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Ginger: Uses and Health Benefits

Spice and Botanical for a healthy life

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First published: 16.Oct.2023


Ginger root (Zingiber officinale) has a very long history as a spice; it is a key ingredient in Asiatic cuisine. Its medical properties have been known since antiquity and it forms part of the Indian Ayurvedic and the Chinese Traditional medicines.

In the West, it has been incorporated into foods, as a fragrant and spicy ingredient, and in teas. Western medicine is also studying its antioxidant properties and its potential uses to treat conditions such as nausea, metabolic syndrome, pain relief, cancer treatment, skincare and as an anti-inflammatory.

This article will review its properties, bioactive components, how to consume it, and its potential side effects.

In this Article (Index)

ginger root, sliced and ginger powder in a can and on a white surface
Ginger, healthy spice and food

What is Ginger?

Ginger is a close relative to cardamom and tumeric. Its scientific name, Zingiber officinale comes from an ancient Sanskrit word, srngaveram or "horn root."

Ginger originated in Southern Asia and has expanded around the world. It has leafy stems that grwo 3 feet (1 m) high, and rhizomes that are underground stems, or rootstalks known as ginger root.

It is a member of the Zingiberaceae family that includes turmeric and cardamom. There are over 1,300 different ginger root plant species.

Ginger root is used as a food, herb, and spice with three main presentations, white, small white and red. The white root is the most common variety.

Ginger's bioactive compounds

The characteristic smell and spicy taste of ginger are due to phenolic plant-chemical compounds called gingerols. When ginger is cooked, gingerol undergoes chemical reactions that turn it into zingerone which has a spicy-sweet smell. When ginger is dehydrated, dried or heated, gingerol turns into phenolic compounds called shogaols, much spicier than gingerol.

The other main phenolic compound is paradol. All three have bioactive properties as we will see below.

Ginger root also contains minerals, fiber, vitamins and nutrients. The USDA gives the following values (1⁄4 cup, 24 g, 0.84 oz)


Value and unit


19.2 kcal


0.44 g

Total Fat

0.18 g


4.27 g


0.48 g

Calcium, Ca

3.84 mg

Magnesium, Mg

10.3 mg

Phosphorous, P

8.17 mg

Potassium, K

99.6 mg

Selenium, Se

0.168 mg

It has small amounts of vitamin C, thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), panthothenic acid (vitamin B5), vitamin B6, vitamin E and vitamin K.

How to use ginger

Ginger supplements can be purchased online or in stores, but ginger can be added to your meals either as a spice in curries or Asian recipes, or curshed and minced, as a healthy ingredient in oatmeal, salad dressings and to spice up desserts, smoothies and juices.

Sliced ginger can be infused with boiling water or added to black or green tea to make a hot herbal beverage.

A traditional way to prepare ginger pills is adding four parts of fresh ginnger juice to one part of ginger root powder, blending it in a mortar with a pestle until it becomes a thick paste and then rolling it and cutting the roll into pills and dry them (1).

Health Benefits of Ginger

In Traditional Chinese Traditional medicine ginger is used as an antiemetic (medicine that prevents or treats nausea and vomiting), as a cure for stomach ache, poisoining, as a digestive stimulant, as an analgesic to treat pain, and for treating colds and cough as an expectorant (3)
Let's look into the scientific backing to its health promoting properties:

As an antiemetic, to treat nausea and vomiting

There have been several studies evaluating its effect on nausea and vomiting. In the case of CINV, sickness caused by chemotherapy, some studies showed a moderate to high antiemetic effect, while others had contradicting results.

Ginger showed promising results for pregnancy sickness (Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy or NVP) concluding that "that ginger is as effective as other antiemetic medications such as pyridoxine, metoclopramide or dimenhydrinate or more effective than the placebo", it also showed no negative effects like abnormalities (2).

Anti-inflammatory Effects

The anti-inflammatory effects of ginger have been studied in arthritis-related diseases, we mention two examples below:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
    Ginger helps to reduce symptoms according to Aryaeian et al., (2019): "ginger reduces inflammatory factors hs-CRP and IL-1β gene expression in patients with active RA and it seems that ginger can improve the inflammation in the patients" (7).
  • Osteoarthritis.
    A meta analysis by Bartels (2015) showed that ginger helps to reduce pain and disability when ingested: "Following ginger intake, a statistically significant pain reduction ... and a statistically significant reduction in disability ... were seen, both in favor of ginger" (8).

Ginger supplementation has been shown to iprove post-exercise inflammation in a group of 28 well-trained endurance runners. They were split into two groups, one received 500 mg capsules of ginger powder and the other a placebo, three times a day for a 6-week period. The ginger group showed a dip in the "post-exercise plasma [levels] of several pro-inflammatory cytokines" (4).

Metabolic Syndrome

Ginger has been evaluated in metabolic syndrome and it has been shown to lower fasting blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity inn type 2 diabetes patients. Regarding obesity and blood lipids, it has a positive effect lowering the "bad" cholesterol -low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), triglycerides and inflammatory markers.

