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Table of Contents > Herbs > Ginger
Ginger
Botanical Name:  Zingiber officinale
 
Overview
Plant Description
What's It Made Of?
Available Forms
How to Take It
Precautions
Possible Interactions
Supporting Research

Overview

Ginger, the underground stem, or rhizome, of the plant Zingiber officinale has been used as a medicine in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions since ancient times. In China, for example, ginger has been used to aid digestion and treat stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea for more than 2,000 years. Since ancient times, ginger has also been used to help treat arthritis, colic, diarrhea, and heart conditions. In addition to these medicinal uses, ginger continues to be valued around the world as an important cooking spice and is believed to help the common cold, flu-like symptoms, headaches, and even painful menstual periods. Native to Asia where its use as a culinary spice spans at least 4,400 years, ginger grows in fertile, moist, tropical soil.

Today, ginger root is widely used as a digestive aid for mild stomach upset and is commonly recommended by professional herbalists to help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness, pregnancy, and, sometimes, chemotherapy for cancer (although the latter has not been studied).

Motion Sickness
Several studies suggest that ginger may be more effective than placebo in reducing symptoms associated with motion sickness. In one trial of 80 novice sailors (prone to motion sickness), those who took powdered ginger experienced a significant reduction in vomiting and cold sweating compared to those who took placebo. Similar results were found in a study with healthy volunteers. While these results are promising, other studies suggest that ginger is not as effective as medications in reducing symptoms associated with motion sickness. In a small study of volunteers who were given ginger (fresh root and powder form), scopolamine (a medication commonly prescribed for motion sickness), or placebo, those receiving the medication experienced significantly fewer symptoms compared to those who received ginger. Given the safety of ginger, however, many people find it a welcome alternative to medications if it relieves their motion sickness.

Pregnancy Related Nausea and Vomiting
At least two studies have found that ginger is more effective than placebo in relieving nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy. In a small study including 30 pregnant women with severe vomiting, those who ingested 1 gram of ginger every day for four days reported more relief from vomiting than those who received placebo. In a larger study including 70 pregnant women with nausea and vomiting, those who received a similar dosage of ginger felt less nauseous and experienced fewer vomiting episodes than those who received placebo. (Note: fresh ginger root is safe to use during pregnancy, but dried ginger root is not. See Precautions.)

Nausea and vomiting following surgery
Research has produced mixed results regarding the use of ginger in the treatment of nausea and vomiting following surgery. In two studies, 1 gram of ginger root before surgery reduced nausea as effectively as a leading medication. In one of these two studies, women who received ginger also required fewer nausea-relieving medications following surgery. Other studies, however, have failed to find the same positive effects. In fact, one study found that ginger may actually increase vomiting following surgery. For this reason, further studies are needed to determine whether ginger is safe and effective for the prevention and treatment of nausea and vomiting following surgery.

Inflammation
In addition to providing relief from nausea and vomiting, ginger extract has long been used in traditional medical practices to decrease inflammation. In fact, many herbalists today use ginger to help treat health problems associated with inflammation, such as arthritis, bronchitis, and ulcerative colitis. In a recent study of 261 people with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, those who received a ginger extract twice daily experienced less pain and required fewer pain-killing medications compared to those who received placebo. Although there have also been a few other studies of the benefit of ginger for arthritis, one recent trial found that the herb was no more effective than ibuprofen (a medication frequently used to treat OA) or placebo in reducing symptoms of OA.

Other
Although it is much too early to tell if this will benefit those with heart disease, a few preliminary studies suggest that ginger may lower cholesterol and prevent the blood from clotting. Each of these effects may protect the blood vessels from blockage and the damaging effects of blockage such as atherosclerosis, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Again, however, it is too early too know if these initial study results will ultimately prove helpful for people. More research would be helpful.


Plant Description

Ginger is a knotted, thick, beige underground stem (rhizome). The stem extends roughly 12 inches above ground with long, narrow, ribbed, green leaves, and white or yellowish-green flowers.


What's It Made Of?

