Ginger has been found to be even more effective than Dramamine in curbing motion sickness, without causing drowsiness. As a digestive aid, it warms the digestive organs, stimulates digestive secretions, increases the amylase concentration in saliva, and facilitates the digestion of starches and fatty foods. It also strengthens the tissues of the heart, activates the immune system, prevents blood platelet aggregation and leukotriene formation, and inhibits prostaglandin production, thus reducing inflammation and pain.
Ginger is often included in other herbal formulas, especially those that contain laxative herbs to reduce gripe. The dried root is hotter than the fresh root and is more effective in relieving nausea and warming the body. Fresh ginger is considered best for respiratory problems and dried ginger for digestive ailments.
Cochin Ginger, East Indian Pepper, Jamaica Ginger, Jamaica Pepper; gingembre (French); Ingwer (German); zenzero (Italian); jengibre, gengibre, gingembre (Spanish); gin (Burmese); cheung, chiang, jeung, sang keong (green) (Chinese); adruk (green), ard(r)ak(h) (green), sont(h) (dried), udruk (green) (Indian); aliah (green), dhahe, jahe (Indonesian); beni(- )shoga/u (red pickled), mioga, myoga, shoga, kankyo (Japanese); halia (green) (Malay); inguru (Sinhalese); ingee (Tamil); Thai: k(h)ing (green). gan jiang (Chinese); kongang (Korean); Shunthi, Adrak (Sanskrit)
One of the earliest oriental spices known in the West, ginger was particularly popular in Medieval and Tudor times in England when it was valued equally as a medicinal and culinary spice. Gingerbread was a favourite treat, stamped with a pattern and often decorated with gold leaf, and sold at fairs up and down the country by special gingerbread vendors. A medicinal cure-all and a jack-of-all-trades, it was a remedy against the plague, included in pomanders and potpourris to dispel odours and taken as a reputed aphrodisiac. Native to the coastal region of India it has been cultivated there since before written history, the first mention being made in China about 400B.C. Marco Polo reported seeing it in China between 1280 and 1290 AD. Its generic name comes from the Greek “zingiberis” and Arabic “zindscebil” or root of zinschi which is interpreted “known already to the ancients”.
The ginger plant is a perennial usually grown as an annual only in tropical regions (zone 10) with pronounced wet and dry seasons. It is propagated by dividing the roots, after which plant shoots appear 10 days later. The best soil is old forest loam, well tilled to produce good shaped rhizomes and it should be well drained. Ginger rapidly depletes the soil so it must be well fertilised , usually with manure. It is harvested about 7-10 months after planting. For preserved ginger the rhizomes are dug up earlier, when they are less fibrous. Common ginger is probably native to South East Asia and has long been cultivated in north-west India and Pakistan. Can be grown as an indoor plant if it has plenty of warmth and light.
Aromatic, stomachic (salivary and gastric secretagogue effect), gastrointestinal tonic and antiemetic (gastrointestinal active, i. e. acts through autonomic nervous system, not CNS), anti-inflammatory and analgesic (by inhibiting biosynthesis of prostaglandins and leukotrienes), platelet aggregation inhibitory, carminative, cholagogue, cholesterol reducing, mild cardiotonic (increases the contractility of the heart muscle = positive inotropic effect), antispasmodic, antibacterial, antifungal, rubefacient. The effects (incl. the NSAID-like effect: anti-inflammatory, analgesic, platelet aggregation inhibitory) are due to the volatile oil and pungent principles.
The prophylaxis of nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness, postoperative nausea, pernicious vomiting in pregnancy, and seasickness. The treatment of dyspepsia, flatulence, and other stomach complaints and as an anti-inflammatory agent in the treatment of migraine headache and rheumatic and muscular disorders.
Arthritis and pain
Ginger inhibits the production of immune-system components called cytokines, chemicals that create a long-term tendency toward inflammation. The published human data on using ginger to treat pain in osteoarthritis are equivocal, but there are data to show that it contains compounds that do interfere with the inflammatory cascade of inflammation and pain receptors. One study showed that ginger was not as effective at reducing the pain of osteoarthritis as ibuprofen, which is one of the usual treatment methods. On the other hand, ginger has been shown to be useful in treating some disorders marked by swelling and pain, such as arthritis.
In a two-and-a-half-year study in patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, participants experienced improvement with ginger when used in amounts of 1 to 2gms daily. More than half of the patients in both groups experienced reduced swelling, and some reported less pain. The herbal treatment relieved symptoms without the side effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and steroids, which are helpful but can cause serious side effects, especially if used for long periods.
Indigestion, morning sickness, motion sickness, nausea, and vomiting
One of ginger’s best-known uses is quelling queasy stomach and nausea. It is an age-old remedy for morning sickness. In one study, pregnant women using 1gm of ginger daily for four days had less severe and fewer episodes of nausea and vomiting. Pregnant women should consult their obstetrician before using it.
Sometimes ginger is touted for easing motion sickness and for reducing nausea and vomiting after surgery, but these studies have been unconvincing. Ginger root contains compounds called gingerols and shogaols, which work as antiemetics, drugs that are effective against vomiting and nausea. The added benefit is that the action of these compounds is local on the stomach and does not affect the central nervous system as may other anti-emetics. Ginger stimulates the flow of saliva, bile, and gastric juices. It suppresses gastric contractions while increasing peristalsis, whereby food is pushed down the intestines.
