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Names of Ginger, past and present

Chinese: gan jiang / shen jiang / sheng jiang / jiang
Japanese: shoga / shokyo / kankyo / kanshokyo
Korean: saenggang
Sanskrit: srungavera / sunthi
Malayalam: inji veru
French: gingembre (usually affixed with place of origin)
English: ginger / ginger root (often followed by type, place of origin, or colour)
Old English: gingifere
Greek: zingiberis
Latin (esoteric / mediaeval): zinzeberis / ginginer
Latin (scientific nomenclature): Zingiber officinale

Ginger - Botany And History

Ginger is a spice that needs litle in the way of introduction, as it is popular worldwide. It was originally a plant that thrived in the southern parts of Asia, where it was used as both a medicine and a spice since ancient times. The plant is primarily grown for its rhizome or root, although some parts of the plant may also be consumed as a type of vegetable, or used as a seasoning. While the primary purposes of ginger veer towards the culinary, it is also highly valued not only for the flavour it imparts, but for its time-honoured medicinal effects.

The ginger plant comes from the same plant family (Zingiberaceae) as turmeric, cardamom, and galangal. Ginger is sometimes cultivated as a garden or landscape plant due to its colourful flowers and its overall aesthetic appeal. Come harvest time (usually when the flowers and the stalk wither away), the rhizomes are then dug up, par-boiled, dried, and sold or used. When young, the rhizomes are soft and contain quite a lot of liquid, although they become more fibrous and tough when dried out, or if harvested when the plant has become fully mature. [1]

Ginger - Herbal Uses

Ginger is a very common ingredient in many types of cuisine that encompass a wide range of regional dishes from nearly all parts of Asia and a significant part of the Western world. It is used to add a little spiciness to soups and stews, or is otherwise mixed with foodstuffs for an added kick. When dried, it can be ground into a powder and mixed into foods.

Ginger may also be candied and eaten as a snack or incorporated into desserts. It may be pickled or prepared in various ways to serve as an appetizer or an aperitif. Ginger root may also be incorporated into a wide assortment of drinks, if not made into an assortment of drinks by itself, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic in nature - such as ginger ale, ginger wine, some variants of mead and ciders.

Ginger tea: Nearly every nation that cooks with ginger has uses for it that encompass the medicinal. Perhaps the most common use of ginger root is in the creation of ginger tea, which is simply no more than an easy-to-do light to strong decoction of fresh, dried, or ground ginger root. In various cultures, ginger tea is not only served as a commonplace beverage in much the same light as true tea, mint tea, or rooibos tea, but is also taken as a pain-reliever, digestive tea, general tonic, or as a remedy for coughs and colds. [2] Due to its slightly spicy nature (which can be unpalatable for some), ginger tea is usually sweetened with raw sugar, jaggery, or (in most cases) honey - the last of which is thought to double its therapeutic effects. In the Philippines (where it is called salabat), as well as the majority of Asiatic countries, ginger is a traditional remedy for bronchial and nasal complaints, and is even available in dried powdered form for easy preparation.

Ginger may also be used to flavour various beverages, or can even be made in accompaniment to a myriad of other therapeutic herbs and spices. A strong decoction of ginger tea is a great remedy for aches and pains, as one of its active compounds, gingerol, possesses great anti-inflammatory and anti-histaminic properties. [3] Ginger root also possesses potent anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, making it useful as a facial astringent, or as a hair rinse, the latter even being said to encourage faster hair-growth due to its ability to stimulate the scalp. [4]

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
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A light decoction of ginger root tea, or consuming foodstuff that contain ginger as an ingredient may also provide relief from motion sickness and the unpleasant feeling of nausea common in the early stages of pregnancy, although care must be taken in consuming only small amounts of ginger during such times. When infused or left to macerate in an oil (olive, coconut, almond) by itself or with other beneficial herbs, or other known anti-inflammatory spices (i. e. chilies, turmeric), it can be used as an all-natural effective ointment for rheumatism, arthritis, and general muscular discomforts. [5] Essential oils derived from ginger root itself may be substituted for better results, as it is far more potent than the oil derived from simple maceration. This essential oil may also be used in aromatherapy as an invigorating and energizing scent.

