Ginger - Zingiber officinale (Roscoe)
Ahhh ginger. One of my favorite root herbs to use throughout the year. I don't think I've come across another herb quite like ginger, I find that it stands out among the rest with its zesty and warm flavor that has a mild spicy kick to it. You can purchase it dried or fresh at the majority of grocery stores or even readily prepared into tea bags. So what is ginger all about? What's its story? What are the benefits of using ginger?
Ginger, Zingiber officinale (Roscoe), is a rhizome that belongs to the genus of Zingiber. This genus actually includes 85 species of various herbs that are found from East Asia and the tropical Australia. Ginger is produced in China, Indonesia, and India.
So what is it that gives ginger its aromatic aroma and spicy flavor?
The volatile oils that come from ginger that give it it's aroma that are the most abundant include zingeberene at 35%, cucumene at 18%, and farnesene at 35%. Nonvolatile pungent compounds such as gingerols, shogals, paradols, and zingerone is what provides that mild spicy, and warm flavor when taken orally.
What properties has ginger been recognized for?
Ginger has been around for many, many years and has become a popular supplement not only in the United States, but also in other countries such as Europe. Studies have been performed that has shown ginger to be an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-emetic, anti-apoptotic, anti-hyperglycemic, and also as having anti-cancer properties to it. (NCBI, 2010) According to the book Stockley's Herbal Medicines Interactions, ginger is also important as a culinary spice for cooking as well as being used in various cosmetics and soaps. (Williamson, Driver, & Baxter, 2009)
What have people used ginger for?
Ginger root is an incredibly useful herb for a large variety of ailments. It has commonly been used for the following:
- Nausea associated with pregnancy, motion sickness, postoperative period, cancer chemotherapy.
- Motion sickness.
- Vomiting during pregnancy.
- Adrenal glands.
- Altitude sickness.
- Ayurveda medicine as part of an anti-histamine preparation.
- Bowel related arthritis.
- Circulatory issues.
- Chest cold.
- High blood pressure.
(Duke, 2002, p. 328)
So, what is the safety around using ginger? Is it safe for everybody?
Just like every other herb, you should definitely take into consideration the safety and contraindications prior to using it. It is recommended to not use ginger or products that contain ginger if you are taking the pharmaceutical drug Warfarin. (Williamson, Driver, & Baxter, 2009, p. 205) Amounts of ginger up to 4 grams daily is considered safe by the US Food and Drug Administration as it is also on the GRAS (generally regarded as safe) list. At dosages of 6 grams or higher, side effects included mild diarrhea, heartburn, and gastric irritation. (NCBI, 2010) It is advised that individuals with gallbladder complications should avoid using ginger unless guided by a medical professional because it is an herb with biliary-stimulating properties. (Kraft, & Hobbs, 2004, p. 71) In the Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, it is quoted that, "Perhaps erring on the side of caution, Reichert cautions that ginger may raise the blood pressure, may amplify blood-thinning drug activities, and might be contraindicated during pregnancy." It goes on to state that contraindications for ginger include childhood fevers, gallstones, and for individuals that suffer from blood clotting disorders. (Duke, 2002, p. 329) David Hoffman, author of Medical Herbalism The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine, states that that the Comission E. says ginger should not be used to help alleviate morning sickness experienced during pregnancy, but, that in Traditional Chinese Medicine it is traditionally used at no more than 2 g of dried powder while pregnant. (Hoffman, 2003, p. 597) Ginger also has the potential of interactions with antacids, anti-platelet drugs, anticoagulant drugs, and phenprocoumon. (Bone & Mills, 2013, p. 973) The American Herbal Products Association has classified ginger as a Safety Class I (herbs that can be safely consumed when used appropriately) and Interactions Class B (herbs for which clinically relevant interactions are biologically possible). They state that the data from multiple clinical trials which included over 900 pregnant women did not have any reported adverse effects to ginger in amounts of one to two grams daily. There was no provided information on using ginger while breastfeeding that was found in scientific or traditional texts so they did not see a concern for using it while nursing. (Gardner & McGuffin, 2013, pp. 940,941)
Wow, that is a lot of information! You can see how ginger root has become one of the most commonly used herbs due to it having many indications for various usages. You can also see why it is very important to research multiple sources regarding the safety around individual herbs so that you can utilize them in a safe manner, respecting any contraindications there may be. What is your favorite way to use ginger?
Bartram, T. (1998). Bartram's Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London, UK: Robinson Publishing Ltd.
Benzie, I. F., & Wachtel-Galor, S. (Eds.). (2011). Herbal Medicine Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Bone, K., & Mills, S. (2013). London, UK: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
Duke, J. (2002). Handbook for Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press LLC.
Gardner, Z., & McGuffin, M. (Eds.). (2013). American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Kraft, K., & Hobbs, C. (2004). Pocket Atlas of Herbal Medicine (S. O. Wandrey, Trans.). New York, NY: Thieme.
NCBI. (2010, February 16). Ginger. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5008850/
Williamson, E., Driver, S., & Baxter, K. (Eds.). (2009). Stockley's Herbal Medicines Interactions. London, UK: Pharmaceutical Press.