Native to southern Asia, ginger is a 2- to 4-foot-long perennial that produces grass-like leaves up to a foot long and almost an inch wide. Although it’s called ginger root in the grocery store, the part of the herb used is actually the rhizome, the underground stem of the plant, with its bark-like outer covering scraped off.
Ginger has been used as food and medicine for millennia. Arabian traders carried ginger root from China and India to be used as a food spice in ancient Greece and Rome, and tax records from the second century AD show that ginger was a delightful source of revenue to the Roman treasury.
Chinese medical texts from the fourth century BC suggest that ginger is effective in treating nausea, diarrhea, stomachaches, cholera, toothaches, bleeding, and rheumatism. Ginger was later used by Chinese herbalists to treat a variety of respiratory conditions, including coughs and the early stages of colds.
Ginger's modern use dates back to the early 1980s, when a scientist named D. Mowrey noticed that ginger-filled capsules reduced his nausea during an episode of flu. Inspired by this, he performed the first
One of the most prevalent ingredients in fresh ginger is the pungent substance gingerol. However, when ginger is dried and stored, its gingerol rapidly converts to the substances shogaol and zingerone. If any of these substances has medicinal effects remains unknown.
What Is Ginger Used for Today?
Some evidence suggests that ginger may be at least slightly helpful for the prevention and treatment of various forms of nausea, including motion sickness, the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (morning sickness)
Note: If you are pregnant or undergoing surgery, do not self-treat with ginger except under physician supervision.
Ginger has been suggested as a treatment for numerous other conditions, including
In traditional Chinese medicine, hot ginger tea taken at the first sign of a
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Ginger?
The evidence for ginger's effectiveness in various forms of nausea remains mixed. It has been suggested that, in some negative studies, poor-quality ginger powder might have been used. 2
In general, while most antinausea drugs influence the brain and the inner ear, ginger appears to act directly on the stomach.
Ginger has shown inconsistent promise for treatment of motion sickness. A double-blind,
However, a 1984 study funded by NASA using intentionally stimulated motion sickness found that ginger was not any more effective than placebo.
Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy
Four double-blind, placebo-controlled studies enrolling at total of 246 women found ginger more effective than placebo for treatment of
At least 3 studies have compared ginger to
Note: Despite its use in these studies, ginger has not been proven safe for pregnant women.
Although there have been some positive studies, on balance, the evidence regarding ginger for reducing nausea and vomiting following surgery is discouraging.
A double-blind British study compared the effects of ginger, placebo, and metoclopramide (Reglan) in the treatment of nausea following gynecological
A similar British study followed 120 women receiving elective laparoscopic gynecological surgery.
However, a double-blind study of 108 people undergoing similar surgery found no benefit with ginger as compared to placebo.
The bottom line: If ginger is effective for post-surgical nausea at all, the effect must be very slight.
A large double-blind study (more than 250 participants) found that a combination of ginger and another Asian spice called galanga (Alpinia galanga) can significantly improve arthritis symptoms.
For most purposes, the standard dosage of powdered ginger is 1 to 4 g daily, divided into 2 to 4 doses per day.
To prevent motion sickness, it may be best to begin treatment 1 or 2 days before the trip and continue it throughout the period of travel.
Ginger is on the FDA's GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list as a food, and the treatment dosages of ginger are comparable to dietary usages. No significant side effects have been observed.
Like onions and
, extracts of ginger inhibit blood coagulation in test tube experiments.
The maximum safe doses of ginger for pregnant or nursing women, young children, or individuals with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
9. Stott JRR, Hubble MP, Spencer MB. A double blind comparative trial of powdered ginger root, hyosine hydrobromide, and cinnarizine in the prophylaxis of motion sickness induced by cross coupled stimulation. Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development, Conference Proceedings . 1985;372:1-6.
14. Bone ME, Wilkinson DJ, Young JR, et al. Ginger root: a new antiemetic. The effect of ginger root on postoperative nausea and vomiting after major gynaecological surgery. Anaesthesia . 1990;45:669-671.
17. Visalyaputra S, Petchpaisit N, Somcharoen K, et al. The efficacy of ginger root in the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting after outpatient gynaecological laparoscopy. Anaesthesia . 1998;53:506-510.
19. Srivastava KC. Effects of aqueous extracts of onion, garlic and ginger on platelet aggregation and metabolism of arachidonic acid in the blood vascular system: in vitro study. Prostaglandins Leukot Med . 1984;13:227-235.
21. Janssen PL, Meyboom S, van Staveren WA, et al. Consumption of ginger ( Zingiber officinaleRoscoe ) does not affect ex vivo platelet thromboxane production in humans. Eur J Clin Nutr . 1996;50:772-774.
22. 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 in patients with coronary artery disease. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids . 1997;56:379-384.
28. Gonlachanvit S, Chen YH, Hasler WL, et al. Ginger reduces hyperglycemia-evoked gastric dysrhythmias in healthy humans: Possible role of endogenous prostaglandins. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2003 Oct 8. [Epub ahead of print].
Last reviewed September 2009 by EBSCO CAM Medical Review Board
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