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Ginger Root

  • Zingiber officinale
  • Origin: Peru
Ginger Root


Common Name

Standardized: ginger
Other: shunthi

Botanical Name

Zingiber officinale Roscoe
Plant Family: Zingiberaceae


Ginger has been valued as a zesty spice and a reliable medicinal herb for centuries, with the first recorded uses found in ancient Sanskrit and Chinese texts.3,4 It has also been utilized in Greek, Roman, Arabic, and Unani Tibb traditional medicine practices3,4 and is now a widely known therapeutic herb in most parts of the world. It is a flavoring agent in beer, soft drinks, candies, and a staple spice and condiment in many countries. Ginger essential oil has been used in a vast array of cosmetics and perfumes.5 Further, its therapeutic properties, ranging from alleviating upset stomach to providing pain relief, are now being substantiated through a vast array of scientific studies.


A member from the Zingiberaceae family which also contains turmeric (Curcuma sp.) and cardamom (Amomum sp. and Elettaria sp.), ginger is a tropical, aromatic, perennial herb which is most likely native to tropical Asia (yet has been cultivated for so long that the exact origin is unclear).1 The part used is its fleshy rhizome, often mistakenly referred to as a root. Ginger is widely cultivated in many tropical countries. It is believed that the Spaniard, Francisco de Mendosa, transplanted ginger from southeast Asia or the 'East Indies' in 1547 6,7 to the 'West Indies' (most of the Carribbean) and Mexico.8 The Spanish cultivated it extensively and then exported it in large amounts to various countries in Europe.6,7 Prior to this, ginger used in Europe was obtained from Arab spice traders.

The genus name is a derivation of the Latin gingiber, which originated from the Sanskrit srngaveram, which breaks down to the word for horn or srngam and the word for body which is vera, denoting the horn-shape of its root.9

Asarum sp. commonly known as wild ginger, has a few medicinal similarities such as being a diaphoretic and an emmenagogue, yet is botanically quite different as it belongs to the Aristolochiaceae family and is thus not a true ginger.10

Cultivation And Harvesting

Ginger has risen to be among the top 12 spices most consumed in the United States, replacing fennel seed.11 Presently, the main producers of ginger are India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines and Thailand, although other countries such as Jamaica produce it as well.11 The 'white ginger' is the peeled rhizome that is often produced in Jamaica and the 'black ginger' or unpeeled rhizome, is mostly from Sierra Leone and China.12

When it comes to just the pure essential oil, the main producers are India and China, and the major importing countries are the United States, Europe, and Japan.11

History And Folklore

The first recorded use of ginger goes as far back as its appearance in the ancient Chinese herbal Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, written by emperor Shen Nong around 2,000 B.C.E.7 and the ancient Sanskrit text of India, the Mahabharata, around 400 B.C.E. In the latter text, a recipe with stewed meat and ginger is described.13 In Ayurveda (the traditional healing system of India) one of the many Sanskrit names for ginger is shunthi or sunthi 2,14 thought to be derived from the ancient city that bears the same name mentioned in the epic Indian text, the Ramayana (which was from around the same time as the Mahabharata). This city was thus considered an ancient capitol of the ginger trade by 200 B.C.14

There are various accounts of ginger being exported from India to the Roman empire around 2000 years ago. At this time, it was used for both a flavorful spice and a medicinal herb.13 Ginger has been in continuous use ever since in Europe, and was a prized medicinal during the reign of King Henry the VIII in the 1500's.8 By the 16th century, one pound of ginger was worth one sheep in England.7

Ginger was prized in love spells for its 'heating up' qualities15 and has been considered a love herb since ancient times.13 It was believed that ginger could hasten the success of any spell and that planting a ginger root would ensure financial abundance.15

In the book Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West, Steven Foster writes: Ginger is truly an herbal emissary in the broadest sense. Perhaps no other herb, except garlic, crosses all barriers, cultural, historical, and geographic–food versus medicine, Western versus Oriental, scientific versus folk tradition. Ginger is a universal herb in all respects.7

Ginger has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and is believed to effect lung, spleen, heart, and stomach meridians.16

It is called gan jiang, referring to the dried, older winter rhizome, or shen jiang, which is the fresh, young and tender rhizome.7,16 As having two different names for ginger implies, fresh and dried ginger are considered to have very different qualities. Ginger is believed to be more moistening when fresh and also to be energetically warm, whereas the dried root is energetically hot, and more drying.7,16 Both have been employed in cases of diarrhea, vomiting and nausea, amongst many other uses.7,16 Fresh ginger is preferred in TCM for nausea, as the dried ginger is considered to be too heating.7 Fresh ginger is valued as a diaphoretic and aid in expelling toxins. It was applied as a poultice to the scalp for baldness, and the fresh juice was applied to burns.7

Ginger is still a very important herb in Europe and is extensively imported in Germany. It is approved in the Commission E monographs and found in countless therapeutic preparations all over Europe.12 Ginger has been and is still extensively used as a flavoring: as a condiment in the form of a paste, sliced and pickled, or powdered, as flavoring agent for soft drinks and ginger beer, distilled into an essential oil, and also as a candy or lozenge.6,11 There are many different types of ginger ranging from light colored Jamaican ginger, to the darker, more pungent African ginger often used in the production of essential oils.11

Flavor Notes And Energetics

Flavor notes and energetics: In TCM–hot, acrid16 In Ayurveda–pungent, sweet2

Herbal Actions

appetite stimulant, carminative,5 anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-emetic3,7 spasmolytic, peripheral circulatory stimulant,19 diaphorhetic, analgesic, antibacterial, galactagogue7 antitussive, cardiotonic2 emmenagogue, sialagogue,