The regular and controlled use of ginger as a food condiment, beverage, or as a foodstuff in itself have also been shown to help fight several kinds of cancers, such as ovarian cancers and colorectal cancers. The anti-carcinogenic effects of ginger have been shown to be so potent, that in the case of ovarian cancer cells, it is capable of causing cancerous cell death due to the combination of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, in effect having anti-tumor properties in the process. [6]

It should be noted that when using ginger as a home remedy, care should be taken as it can cause some unpleasant contraindications with some types of synthetic medicines, especially blood-thinning medicines like warfarin.

Ginger - Scientific Studies And Research

Ginger – whether fresh, dried, pickled, preserved, candied, powdered, or crystallized – has been purported to exert a long battery of therapeutic and preventive actions and has been comprehensively studied as regards its efficacy against various pathologic conditions, hence its century-long utility in the management of a number of maladies such as colds, nausea, arthritis, migraine, and hypertension. Several scientific investigations have found evidence with respect to ginger being a potent antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antinausea agent. [8]

Ginger as antimicrobial: In 2005, an American study compared the antimicrobial activity of garlic, carrot, turmeric, and ginger pastes against Escherichia coli O157:H7 in laboratory buffer and model food system. As revealed by the results of this study, commercial ginger paste exhibited the strongest antimicrobial activity, totally inactivating E. coli O157:H7 in the paste at 3 days at 4°C and 8°C. The commercial ginger paste also showed antimicrobial activity in buffered peptone water at 4°C for 2 weeks. [9] Moreover, the gingerols in ginger root extracts inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori CagA+ strains in vitro, as illustrated by another US study in which the methanol extract of ginger rhizome suppressed the growth of all 19 strains in vitro, the minimum inhibitory concentration range being 6.25–50 μg/mL. [10]

Ginger as anti-inflammatory, pain reliever & anti-arthritic: Ginger has long been considered as an effective anti-inflammatory agent that suppresses prostaglandin synthesis through the inhibition of both cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). [11] However, the results from the study of van Breemen, Tao, and Li (2011) reveal slightly otherwise and contend that purified 10-gingerol, 8-shogaol, and 10-shogaol suppress COX-2 – but not COX-1 – with IC50 values of 32μM, 17.5μM, and 7.5μM. [12] Ginger’s anti-inflammatory mechanism of action is very similar to that of today’s non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), but ginger goes one step ahead of NSAIDs in being able to suppress leukotriene biosynthesis also by inhibiting 5-lipoxygenase. [11]

The pungent constituent of ginger, 6-gingerol, possesses analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects, as proven by Young et al. (2005) in their study, and thus contributes to ginger’s anti-inflammatory action. [13] Another important anti-inflammatory mechanism of ginger is its inhibitory influence on the induction of many genes associated with the inflammatory response, such as those encoding cytokines, chemokines, and cyclooxygenase-2. [11] Ramadan, Al-Kahtani, and El-Sayed (2011) had also demonstrated the anti-inflammatory action of ginger, significantly inhibiting the incidence and severity of arthritis by decreasing the production of proinflammatory cytokines and activating the antioxidant defense system at a dose of 200 mg/kg body weight. [14]

Ginger as antioxidant and anti-cancer agent: A number of studies have reported the chemopreventive and antineoplastic effects of ginger, implicating its effectiveness in diverse biological actions, including free radical scavenging, influence on antioxidant pathways, alteration of gene expressions, and induction of apoptosis which in turn decrease tumor initiation, promotion, and progression. [15] In 2012, a US study in the British Journal of Nutrition had determined that daily ginger extract consumption (at a dose of 100 mg/kg body weight) inhibits the growth and progression of human prostate cancer cell line (PC-3) xenografts by 56% but spares normal rapidly dividing tissues, such as gut and bone marrow, from any growth-inhibitory and death-inductory effects. [16]

