmani, Al shabrmi & Aly, 2014).

In addition to the therapeutic uses based on its antimicrobial properties, ginger has been widely applied in meat preservation and prevention of lipid rancidity.  In many tropical countries, ginger is used to preserve foods that spoil easily such as fruits and meats.  These are all based on the antimicrobial effects of ginger (Qin & Xu, 2009).


Arbabi, M., Delvari, M., Kashan, Z.F., Taghizadeh, M., Hooshyar, H. (2016). Ginger (Zingiber officinale) induces apoptosis in Trichomonas vaginalis in vitro. Int J Reprod BioMed, 14(11), 691-698. Retrieved from

CDC-Centers for Disease Control (2016, April 22). About parasites.  Retrieved from

CDC-Centers for Disease Control (2019, April 12). Candidiasis.  Retrieved from

CDC-Centers for Disease Control (2017a, December 13). Hymenolepiasis.  Retrieved from

CDC-Centers for Disease Control (2017d, January12).  Parasites-Cryptosporidim.

CDC-Centers for Disease Control (2013, January 10).  Parasites-Enterobiasis (also known as Pinworm Infection).  Retrieved from

CDC-Centers for Disease Control (2015, July 22) Parasites-Giardia. Retrieved from

CDC-Centers for Disease Control (2018, April 11).  Parasites-Schistosomiasis.  Retrieved from

CDC-Centers for Disease Control (2017b, December 18).  Schistomiasis Infection.  Retrieved from

CDC-Centers for Disease Control (2017c, December 31).  Trichomoniasis. Retrieved from

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

Elmore S. (2007). Apoptosis: a review of programmed cell death. Toxicologic Pathology, 35(4), 495–516. doi:10.1080/01926230701320337.  Retrieved from

Mahmoud, A., Attia, R., Said, S., & Ibraheim, Z. (2014). Ginger and cinnamon: can this household remedy treat giardiasis? Parasitological and histopathological studies. Iranian journal of parasitology, 9(4), 530–540.  Retrieved from

Mbaveng, A.T., & Kuete V. (2017). Zingiber officinale. In V. Kuete (Ed.) Medical Spices and Vegetables from Africa (pp. 627-639). London: Academic Press.

New Scientist (2009, July 9). The enemy within: 10 human parasites [Blog post]. 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

Rahmani, A. H., Al shabrmi, F. M., & 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.  Retrieved from

Renehan, A. G., Booth, C., & Potten, C. S. (2001). What is apoptosis, and why is it important? BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 322(7301), 1536–1538.  Retrieved from

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



Exhibits 1 through 9


1. Hookworm



2. Roundworm

round worm.jpg

3. Flatworm Blood Fluke

flatworm blood fluke.jpg


4. Tapeworm


5. Pinworm



6. Wuchereria Bancrofti

wb worm.jpg

7. Taxoplasma Gondii


Taxoplasma Gondii.jpg

8. Giardia Lamblia

Giardia Lamblia.jpg

9. Entamoeba Histolytica


Entamoeba Histolytica.jpg

(All Exhibits from New Scientist, 2009)


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