Ginger’s Many Amazing Medicinal Benefits Exposed in Recent Research

ginger medicinal benefits

Photo by Jeremy Brooks

By Case Adams, Naturopath

Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) is one of the most versatile food-spice-herbs known. Ginger is a fundamental herbal treatment among among Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Traditional Thai Medicine, Japanese Kampo Medicine and various others.

Finally, researchers are getting wind that garlic can treat numerous ailments – as purported in these traditional medicines thousands of years ago.

In fact, in the past five years, a number of human clinical studies have shown some of ginger’s amazing properties to treat and prevent various disease conditions—just as predicted by the ancient medicines.

‘Universal Medicine’ in Ayurveda

In Ayurveda—the oldest medical practice still in use—ginger is the most recommended botanical medicine. As such, ginger is referred to as vishwabhesaj—meaning “universal medicine”—by Ayurvedic physicians.

An accumulation of studies and chemical analyses in 2000 determined that ginger has at least 477 active constituents. Each of these constituents can stimulate a slightly different physiological mechanism in the body—often moderating the mechanisms of other constituents. This is one of the secrets, by the way, of traditional herbs. Their constituents buffer and balance each other.

Anti-inflammatory effects

Many of ginger’s active constituents have anti-inflammatory and/or pain-reducing effects. Research has illustrated that ginger inhibits COX and LOX enzymes in a balanced manner. This allows for a gradual reduction of inflammation and pain without the negative GI side effects that accompany NSAIDs. Ginger also stimulates circulation, inhibits various infections, and strengthens the liver.

Ginger has therefore been used as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory ailments, fevers, nausea, colds, flu, hepatitis, liver disease, headaches and many digestive ailments to name a few. Herbalists classify ginger as analgesic, tonic, expectorant, carminative, antiemetic, stimulant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial.

Earlier studies have shown that ginger is an effective remedy for reducing pain associated with arthritis.

Yet as opposed to NSAIDS, ginger does not come with the typical gastrointestinal side effects—notably heartburn and ulcers.

In fact, whole ginger is clinically proven to reduce nausea, stomachache, ulcers and many other gastrointestinal problems.

Here is a review of the last five years of research on ginger by universities and medical centers around the world, sorted by condition:

Osteoarthritis

A 2013 study found that ginger applied topically onto the skin can significantly reduce pain and inflammation from osteoarthritis. This study from Australia’s Edith Cowan University studied 20 mostly elderly adults with osteoarthritis.

Another study from Thailand’s Thammasat University found that Plygersic gel – made of ginger (Zingiber officinale) and a ginger relative—plai (Zingiber cassumunar)—significantly reduced knee pain, mobility and quality of life among 50 patients tested.

Another study of 440 people with osteoarthritis were tested with an Ayurvedic combination of ginger plus Tinospora cordifolia, Emblica officinalis and Boswellia serrata. Those given the Ayurvedic combination had pain relief that closely matched the relief of the pharmaceutical drug celebrex (celecoxib). Celecoxib has been plagued with complaints of cardiovascular and other side effects.

A study from Russia’s Central Gastroenterology Scientific Research Institute tested ginger against the NSAID diclofenac with 43 patients with osteoarthritis. The researchers gave 22 patients 340 milligrams of ginger extract for four weeks. The ginger group had similar pain and inflammation reduction as the diclofenac but with less side effects—notably less heartburn symptoms.

Learn more natural solutions to arthritis

For six weeks, researchers from Iran’s Farateb Research Institute treated 92 osteoarthritis patients with either a salicylate ointment or a ginger ointment. After six weeks of topical application twice a day, the ginger ointment significantly reduced pain and morning stiffness, and increased mobility among the patients.

Chemotherapy nausea

Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center found, in a study of 576 cancer patients, that ½ gram, one gram and 1.5 grams per day of powdered ginger significantly reduced nausea among patients receiving chemotherapy.

Another study from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences found that ginger root given to chemotherapy patients significantly reduced nausea among bone cancer patients.

Colon Cancer

A study from Atlanta’s Emory University found that ginger may reduce colon cancer proliferation. The researchers tested 20 people with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. They gave them two grams of ginger or a placebo for 28 days, and found the ginger group had lower expression of signs of cancer among the intestinal walls.

In a similar study from the University of Michigan Medical School, researchers confirmed that ginger reduced cancer cell expression among intestinal cells as they tested 20 high-cancer risk people—again with two grams per day.

In another study, University of Michigan Medical School researchers studied ginger with 30 patients for 28 days. They found that ginger significantly reduced inflammation markers PGE2, and 12-HETE.

Human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)

A study from a Taiwan’s College of Medicine at Kaohsiung Medical University found that fresh ginger is an effective treatment against human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This study tested ginger with infected lung and liver cells.

A study from Iran’s hahid Beheshti University of Medical Science found that ginger improved breathing and oxygenation in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Athletic performance and muscle pain

Another study found that ginger was effective in increasing athletic performance. The study of 49 women used three grams of ginger powder per day or a placebo. The ginger group had significantly less inflammation and better recovery rates, and reduced muscle pain.