6-Gingerol induces cell death in human promyelocytic leukemia (HL-60) cells through its mediating activities on reactive oxygen species such as hydrogen peroxide and the superoxide anion and causes DNA fragmentation and inhibits Bcl-2 expression in HL-60 cells. [17] 6-Shogaol and 6-gingerol possibly possess anti-invasive properties against hepatoma cells through the regulation of MMP-9 and TIMP-1. Furthermore, 6-shogaol could further regulate urokinase-type plasminogen activity. [18]

Active Ingredients in Ginger:

Gingerols, shogaols, paradols, and zingerone are the main active compounds of ginger. [15]

Ginger in old Herbals & Pharmocopoeia

John Hill's "The Family Herbal" (1812): An East India plant found also in other places and very singular in its manner of growth. It produces two kinds of stalks the one bearing the leaves and the other only the flowers. The first grow two or three feet high and are themselves composed in a manner of the lower parts of leaves so that they seem to be only bundles of leaves rolled together at the bottom. These are long narrow and in some degree resemble the leaves of our common flags. The other stalks are tender soft and about a foot high they have no leaves on them but only a kind of films and at the tops they produce the flowers in a spike these are small in shape like those of our orchis and of a mixed colour purple white and yellow. The root spreads irregularly under the surface. The root is the only part used we have it dry at the grocers but the best way of taking it is as it comes over preserved from the East Indies. It is a warm and fine stomachic and dispeller of wind. It assists digestion and prevents or cures cholics. It is also an excellent addition to the rough purges to prevent their griping in the operation.

William Thomas Fernie's "Herbals Simples": Ginger Zingiberis radix is the root stock of a plant grown in the East and West Indies and is scraped before importation. Its odour is due to an essential oil and its pungent hot taste to a resin. Green Ginger which consists of the young shoots of the rhizome when boiled in syrup makes an excellent preserve. Officinally from the dried and scraped rhizome are prepared a tincture and a syrup. If a piece of this root is chewed it causes a considerable flow of saliva and an application of powdered Ginger made with water into paste against the skin will produce intense tingling and heat To which end it may be spread on paper and applied to the forehead as a means for relieving a headache from passive fulness. In India Europeans who suffer from languid indigestion drink an infusion of Ginger as a substitute for tea.

Gray's "Supplement to the Pharmacopoeia" by Theophilus Redwood & Samuel Frederick Gray (1848):L Zingiber officinale Rose Amomum zingiber: Ginger; This is the plant that produces Ginger which is prepared from the Rhizoma. The young tender shoots of this plant are preserved in sugar the older are scalded scraped dried and become the White ginger root of the shops. If scalded without being scraped it becomes Black ginger one of the most valuable of aromatic carminative stimulantsialogogues used in flatulent colic, dyspepsia, gout, debility and torpor of the system. L Ginger yields a volatile oil which is pale yellow lighter than water in taste very acrid and hot also a resin which is yellowish soft aromatic and hot to the taste.

Jonathan Pereira's "The Elements of Materia Medicina and Therapeutics" - Vol. 2, Part 1 (1855):Ginger - Physiological Effects:

Ginger is one of the aromatic stimulants [see Vol ip 227] which possess considerable pungency or acridity. Its dust applied to the mucous membrane of the nostrils acts as an irritant and provokes sneezing. The rhizome chewed is a powerful sialogogue. The powder mixed with hot water and applied to the skin causes a sensation of intense heat and tingling and slight redness. When taken into the stomach ginger operates as a stimulant first to the alimentary canal secondly to the body generally but especially to the organs of respiration. Like some other spices the peppers for instance it acts as an excitant to the genital organs. Furthermore it has been said to increase the energy of the cerebral functions. It is less acrid than pepper.

Uses: Its principal consumption is as a condiment. Its powers in this way are considerable while its flavour is by no means disagreeable and its acridity scarcely sufficient to enable it when taken with food to irritate or inflame. As a stomachic and internal stimulant it serves several important purposes. In enfeebled and relaxed habits especially of old and gouty individuals it promotes digestion and relieves flatulency and spasm of the stomach and bowels. It checks or prevents nausea and griping which are apt to be produced by some drastic purgatives. It covers the nauseous flavour of many medicines and communicates cordial and carminative qualities to tonic and other agents.