The important active components of the ginger root are thought to be volatile oils and pungent phenol compounds (such as gingerols and shogaols).


Available Forms

Ginger products are made from fresh or dried ginger root, or from steam distillation of the oil in the root. The herb is available in extracts, tinctures, capsules, and oils. Fresh ginger root can also be purchased and prepared as a tea. Ginger is also a common cooking spice and can be found in a variety of foods and drinks including ginger bread, ginger snaps, ginger sticks, and ginger ale.


How to Take It

Pediatric

Ginger should not be used by children under 2 years of age.

Ginger may be used by children over 2 years of age to treat nausea, digestive cramping, and headaches. Adjust the recommended adult dose to account for the child's weight. Most herbal dosages for adults are calculated on the basis of a 150 lb (70 kg) adult. Therefore, if the child weighs 50 lb (20 to 25 kg), the appropriate dose of ginger for this child would be 1/3 of the adult dosage.

Adult

In general, ginger intake should not exceed 2 to 4 g per day (this includes the ginger obtained through diet such as from ginger ale, ginger snaps, and ginger bread).

  • For nausea, gas, or indigestion: 2 to 4 grams of fresh root daily (0.25 to 1.0 g of powdered root) or 1.5 to 3.0 mL (30 to 90 drops) tincture daily. To prevent vomiting, take 1 gram of powdered ginger (1/2 tsp) or its equivalent every four hours as needed, or 2 ginger capsules (1 gram) three times daily. You may also chew a oz piece of fresh ginger.
  • To relieve arthritis pain: Take fresh ginger juice, extract, or tea, 2 to 4 grams daily; rub ginger oil into painful joint; or place fresh root in a warm poultice or compress and apply to painful areas.
  • For cold and flu symptoms, sore throat, headache and menstrual cramps: Steep 2 tbsp of freshly shredded ginger in boiled water, two to three times daily, or place a drop of ginger oil or a few slices of fresh rhizome in steaming water and inhale.

Precautions

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) gives fresh ginger root a class 1 safety rating, indicating that it is a safe herb with a wide dosage range. Side effects associated with ginger are rare, but if taken in excessive doses the herb may cause mild heartburn. The AHPA gives dried ginger root a class 2b rating, indicating that it should not be used during pregnancy.

People with gallstones should consult a physician before taking ginger.


Possible Interactions

If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use ginger without first talking to your healthcare provider.

Blood-thinning medications
Although ginger may interfere with blood clotting, there have been no scientific or case reports of interactions between ginger and blood-thinning medications. However, people taking these medications with ginger should be monitored closely by a healthcare practitioner for risk of bleeding.

Cyclophosphamide
Ginger may reduce the toxic side effects of cyclophosphamide (a medication used to treat a variety of cancers). More research is needed in this area.


Supporting Research

Altman RD, Marcussen KC. Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2001;44(11):2531-2538.

Awang DVC. Ginger. Can Pharma J. 1992:309-311.

Barrett B, Kiefer D, Rabago D. Assessing the risks and benefits of herbal medicine: an overview of scientific evidence. Altern Ther Health Med. 1999;5(4):40-49.

Bertolucci LE, DiDario B. Efficacy of a portable acustimulation device in controlling seasickness. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1995;66(12):1155-1158.

Bhandari U, Sharma JN, Zafar R. The protective action of ethanolic ginger (Zingiber officinale) extract in cholesterol fed rabbits. J Ethnopharm. 1998;61(2):167-171.

Bliddal H, Rosetzsky A, Schlichting P, et al. A randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study of ginger extracts and ibruprofen in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2000;8:9-12.

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000;153-159.

Bone ME, Wilkinson DJ, Young JR, McNeil J, Charlton S. Ginger root--a new antiemetic. The effect of ginger root on postoperative nausea and vomiting after major gynaecological surgery. Anaesthesia. 1990;45(8):669-71.

Bordia A, Verma SK, Srivastava KC. Effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) and fenugreek (Trigonella foenumgraecum L.) on blood lipids, blood sugar, and platelet aggregation ion patients with coronary heart disease. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1997;56(5):379-384.

