Ginger (Zingiber Officinale)

Medical Uses

Ginger is used for nausea and vomiting, motion sickness, and inflammation. It may help to prevent cancer.

Historical Uses

Greek bakers imported ginger from the Orient to make gingerbread. Spanish mariners brought ginger to the New World.

Growth

Ginger is cultivated in tropical climates.

Ginger: Part Used

• The knotted and branched rhizome (an underground stem) called the root.

Major Chemical Compounds

• Volatile oils, particularly zingiberene, bisabolene, gingerols, and shogaols

• Niacin

• Vitamin A

Ginger: Clinical Uses

Ginger is used for nausea and vomiting, motion sickness, and inflammation. It also has anticancer effects. Ginger has been shown to relieve nausea and vomiting during pregnancy without adverse effects. It is approved by the German Commission E and the World Health Organization (WHO) for “prevention of motion sickness.” WHO also has approved ginger for postoperative nausea, pernicious vomiting in pregnancy, and seasickness, whereas the German Commission E approved ginger only for dyspepsia and does not recommend its use during pregnancy.

Mechanism of Action

Ginger does not influence the inner ear or the oculomotor system; apparently it exerts its antiemetic effect directly on the gastrointestinal system. Anti-inflammatory effects result from inhibition of certain prostaglandins and leukotrienes that cause pain and inflammation, without inhibition of beneficial prostaglandins.

Ginger: Dosage

The maximum dose of oral ginger is 4 grams of the root per day (Natural Medicines, 2000).

Dry ginger root: Studies use 1 gram of dry powdered ginger root. Fresh or freeze -dried ginger root has a better effect.

Capsules: 1 to 2 grams of dry powdered ginger daily in capsule form is equivalent to about 10 grams or 1/3 ounce of fresh ginger root (about a 1/4-inch slice). For motion sickness, take 1 gram 30 minutes before a trip; then take 0.5 to 1 gram every 4 to 6 hours to relieve symptoms. Take 500 mg twice a day for headache and pain relief.

Ginger tea: Peel off the outer covering of the ginger root. Cut a 1/4-inch slice of ginger and place it in boiling water; simmer for about 10 minutes, and then remove the ginger. Add honey to taste and sip as needed for nausea.

Crystallized ginger: Available for children.

External use: Ginger maybe applied externally as a compress over the abdomen, or ginger oil many be massaged over a painful area to help reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps, and arthritis. The compress may be made with ginger tea. Use a cloth to absorb the tea, wring it out, and apply the warm cloth to the painful area.

Side Effects

Ginger capsules tend to irritate the stomach and should be taken with food. Ginger may elevate the international normalized ratio.

Contraindications

• Ginger is contraindicated in patients with gallstones.

Herb-Drug Interactions

Ginger may enhance the effects of anticoagulants.

Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding

Ginger is not approved for morning sickness during pregnancy), although traditional evidence and a study on hyperemesis gravidarum suggest that it is safe at an appropriate dosage.

Summary of Studies

Bone, Wilkinson, Young, & McNeil (1990). This double blind, randomized study looked at the effects of ginger root on postoperative nausea and vomiting in 60 women who had major gynecological surgery. Results: 1 gram of powered ginger root significantly reduced the incidence of postoperative emetic sequelae in comparison to placebo, and had the same effect as metoclopramide.

Fischer-Rasmussen, Kjaer, Dahl, & Asping (1990). This double-blind, randomized, cross-over trial included 30 women with hyperemesis gravidarum. Results: 1 gram of powered ginger root was better than placebo in lessening or eliminating the symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum.

Holtmann, Clarke, Scherer, & Hohn (1989). This controlled, double-blind study of 38 male and female subjects ages 22 to 34 looked at the anti-motion sickness mechanism of ginger. Results: Any reduction of motion-sickness symptoms results from the effect of ginger root on the gastric system and not from a CNS mechanism.

Aksel, Brask, Kambskand, & Hentzer (1988). This double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 80 naval cadets used ginger root against seasickness. Results: Powered ginger root reduced the tendency toward vomiting and cold sweating significantly more than placebo.

Mowrey & Clayson (1982). This randomized, placebo-controlled study of motion sickness included 36 male and female undergraduates. Results: Powered ginger root was superior to Dramamine in reducing motion sickness.

Vutyavanich et al. (2001). In a trial of randomized controlled, double-masked design, 70 pregnant women took either oral ginger, 1 gram per day, or placebo for 4 days. Results showed that ginger was effective in relieving nausea and vomiting in pregnancy without adverse effects.

Power et al. (2001). In a survey of 488 obstetricians/gynecologists concerning management of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, 51.8 percent recommended taking ginger.

Ginger: Warnings

• Ginger capsules tend to irritate the stomach and should be taken with food.

• Ginger may increase the risk of bleeding. Consult your health-care practitioner if you take a blood-thinning medication.

• Don’t take ginger if you have gallstones.

• Ginger is not approved for morning sickness during pregnancy.