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Botanical name(s):

Zingiber officiale Roscoe. Family: Zingiberaceae

Other name(s):

gingerroot, zingiberis rhizoma

General description

Ginger is a perennial plant. It has grass-like leaves. Ginger, the spice, is made from the root of the ginger plant. It’s been used for more than 2,500 years. The root contains essential oils and resins. These give ginger its characteristic odor and spicy flavor. They’re also responsible for its medicinal uses.

Ginger has active ingredients called gingerols. This is the medicinal part of the plant. Gingerols are cardiotonic in animals. In humans, ginger helps treat nausea during pregnancy.

Medically valid uses

Ginger is used mainly to treat nausea, upset stomach, and gastric issues. Ginger reduces nausea through a direct effect on the stomach rather than on the central nervous system.

There are conflicting reports about whether ginger increases the speed of gastric emptying. One large study showed it had no effect. However, it increases motility of the rest of the gastrointestinal system.

Ginger has been used to treat nausea due to mild gastrointestinal infections and pregnancy. It also treats nausea due to vertigo, nausea after surgery, and vomiting from chemotherapy.  Studies show mixed results for these effects. But research shows that ginger is safe and effective for pregnancy-related nausea, such as morning sickness. These effects are due to the gingerols.

Ginger also contains gomgerol and shogaol. They both aid in pain relief and decrease inflammation.

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have not yet been substantiated through studies.

Ginger is said to work as an anti-inflammatory agent. It may play a role in treating arthritis and arthralgia. It may also decrease pain in arthritis.

Ginger is thought to get in the way of how prostaglandins and leukotrienes are made. These are natural chemicals that cause inflammation.

Gingerols are being studied as an anti-cancer agent. Gingerols may interfere with tumorigenesis. This is the generation of tumors.

Dosing format

Ginger is available in the form of oral tablets, crystals, and powder. It’s also made into dried or fresh root tea.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

In normal doses, ginger may cause heartburn and bloating. 

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare providers before taking any herbal medicines.

There are no known food or drug interactions linked with ginger.

Online Medical Reviewer: Poulson, Brittany, RD, CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Wilkins, Joanna, R.D., C.D.
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2016