Briggs CJ, Briggs GL. Herbal products in depression therapy. CPJ/RPC. November 1998;40-44.

Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications; 1998:75-76.

De Smet PAGM, Keller K, Hansel R, et al, eds. Adverse Effects of Herbal Drugs. Vol. 3. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag; 1997.

Ernst E, Pittler MH. Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. B J Anaesth. 2000;84(3):367-371.

Fischer-Rasmussen W, Kjaer SK, Dahl C, Asping U. Ginger treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 1991 Jan 4;38(1):19-24.

Fuhrman B, Rosenblat M, Hayek T, Coleman R, Aviram M. Ginger extract consumption reduces plasma cholesterol, inhibits LDL oxidation, and attenuates development of atherosclerosis in atherosclerotic, apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. J Nutr. 2000;130(5):1124-1131.

Grontved A, Brask T, Kambskard J, Hentzer E. Ginger root against seasickness: a controlled trial on the open sea. Acta Otolaryngol. 1988;105:45-49.

Heck AM, DeWitt BA, Lukes AL. Potential interactions between alternative therapies and warfarin. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2000;57(13):1221-1227.

Langmead L, Rampton DS. Review article: herbal treatment in gastrointestinal and liver disease--benefits and dangers. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2001;15(9):1239-1252.

Langner E, Greifenberg S, Gruenwald J. Ginger: history and use. Adv Ther. 1998;15(1):25-44.

Larkin M. Surgery patients at risk for herb-anaesthesia interactions. Lancet. 1999;354(9187):1362.

Low Dog T, Rile D, Carter T. Traditional and alternative therapies for breast cancer. Alt Ther. 2001;7(3):36-47.

McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A, eds. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, Fla: CRC Press; 1997.

Miller LG. Herbal medicinals: selected clinical considerations focusing on known or potential drug-herb interactions. Arch Intern Med. 1998;158(20):2200-2211.

Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:157-159.

O'Hara M, Kiefer D, Farrell K, Kemper K. A review of 12 commonly used medicinal herbs. Arch Fam Med. 1998;7(6):523-536.

Phillips S, Ruggier R, Hutchinson SE. Zingiber officinale (ginger)--an antiemetic for day case surgery. Anaesthesia. 1993;48(8):715-717.

Rotblatt M, Ziment I. Evidence-Based Herbal Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Hanley & Belfus, Inc; 2002:160-165.

Srivastava KC, Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders. Medical Hypotheses. 1992;39:343-348.

USP publishes information monographs on ginger and valerian. HerbalGram. 1998;43:30, 57, 71.

Vaes LP, Chyka PA. Interactions of warfarin with garlic, ginger, ginkgo, or ginseng: nature of the evidence. Ann Pharmacother. 2000;34(12):1478-1482.

Vutyavanich T, Kraisarin T, Ruangsri R. Ginger for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol. 2001;97(4):577-582

White L, Mavor S. Kids, Herbs, Health. Loveland, Colo: Interweave Press; 1998:22, 32.

Yamahara J, Rong HQ, Naitohh Y, et al. Inhibition of cytotoxic drug-induced vomiting in suncus by a ginger constituent. J Ethnopharmacol. 1989;27:535-536.


Review Date: April 2002
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Steven Dentali, PhD (May 1999), Senior Director of Botanical Science, Rexall Sundown, Boca Raton, FL; Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, MA; Steven Ottariono, RPh, Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; Tom Wolfe, P.AHG (May 1999), Smile Herb Shop, College Park, MD. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works, Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000), Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; R. Lynn Shumake, PD (March 2000), Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary & Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

 
RELATED INFORMATION
  Uses of this Herb
Atherosclerosis
Bronchitis
Diarrhea
Hypercholesterolemia
Infantile Colic
Motion Sickness
Osteoarthritis
Ulcerative Colitis
  Herbs with Similar Uses
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  Drugs that Interact
Summary
Blood-thinning Medications
Cyclophosphamide
  Herbs with Similar Side Effects
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