Regareding obese patients "ginger supplements had a minor benefit on weight loss... lowering the risk factors, such as body fat mass, body fat percentage, total cholesterol, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, and insulin resistance. Moreover, no serious adverse effects were observed in all included studies" (2).

As an Analgesic: Pain relief

Randomized clinical trials had mixed outcomes, some of them found that its analgesic effect was similar to ibuprofen or mefenamic acid. Another stufy showed that 250 mg of powdered ginger was as efficient as sumatriptan in relieving migraine pain with fewer side effects. Trials on patients with chest and low back pain also concluded that "ginger was a useful option for pain relief" (2).

A systematic review of clinical studies showed that "the daily consumption of raw and heat-treated Zingiber resulted in moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain after exercise-induced muscle injury" in patients suffering from sarcopenia, the loss of muscle protein, mass and function caused by aging (5)

Skin Aging

A study involving mice and rats showed that a ginger extract applied topically helped "prevent UV-B-induced loss of skin elasticity" (1). Another study using a blend of essential oils, including lemongrass oil, ylan-ylang, basil oil, and ginger oil reduced the signs of skin aging such as roughness. and attributed the effec to the antioxidant activity of the essential oils (6).

Cancer and ginger

Giinger's active compounds (shogaols and gingerols) have been evaluated for their effect on colorectal and gastrointestinal cancers showing promising results, however, extensive and well-controlled human clinical trials are needed before ginger can be considered and effective and safe anticancer agent (2).

Ginger's adverse effects

For the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ginger is generally recognized as safeas a spice, natural seasoning agent, and flavoring (21CFR182.10). In addition, essential oils, oleoresins (solvent-free), and natural extractives (including distillates) of ginger are also considered GRAS for human consumption (21CFR182.20).

Side effects reported in clinical trials involving ginger supplementation reported gastrointestinal-related symptoms like heartburn, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and gas. There were no life-threatening or severe cases reported (2).

Ginger can have negative interactions with blood thinners like wafarin and alter its anticoagulant properties promoting bleeding, it has provoked arrhythmia, lower blood pressure and increased bile secretion leading to gallstone formation.
Always consult with your healthcare provider before taking a supplement or plant-based herb or traditional medicine, this includes pregnant and lactating women.

To be safe don't ingest more than 3 to 4 grams per day (1).

References and Further Reading

(1) Morni Modi; Kalgi Modi, (2022). Ginger Root. NIH. Last Update: November 28, 2022. Accessed: Oct. 15, 2023

(2) Anh NH, Kim SJ, Long NP, Min JE, Yoon YC, Lee EG, Kim M, Kim TJ, Yang YY, Son EY, Yoon SJ, Diem NC, Kim HM, Kwon SW., (2020). Ginger on Human Health: A Comprehensive Systematic Review of 109 Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2020 Jan 6;12(1):157. doi: 10.3390/nu12010157. PMID: 3193586.

(3) Ozkur M, Benlier N, Takan I, Vasileiou C, Georgakilas AG, Pavlopoulou A, Cetin Z, Saygili EI., (2022). Ginger for Healthy Ageing: A Systematic Review on Current Evidence of Its Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, and Anticancer Properties. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2022 May 9;2022:4748447. doi: 10.1155/2022/4748447. PMID: 35585878

(4) Zehsaz F, Farhangi N, Mirheidari L., (2014). The effect of Zingiber officinale R. rhizomes (ginger) on plasma pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in well-trained male endurance runners. Cent Eur J Immunol. 2014;39(2):174-80. doi: 10.5114/ceji.2014.43719. Epub 2014 Jun 27. PMID: 26155120

(5) Rondanelli M, Miccono A, Peroni G, Guerriero F, Morazzoni P, Riva A, Guido D, Perna S, (2016). A Systematic Review on the Effects of Botanicals on Skeletal Muscle Health in Order to Prevent Sarcopenia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:5970367. doi: 10.1155/2016/5970367. Epub 2016 Mar 9. PMID: 27051451

(6) Leelapornpisid P, Wickett RR, Chansakaow S, Wongwattananukul N, (2015). Potential of native Thai aromatic plant extracts in antiwrinkle body creams. J Cosmet Sci. 2015 Jul-Aug;66(4):219-31. PMID: 26665978

(7) Aryaeian N, Mahmoudi M, Shahram F, Poursani S, Jamshidi F, Tavakoli H., (2019). The effect of ginger supplementation on IL2, TNFα, and IL1β cytokines gene expression levels in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis: A randomized controlled trial. Med J Islam Repub Iran. 2019 Dec 27;33:154. doi: 10.34171/mjiri.33.154. PMID: 32280660

(8) E.M. Bartels, V.N. Folmer, H. Bliddal, R.D. Altman, C. Juhl, S. Tarp, W. Zhang, R. Christensen, (2015). Efficacy and safety of ginger in osteoarthritis patients: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, Vol 23:1, p13-21, ISSN 1063-4584,

About this Article

Ginger: Uses and Health Benefits, A. Whittall

©2023, 15 Oct. 2023. Update scheduled for 15 Oct. 2025.

Tags: ginger, cancer, diabetes, pain, skin ageing, emetic

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