Ginger is a very well known herb, mainly for its culinary applications. The warming, spicy food is useful as a medicinal as well for nausea, vomiting, menstrual irregularities, and to improve digestion and reduce bloating after meals.
Ginger is a staple herb in Chinese medicine, where it is used in two different forms. Dried ginger is used for bleeding conditions and as a stimulant while fresh ginger serves as more of a tonic and is preferred for nausea and vomiting.
In Western herbal medicine, both fresh and dried ginger are used; however, for antiviral applications, only the fresh root or juice has been shown to provide antiviral benefits. The drying process destroys the active compounds but will remain viable for treating nausea.
- Alcoholic gastritis
- Diarrea from relaxed bowel lacking inflammation
- Drug induced nausea
- Menstrual irregularities
- Menstrual pain
- Morning sickness
- Motion sickness
- Poor digestion
- None noted
- Circulatory Stimulant
- Digestive stimulant
What is Ginger Used For?
Ginger is a popular culinary herb for its mild spicy flavor. Medicinally, ginger is used for its antiviral effects (fresh only), gentle stimulating action, as an anti-inflammatory, and for treating nausea and vomiting. The anti-nausea activity of ginger is robust and can be used for almost any form of nausea, including morning sickness during pregnancy, sea or car-sickness, after alcohol or drug use, stress, and gastrointestinal infection.
Ginger is also used topically for its anti-inflammatory, and mildly stimulating effects best described as "warming." Ginger salves, poultices, or tincture can be applied to the skin or sore joints to relieve the pain and downregulate inflammation in the area through rubefacient action.
Traditional Uses of Ginger
Traditional Chinese Medicine
In traditional Chinese medicine, fresh ginger and dried ginger are considered to be very different.
Dried ginger (Gan jiang) is used to warm the stomach and spleen. This action improves digestion and relieves cold conditions associated with these 2 organs. It is often used in tonic herb formulations in order to magnify the tonic qualities of the other herbs, particularly Qi tonics .
Dried Ginger (Gan jiang)
Pinyin Gan jiang
Taste: Pungent (spicy) 
Energy: Hot 
Target organs: Spleen, kidney, lungs, and heart .
Actions: Warms the middle jiao, rescues devastated yang, warms the lungs, relieves fluid retention, warms the channels, stops bleeding .
Indications: Spleen and stomach defficiency-cold patterns with gastric and abdominal cold pain, vomiting and diarrhoea .
Caution: Caution if using with blood heat, yin deficiency, internal heat showing a red tongue with scanty coating and dry hard stool, pregnancy. . Use dried ginger cautiously in pregnancy. Do not exceed 2g/day .
Fresh Ginger (Shiang Jiang)
Pinyin: Shiang Jiang
Taste: Pungent 
Energy: Warm 
Actions: Disperses the exterior, disipates cold, warms the center, stops vomiting, dissolves phlegm, resolves toxins, moistens and cools the interior [5, 14].
Indications: To address dryness, and expel heat. . Wind-cold exterior pattern, vomiting. White glossy tongue coating. .
Caution: Contraindicated with dry red tongue with thirst and aversion to heat .
- (1:2 Liquid Extract)
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Constituents of Interest
- Shang Jiang (Fresh Ginger) (China)
- Gan Jiang (Drieed Ginger) (China)
No adverse reactions expected.
Duration of Use
- Long-term use of ginger is acceptable.
Ginger is a member of the Zingiberaceae family of plants which comprises 50 different genera and 1600 species of flowering plants.
The vast majority of the Zingiberaceae plants are aromatic and possess thick, creeping rhizomes. This family contains many of the most well known culinary and medicinal herbs of our time.
Some of the noteable members aside from ginger includes:
- Curcuma longa (Turmeric)
- Alpinia galanga (Thai ginger)
- Amomum spp. (Cardamom)
- Hedychium spp. (Ginger lily)
Pharmacology & Medical Research
Animal and cell culture data have demonstrated mechanisms of action for gingers anti-nausea effects .
Ginger extracts may provide at least some of their anti-emetic and anti-nausea actions through its reported interaction with the 5-HT3 and NK-1 receptors implicated with the CINV reflex. The constituents suggested to provide this action are the gingerols, shogaols, zingiberene, zingiberone, and paradol) [9, 10]. 5-HT3 and NK-1 antagonists are used as modern anti-emetic medications.