A study from Georgia College and State University studied 34 people and 40 people for 11 days, giving part of each group either raw ginger or heat-treated ginger powder during muscle testing that produced pain. The researchers found that both the raw and the processed ginger reduced muscle pain among the subjects 24 hours later.

Antibiotic

A study from King Saud University and India’s Rangasamy College found that ginger successfully inhibited infective species of bacteria including Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli bacteria.

Difficult menstruation

In this study of 70 female university students with difficult menses, subjects were given either ginger (powdered in capsules) or a placebo for three days at the beginning of menstruation. Among the group taking the ginger there was significantly less pain, and 83% reported improved nausea symptoms compared to 47% among the placebo group.

A similar conclusion was found in a study from India’s Holy Spirit Institute of Nursing Education. In this study 75 nursing students were given either one gram of ginger powder twice a day during the first three days of menstruation or progressive muscle relaxation. The researchers found that those given the ginger had significantly less pain and other symptoms of dysmenorrheal than did those receiving the progressive muscle relaxation.

Researchers from the Department of Midwifery at Shahed University tested 102 women with difficult menstruation. They gave the women either a placebo or 1,500 milligrams of powdered ginger in capsules per day for five days during the beginning of menstruation. They found that the ginger group had significantly less pain and other symptoms.

IBS symptoms

Forty IBS patients were given either a placebo or Ginger along with Mentha longifolia (Horse mint) and Cyperus rotundus (Java grass or nut grass). After eight weeks, those in the IBS group reported significant improvement in IBS symptoms.

Post-Op Nausea

New York Methodist Hospital researchers gave 239 women either ginger or a placebo prior to being given anesthesia for a C-section surgery. Those given the ginger had reduced intraoperative nausea during the C-section. Other symptoms were unaffected.

Glucose sensitivity

Researchers from Iran’s Tabriz University of Medical Sciences studied 64 patients with type 2 diabetes. For two months they gave them either two grams per day of powdered ginger or a placebo. The ginger group had significantly lower insulin levels, and improvements in insulin sensitivity. The ginger group also had lower LDL-c levels and triglyceride levels compared with the placebo group.

Weight loss

Columbia University researchers found that overweight men given ginger with breakfast burned more calories (thermogenesis), reduced hunger and had a greater sense of fullness.

Migraines

Researchers from the Kansas Headache Care Center tested a combination of ginger and feverfew with 60 patients. The patients were treated with a placebo or the combination during a total of 221 migraine attacks. The patients were given the ginger/feverfew combination sublingually.

On average, 63% of those given the combination were pain-free in two hours, compared with 32% of those given conventional drug medication and 16% of those given the placebo.

Digestion

A study from Taiwan’s Chang Gung University College of Medicine studied 11 patients with heartburn and found that three capsules of ginger powder containing 300 milligrams each significantly hastened digestion by measuring the rate of emptying of the stomach. The patients were given a meal an hour after the ginger supplement.

Increased gastric emptying was also found by Shahid Beheshti University researchers who studied 32 patients who were hospitalized with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

It should be noted that ginger’s gastrointestinal effects are most prevalent in its whole/raw form. During pulverization, dehydration and extraction, some of ginger’s 477 constituents may be lost.

Here are a few ways to take raw ginger:

  • Grate directly into salads and other fresh dishes (potato peeler works great too)
  • Top food dishes after cooked with grated ginger
  • Put a chunk of root directly into blender when making fruit smoothie
  • Peel and take a small bite and chew
  • Grate into hot tea after steeping is completed

REFERENCES:

Therkleson T. Topical Ginger Treatment With a Compress or Patch for Osteoarthritis Symptoms. J Holist Nurs. 2013 Dec 4.

Jenabi E. The effect of ginger for relieving of primary dysmenorrhoea. J Pak Med Assoc. 2013 Jan;63(1):8-10.

Sahib AS. Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome using a selected herbal combination of Iraqi folk medicines. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Jul 30;148(3):1008-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.05.034.

Halder A. Effect of progressive muscle relaxation versus intake of ginger powder on dysmenorrhoea amongst the nursing students in Pune. Nurs J India. 2012 Jul-Aug;103(4):152-6.

Kalava A, Darji SJ, Kalstein A, Yarmush JM, SchianodiCola J, Weinberg J. Efficacy of ginger on intraoperative and postoperative nausea and vomiting in elective cesarean section patients. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2013 Jul;169(2):184-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2013.02.014.

Mahluji S, Attari VE, Mobasseri M, Payahoo L, Ostadrahimi A, Golzari SE. Effects of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on plasma glucose level, HbA1c and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetic patients. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2013 Sep;64(6):682-6. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2013.775223.

Niempoog S, Siriarchavatana P, Kajsongkram T. The efficacy of Plygersic gel for use in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. J Med Assoc Thai. 2012Oct;95 Suppl 10:S113-9.