Using 1gm of ginger root powder reduced symptoms of seasickness such as nausea, vomiting, vertigo, and cold sweating compared to a placebo in a group of naval cadets unaccustomed to sea travel. However, in contrast, another study found that ginger was no better than six other commonly used nonherbal drugs to treat motion sickness. The dose used was 500mg of ginger root.
Controlled clinical studies have not always found ginger to be more efficient in relieving nausea than dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), the popular over-the-counter (OTC) remedy for motion sickness.
Ginger may be useful in preventing nausea and vomiting after surgery, especially when combined with the prescription antinausea drug Metoclopramide (Octamide, Reglan). Even with metoclopramide, ginger does not eliminate postoperative nausea and vomiting, but these disagreeable symptoms could be reduced. However, in a well-controlled study, adding ginger to orally administered metoclopramide in patients who were receiving the chemotherapeutic drug cisplatin, participants experienced less nausea and vomiting. One study found that ginger also eases nausea caused by treatment with methoxsalen (8-MOP, Oxsoralen-Ultra), a drug taken by people undergoing photopheresis, a form of light-activated chemotherapy for treating T-cell lymphoma. A dose of 1,500mg, or three 500mg capsules of ginger, was used in the study confirming this use.
- A systematic review of randomised controlled trials has evaluated the efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting. Six trials conducted before the year 2000 were evaluated. The pooled absolute risk reduction for the incidence of postoperative nausea calculated from three trials indicated a nonsignificant difference between the ginger and placebo groups. The dose was 1gm powdered ginger given preoperatively. Two of these trials suggested that ginger was superior to placebo and equally efficacious as metoclopramide. Three studies (investigating seasickness. morning sickness. and chemotherapy-induced nausea) collectively favoured ginger over placebo. The Cochrane Review of treatments for vomiting of pregnancy suggests ginger may be of benefit (based on two clinical trials) but that the evidence was weak to date (year 2000).
- Many clinical studies have been published documenting the antinausea and antiemetic properties of ginger. However, several clinical studies have also been conducted that produced negative findings. The following summary indicates the trial design, effect on nausea and vomiting (positive-negative), and condition investigated in these trials. Overall, the weight of evidence suggests that ginger may be beneficial for treating nausea and vomiting.
- A positive effect was observed for ginger (0.25 to 1.5 g/day) in two randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials and one randomised, controlled trial investigating seasickness; two randomised, double-blind, controlled trials investigating postoperative nausea; one randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial in vomiting of pregnancy.
- A number of trials involving ginger for treating nausea and motion sickness have been conducted since the previously listed reviews.
- A randomised, double·blind, placebo-controlled trial found that treatment with ginger (0.25 g four times/day) provided relief from pregnancy-induced nausea in 76% of women treated. In the placebo group, 46% reported relief. The reduction in nausea was maintained for the four days of the trial, and relief often started within 30 minutes of taking the ginger capsule.
- A study involving a small number of healthy volunteers confirmed the efficacy of ginger (1gm) in relieving symptoms of experimentally induced motion sickness. Volunteers who took ginger experienced a greater delay in developing nausea than did the placebo group.
- Symptoms of motion sickness were alleviated in a group of children (4 to 8 years of age) administered ginger before the start of a journey. The ginger group experienced a reduction in symptoms within 30 minutes. Test substances were administered 30 minutes before the start of the journey and every 4 hours after that as necessary: ginger powder 250 to 500 mg. The study was of randomised, double·blind design.
- 75% of arthritis patients (rheumatoid and osteoarthritis) experienced relief in pain and swelling, and all of the patients with muscular discomfort experienced relief of pain, in an uncontrolled clinical study using dried ginger.
- Ginger extract was compared with ibuprofen and placebo in patients with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee in a double·blind, crossover trial. The effect of ginger was mild compared with placebo and was observed only in the first treatment period before crossover.
Dosage (Divided Daily)
• Dried Powder: 1,000 – 4,000mg
• Tincture: 0.7 – 2ml (1:2)
According to the Commission E. using ginger is contraindicated in patients with gallstones, except under close supervision.
In TCM, dried ginger is used cautiously during pregnancy. A daily dose of 2 g of dried ginger should not be exceeded in pregnancy.
The user should proceed with caution in cases of peptic ulceration, gastroesophageal reflux, or other gastric diseases.
Most side effects are minor gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, which are usually resolved when the herb is taken with meals.
Interactions with other drugs
Ginger may increase the absorption of pharmaceutical drugs. Although no problems have been reported in humans, Ginger may increase the chance of bleeding. Daily doses of (dried) ginger more than 4 g should be prescribed with caution in patients who are already taking blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin or aspirin or who have increased risk of haemorrhage.
- Balch, P. A., & Bell, S. J. (2012). Prescription for herbal healing (2nd ed.). New York, N.Y.: Avery.
- Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs : herbal formulations for the individual patient. St. Louis, MI: Churchill Livingstone.
- Chevallier, A. (2000). Encyclopedia of herbal medicine (2nd American ed.). New York: DK Pub.
- Herbalpedia (2013)
- Mars, B. (2007). The desktop guide to herbal medicine : the ultimate multidisciplinary reference to the amazing realm of healing plants, in a quick-study, one-stop guide. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Pub.
- World Health Organization., & Ebrary. (1999). WHO monographs on selected medicinal plants (pp. electronic text.). Retrieved from https://virtual.anu.edu.au/login/?url=http://site.ebrary.com/lib/anuau/Top?id=10040306
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