As a sialogogue it is sometimes chewed to relieve toothache relaxed uvula and paralytic affections of the tongue. As a counter irritant I have frequently known a ginger planter prepared by mixing together powdered ginger and warm water and spreading the paste on paper or cloth relieve violent headache when applied to the forehead.

Administration: Powdered ginger may be administered in doses of from ten grains to a scruple or more in the form of a pill. Made into a paste with hot water it may be applied as a plaster as already mentioned. Preserved ginger conditum zingiberis though commonly used as a sweetmeat may be taken with advantage as a medicine to stimulate the stomach. Ginger lozenges, ginger pearls commonly termed ginger seeds and ginger pipe are useful articles of confectionary which are frequently of benefit in dyspepsia accompanied with flatulence.

Ginger - Esoteric Uses

In magickal / ritual purposes, ginger can be dried and burnt as a type of incense, albeit with often very unpleasant and acrid results. It is used not only to purify, but to charge items, areas, or persons with power, as ginger is considered (in magickal theory) as a potent intensifying agent for whatever ritual work is conducted. It can also be used in love potions or charms (to increase its effect or to bring more ardour to the intended recipient), as well as for protection spells and wardings. In shamanic magick, ginger plays a quite common role as among some of the more favoured herbs to have in a medicine pouch or mojo bag. [7]






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[8] Bode A. M. & Zigang D. (2011). The Amazing And Mighty Ginger. In Benzie I. F. F. & Wachtel-Galor S. (Ed.), Herbal medicine: Biomolecular and clinical aspects (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. Retrieved 4 March 2013 from

[9] Gupta S. & Ravishankar S. (2005). A comparison of the antimicrobial activity of garlic, ginger, carrot, and turmeric pastes against Escherichia coli O157:H7 in laboratory buffer and ground beef. Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, 2(4): 330–340. Retrieved 4 March 2013 from

[10] Mahady G. B., Pendland S. L., Yun G. S., Lu Z. Z., Stoia A. (2003). Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) and the gingerols inhibit the growth of Cag A+ strains of Helicobacter pylori. Anticancer Research, 23(5A): 3699–3702. Retrieved 4 March 2013 from

[11] Grzanna R., Lindmark L., & Frondoza C. G. (2005). Ginger – an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions. Journal of Medicinal Food, 8(2): 125–132. Retrieved 4 March 2013 from

[12] van Breemen R. B., Tao Y., & Li W. (2011). Cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors in ginger (Zingiber officinale). Fitoterapia, 82(1): 38–43. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.09.004. Retrieved 4 March 2013 from

[13] Young H. Y., Luo Y. L., Cheng H. Y., Hsieh W. C., Liao J. C., & Peng W. H. (2005). Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of [6]-gingerol. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 96(1–2): 207–210. Retrieved 4 March 2013 from

[14] Ramadan G., Al-Kahtani M. A., & El-Sayed W. M. (2011). Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties of Curcuma longa (turmeric) versus Zingiber officinale (ginger) rhizomes in rat adjuvant-induced arthritis. Inflammation, 34(4): 291–301. doi: 10.1007/s10753-010-9278-0. Retrieved 4 March 2013 from

[15] Baliga M. S. et al. (2011). Update on the chemopreventive effects of ginger and its phytochemicals. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 51(6): 499–523. doi: 10.1080/10408391003698669. Retrieved 4 March 2013 from

[16] Karna P. et al. (2012). Benefits of whole ginger extract in prostate cancer. British Journal of Nutrition, 107(4): 473–484. doi: 10.1017/S0007114511003308. Retrieved 4 March 2013 from

[17] Wang C. C., Chen L. G., Lee L. T., & Yang L. L. (2003). Effects of 6-gingerol, an antioxidant from ginger, on inducing apoptosis in human leukemic HL-60 cells. In Vivo, 17(6): 641–645. Retrieved 4 March 2013 from

[18] Weng C. J., Wu C. F., Huang H. W., Ho C. T., Yen G. C. (2010). Anti-invasion effects of 6-shogaol and 6-gingerol, two active components in ginger, on human hepatocarcinoma cells. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 54(11): 1618–1627. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201000108. Retrieved 4 March 2013 from

Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt. Scientific studies report by Dan Ablir.

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