Chopra A, Saluja M, Tillu G, Sarmukkaddam S, Venugopalan A, Narsimulu G, Handa R, Sumantran V, Raut A, Bichile L, Joshi K, Patwardhan B. Ayurvedic medicine offers a good alternative to glucosamine and celecoxib in the treatment of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: a randomized, double-blind, controlled equivalence drug trial. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2013 Aug;52(8):1408-17. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/kes414. Epub 2013 Jan 30.

Citronberg J, Bostick R, Ahearn T, Turgeon DK, Ruffin MT, Djuric Z, Sen A, Brenner DE, Zick SM. Effects of ginger supplementation on cell-cycle biomarkers in the normal-appearing colonic mucosa of patients at increased risk forcolorectal cancer: results from a pilot, randomized, and controlled trial. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2013 Apr;6(4):271-81. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-12-0327.

Jiang Y, Turgeon DK, Wright BD, Sidahmed E, Ruffin MT, Brenner DE, Sen A, Zick SM. Effect of ginger root on cyclooxygenase-1 and 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase expression in colonic mucosa of humans at normal and increased risk for colorectal cancer. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2013 Sep;22(5):455-60. doi: 10.1097/CEJ.0b013e32835c829b.

Chang JS, Wang KC, Yeh CF, Shieh DE, Chiang LC. Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Jan 9;145(1):146-51.

Vahdat Shariatpanahi Z, Mokhtari M, Taleban FA, Alavi F, Salehi Surmaghi MH, Mehrabi Y, Shahbazi S. Effect of enteral feeding with ginger extract in acute respiratory distress syndrome. J Crit Care. 2013 Apr;28(2):217.e1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2012.04.017. Epub 2012 Aug 9.

Drozdov VN, Kim VA, Tkachenko EV, Varvanina GG. Influence of a specific ginger combination on gastropathy conditions in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Jun;18(6):583-8. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0202.

Rahnama P, Montazeri A, Huseini HF, Kianbakht S, Naseri M. Effect of Zingiber officinale R. rhizomes (ginger) on pain relief in primary dysmenorrhea: a placebo randomized trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Jul 10;12:92. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-12-92.

Mashhadi NS, Ghiasvand R, Hariri M, Askari G, Feizi A, Darvishi L, Hajishafiee M, Barani A. Effect of ginger and cinnamon intake on oxidative stress and exercise performance and body composition in Iranian female athletes. Int J Prev Med. 2013 Apr;4(Suppl 1):S31-5.

Mansour MS, Ni YM, Roberts AL, Kelleman M, Roychoudhury A, St-Onge MP. Ginger consumption enhances the thermic effect of food and promotes feelings of satiety without affecting metabolic and hormonal parameters in overweight men: a pilot study. Metabolism. 2012 Oct;61(10):1347-52. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2012.03.016.

Zahmatkash M, Vafaeenasab MR. Comparing analgesic effects of a topical herbal mixed medicine with salicylate in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Pak J Biol Sci. 2011 Jul 1;14(13):715-9.

Zick SM, Turgeon DK, Vareed SK, Ruffin MT, Litzinger AJ, Wright BD, Alrawi S, Normolle DP, Djuric Z, Brenner DE. Phase II study of the effects of ginger root extract on eicosanoids in colon mucosa in people at normal risk for colorectal cancer. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2011 Nov;4(11):1929-37. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-11-0224.

Ryan JL, Heckler CE, Roscoe JA, Dakhil SR, Kirshner J, Flynn PJ, Hickok JT, Morrow GR. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces acute chemotherapy-induced nausea: a URCC CCOP study of 576 patients. Support Care Cancer. 2012 Jul;20(7):1479-89. doi: 10.1007/s00520-011-1236-3.

Cady RK, Goldstein J, Nett R, Mitchell R, Beach ME, Browning R. A double-blind placebo-controlled pilot study of sublingual feverfew and ginger (LipiGesic™ M) in the treatment of migraine. Headache. 2011 Jul-Aug;51(7):1078-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2011.01910.x.

Hu ML, Rayner CK, Wu KL, Chuah SK, Tai WC, Chou YP, Chiu YC, Chiu KW, Hu TH. Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia. World J Gastroenterol. 2011 Jan 7;17(1):105-10. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v17.i1.105.

Pillai AK, Sharma KK, Gupta YK, Bakhshi S. Anti-emetic effect of ginger powder versus placebo as an add-on therapy in children and young adults receiving high emetogenic chemotherapy. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2011 Feb;56(2):234-8. doi: 10.1002/pbc.22778.

Black CD, Herring MP, Hurley DJ, O’Connor PJ. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces muscle pain caused by eccentric exercise. J Pain. 2010 Sep;11(9):894-903. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.12.013.

Shariatpanahi ZV, Taleban FA, Mokhtari M, Shahbazi S. Ginger extract reduces delayed gastric emptying and nosocomial pneumonia in adult respiratory distress syndrome patients hospitalized in an intensive care unit. J Crit Care. 2010 Dec;25(4):647-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2009.12.008.

Adams C. Arthritis – The Botanical Solution. Logical Books, 2012.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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