In an animal study investigating the effect of ginger supplementation with cisplatin-induced emesis, ginger supplementation was shown to prevent the onset of emesis in these individuals [11, 12].
A few of gingers constituents (gingerols, shogaols, zingiberene, zingerone, and paradol) have been found to stimulate oral, and gastric secretions , as well as regulate gastrointestinal motility [7, 8].
Clinical Applications Of Ginger:
Ginger is useful as an antiviral if the fresh juice is used and at the first sign of infection. The antinausea effects of ginger are among its most reliable activities, reducing nausea for a wide range of unrelated conditions including morning sickness, bacterial infection, and sea or car sickness.
Ginger is also useful for treating flatulence, or bloating after meals, and can improve the digestive process by stimulating the release of digestive enzymes.
Topically, ginger is a reliable rubefacient useful for treating rheumatoid arthritis and muscle aches.
Avoid ginger if gallstones are present.
Essence of ginger often contains adulterants, caution should be advised to only purchase from a reputable supplier .
Caution advised when peptic ulceration, gastro-esophageal reflux, or other gastric diseases present .
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Updated: May 2018
Recent Blog Posts:
Marx, W., McCarthy, A. L., Ried, K., Vitetta, L., McKavanagh, D., Thomson, D., … Isenring, L. (2014). Can ginger ameliorate chemotherapy-induced nausea? Protocol of a randomized double blind, placebo-controlled trial. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 14(1), 134. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-134
Baliga MS, Haniadka R, Pereira MM, D'Souza JJ, Pallaty PL, Bhat HP, Popuri S. (2011). Update on the chemopreventive effects of ginger and its phytochemicals. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 51:499–523.
Chrubasik S, Pittler MH, Roufogalis BD. (2005). Zingiberis rhizoma: a comprehensive review on the ginger effect and efficacy profiles. Phytomedicine, 12:684–701.
A Modern Herbal. (1931). Ginger. Retrieved from http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/g/ginger13.html
Teeguarden, R. (2000). The ancient wisdom of the Chinese tonic herbs. New York, NY: Warner Books.
Platel K, Srinivasan K. (1996). Influence of dietary spices or their active principles on digestive enzymes of small intestinal mucosa in rats. Int J Food Sci Nutr, 47:55–59.
Yamahara J, Huang QR, Li YH, Xu L, Fujimura H. (1990). Gastrointestinal motility enhancing effect of ginger and its active constituents. Chem & Pharmaceutical bulletin. 38:430–431.
Wu KL, Rayner CK, Chuah SK, Changchien CS, Lu SN, Chiu YC, Chiu KW, Lee CM. (2008). Effects of ginger on gastric emptying and motility in healthy humans. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 2008, 20:436–440.
Riyazi A, Hensel A, Bauer K, Geissler N, Schaaf S, Verspohl EJ. (2007). The effect of the volatile oil from ginger rhizomes (Zingiber officinale), its fractions and isolated compounds on the 5-HT3 receptor complex and the serotoninergic system of the rat ileum. Planta Med 2007, 73:355–362.
Abdel-Aziz H, Windeck T, Ploch M, Verspohl EJ. (2006). Mode of action of gingerols and shogaols on 5-HT3 receptors: binding studies, cation uptake by the receptor channel and contraction of isolated guinea-pig ileum. Eur J Pharmacol 2006, 530:136–143.
Sharma SS, Kochupillai V, Gupta SK, Seth SD, Gupta YK. (1997). Antiemetic efficacy of ginger (Zingiber officinale) against cisplatin-induced emesis in dogs. J Ethnopharmacol 1997, 57:93–96.
Sharma SS, Gupta YK. (1998). Reversal of cisplatin-induced delay in gastric emptying in rats by ginger (Zingiber officinale). J Ethnopharmacol 1998, 62:49–55.
Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a.: Churchill Livingstone. (Pg. 227-231).
Yang, J., Huang, H., Zhu, Li-Jiang, & Chen, Y. (2013). Introduction to Chinese materia medica (3rd ed.). (Pg 47-49).