Uses And Preparations

dried chopped rhizome for tea, powdered for tea or spice, powdered and encapsulated, or tinctured

fresh rhizome as a condiment, fresh tea, poultice, juice, tincture, or essential oil and oleoresin


Ginger rhizome contains oleoresin composed of (phenols such as gingerols and their related dehydration products shogaols), fats and waxes, and volatile oils (1.0–3.3% the volatile oil contains sesquiterpenes, monoterpenes), 40–60% starch, 9–10% protien, 6–10% lipids composed of triglycerides, phosphatidic acid, lecithins, and free fatty acids, vitamins niacin and A, minerals; and amino acids.12

The Commission E approved the internal use of ginger for impaired digestion for soothing upset stomach12 and the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP) indicates its use as an anti-emetic for minor surgical procedures and for prevention of nausea and vomiting associated with motion.20 There is a huge array of human clinical studies which have been conducted on the therapeutic effects of ginger over the past 30 years which validate these uses. Ginger has proven useful for women who experience pain and cramping during menses.21 Ginger has also proven useful in assuaging nausea and dizziness associated with movement.22-27 A variety of studies have also demonstrated anti-inflammatory and pain relieving actions.30-33 and measure a strong antioxidant effect.34<-sup>


Specific: No known precautions.
General: We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.


  1. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Accessed at URL: http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?42254 on 13 July 2014.
  2. Khalsa Singh KP, Tierra M. The way of Ayurvedic herbs. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press; 2008.
  3. Ali, B. H., Blunden, G., Tanira, M. O., & Nemmar, A. (2008). Some phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological properties of ginger ( Zingiber officinale Roscoe): A review of recent research. Food and chemical Toxicology, 46(2), 409-420
  4. Goel, R. K., & Sairam, K. (2002). Anti-ulcer drugs from indigenous sources with emphasis on Musa sapientum, tamrahbasma, Asparagus racemosus and Zingiber officinale. Indian journal of pharmacology, 34(2), 100-110.
  5. Leung AY, Foster S, eds. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc; 1996.
  6. Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. Accessed at http://botanical.com/botanical on July 14, 2014.
  7. Foster, S., & Chongxi, Y. (1992). Herbal emissaries: bringing Chinese herbs to the West: a guide to gardening, herbal wisdom, and well-being. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co.
  8. Ravindran, P. N., & Babu, K. N. (Eds.). (2004). Ginger: the genus Zingiber. CRC Press.
  9. Online Etymology Dictionary. Accessed at: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=ginger on July 14, 2014.
  10. Moore M. Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West. Santa Fe. New Mexico: Red Crane Books; 1993.
  11. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. GINGER. Post-harvest Operations Accessed at: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/inpho/docs/Post_Harvest_Compendium_-_Ginger.pdf on July 13 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265990.php on January 2016.
  12. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
  13. Medical News Today. Accessed at: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265990.php on July 14, 2014.
  14. Dharmananda S. Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon Accessed at: http://www.itmonline.org/arts/ayurherb.htm on July 14, 2014.
  15. Cunningham, S. Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications; 2000.
  16. Bensky, D., Gamble, A., & Kaptchuk, T. J. (1993). Chinese herbal medicine: materia medica.
  17. Mills S, Bone K. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone; 2000.
  18. European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy. ESCOP Monographs. 2nd ed. New York: Thieme New York; 2003.
  19. Ozgoli, G., Goli, M., & Simbar, M. (2009). Effects of ginger capsules on pregnancy, nausea, and vomiting. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(3), 243-246.
  20. Grontved A, Brask T, Kambskard J, et al. Ginger root against seasickness. Acta Otolaryngol 1988;105:45–9.
  21. Ribenfeld D, Borzone L. Randomized double-blind study comparing ginger (Zintona®) with dimenhydrinate in motion sickness. Healthnotes Rev Complementary Integrative Med 1999;6:98–101.
  22. Stewart JJ, Wood MJ, Wood CD, Mims ME. Effects of ginger on motion sickness susceptibility and gastric function. Pharmacology 1991;42:111–20.
  23. Holtmann S, Clarke AH, Scherer H, et al. The anti-motion sickness mechanism of ginger. Acta Otolaryngol 1989;108:168–74.
  24. Grontved A, Hentzer E. Vertigo-reducing effect of ginger root. ORL 1986;48:282.
  25. Lien, H. C., Sun, W. M., Chen, Y. H., Kim, H., Hasler, W., & Owyang, C. (2003). Effects of ginger on motion sickness and gastric slow-wave dysrhythmias induced by circular vection. American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 284(3), G481-G489.
  26. Thomson, M., Al-Qattan, K. K., Al-Sawan, S. M., Alnaqeeb, M. A., Khan, I., & Ali, M. (2002). The use of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) as a potential anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic agent. Prostaglandins, leukotrienes and essential fatty acids, 67(6), 475-478.
  27. Srivastava KC, Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders. Med Hypotheses 1992;39:342–8.
  28. Bliddal H, Rosetzsky A, Schlichting P, et al. A randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study of ginger extracts and ibuprofen in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage 2000;8:9–12.
  29. Altman RD, Marcussen KC. Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum 2001;44:2531–8.
  30. Stoilova, I., Krastanov, A., Stoyanova, A., Denev, P., & Gargova, S. (2007). Antioxidant activity of a ginger extract (< i> Zingiber officinale). Food chemistry, 102(3), 764-770.

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.