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Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Posted on Dec. 30, 2005, 8:01 p.m. in Botanical Agents


Ginger grows in India, China, Mexico, and several other countries. The medical part of the plant is the underground stem, which is called the rhizome. Zesty flavor notwithstanding, ginger is often taken for its calming effects on a churning stomach. It is also taken to treat morning sickness, seasickness, and motion sickness. In some people it also can help reduce a fever or lessen the symptoms of a cold. Ginger contains an essential oil and other compounds (including gingerol and shogaol) that apparently prevent nausea through effects on the stomach and gastrointestinal system rather than through the nervous system. Doctors recently have tested ginger’s ability to prevent nausea and vomiting after surgery and during  chemotherapy treatment. One recent study found that ginger was better than a placebo and as effective as the conventional anti-emetic drug metoclopramide for preventing nausea after gynecological surgery.


A study carried out in Israel in 2000 found that ginger extract significantly reduced the development of atherosclerotic lesions and lowered LDL-cholesterol levels in mice. Components  of ginger, called flavonoids also have antioxidant potential. Research published in 2001 suggests that highly purified ginger extracts may be useful for alleviating the pain caused by  osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. The study of 247 patients with OA of the knee revealed that the extract lessened the pain experienced by sufferers when walking or standing.


Ginger comes in a variety of forms including fresh, dried, tablets, capsules, tinctures, extracts, syrups and teas; follow dosage directions on labels. You can also buy ginger essential oil, which can be diffused into the air for inhalation, or diluted in a vegetable oil for inhalation or topical application (or massage).

MAXIMUM SAFE LEVEL: Not established


Ginger has a long history of being taken in relatively large doses (up to several grams) without causing any toxicity or side effects. Many pregnant women use it to help control morning sickness, however there have been no studies in which women have taken large doses of ginger during pregnancy. Studies carried out in Europe found that ginger may enhance absorption of sulphaguanidine. In addition, excessive consumption of ginger (dosage not stated) may interfere with cardiac, anti-diabetic, or anticoagulant therapy. Do not ingest the essential oil and be sure to dilute it before applying to your skin.

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