Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) is a fundamental herbal treatment among among Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Traditional Thai Medicine, Japanese Kampo Medicine and various other traditional medicines around the world. Modern research is now proving that these ancient therapies using ginger can indeed treat numerous ailments.
Here we list 18 of the many medicinal benefits of ginger, proven just within the past five years. These studies have confirmed some of ginger’s amazing properties to treat and prevent various disease conditions. These include but also add to those used in traditional medicines.
‘Universal Medicine’ of Ayurveda
In Ayurveda—the oldest medical practice still in use—ginger is the most recommended botanical medicine. As such, ginger is referred to by Ayurvedic physicians as vishwabhesaj, meaning “universal medicine.”
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.
Herbalists classify ginger as analgesic, tonic, expectorant, carminative, antiemetic, stimulant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial.
Most of these are proven out in the studies below:
Wound Healing and pain
Ginger has been used traditionally to help heal wounds. In a 2017 study from Turkey’s Koç University Hospital, researchers tested 49 patients who had received tonsillectomy surgery. Following the surgery, 23 of the patients were given ginger capsules along with their normal post surgery treatment. The other 26 patients were given the normal post surgery treatment without the ginger.
The patients receiving the ginger had reduced pain, and increased wound healing. The skin tissues at the wound sites also showed faster healing times compared to the patients that did not receive the ginger.
Multiple studies have confirmed that ginger is antiviral. A 2017 study has confirmed that ginger extracts are toxic to the Avian influenza virus H9N2. Researchers testing different extracts found that a 25% ginger extract produced 100% infected cell death. The researchers concluded that ginger was anti-avian flu.
A 2016 study tested 69 tuberculosis. Half were given 3 grams of ginger extract each day for 30 days. The other half were given a placebo. Blood tests for inflammatory factors were taken before and after the 30 days. They found that the ginger group had significantly lower levels of of inflammatory factors tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a), ferritin and malondialdehyde (MDA) in the blood.
These tests confirmed that ginger significantly reduces inflammatory factors within the body.
Many of ginger’s active constituents have anti-inflammatory and 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.
Yet as opposed to NSAIDS, ginger does not come with the typical gastrointestinal side effects—notably heartburn and ulcers.
Ginger’s anti-inflammation effects underscores its use in respiratory ailments, fevers, nausea, colds, flu, hepatitis, liver disease, headaches and many digestive ailments to name a few. The below studies confirm these effects.
A 2016 clinical study of 120 osteoarthritis patients tested half with 500 milligrams of ginger powder three times per day. The other half of the patients received a placebo. The researchers found that after three months, the ginger patients had lower levels of inflammation cytokines.
A 2013 study gave 60 osteoarthritis patients either 750 milligrams a day of ginger or a placebo. The ginger group had better symptom improvement and reduced pain.
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 called 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.
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.
A 2017 study from Thailand’s Khon Kaen University studied 88 cancer patients who received a ginger extract or a placebo with their chemotherapy treatments. The researchers found those patients receiving the ginger extact had significantly reduced nausea and vomiting and had better appetites compared to the placebo group.
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.
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.
In fact, whole ginger is clinically proven to reduce nausea, stomachache, ulcers and many other gastrointestinal problems.
A 2017 study tested ginger’s ability to fight cancer cells. Using human ovarian cancer cells, the researchers found that ginger extract significantly inhibited the growth of the cancer cells. The research also found that ginger stimulated the body’s anticancer immunity through the p53 pathway to kill cancer cells.
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.
A 2017 review of research also found that ginger was anticancer against breast cancer.
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
A 2015 study from Marywood University tested 20 healthy subjects. The researchers gave some 4 grams of ginger powder over a five-day period to half the group and the other half were given a placebo. During the five days, the subjects worked out with intense exercise.
The researchers found the ginger sped up the recovery of muscle strength after the intense exercise. The ginger group also had increased lifting strength compared to the placebo group during the recovery periods.
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.
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.
This and other studies illustrate that ginger is an effective natural antibiotic.
In a 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.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
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.
Medical researchers tested 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.
Columbia University researchers found that overweight men given ginger with breakfast burned more calories (thermogenesis), reduced hunger and had a greater sense of fullness.
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.
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.
Dry mouth and swallowing
A 2016 study from Japan’s Kochi Medical School Hospital tested 18 healthy seniors. The researchers gave the subjects oral ginger tablets that dissolved in their mouth. The researchers found that after the ginger tablets, the subjects could swallow easier. Saliva tests confirmed they had increased levels of saliva after taking the ginger.
A number of studies have found ginger to be antioxidant. The latest is a 2017 laboratory study that tested ginger extract as well as many of its constituents. This study found that both ginger extract and four constituents tested had significant antioxidant properties.
The antioxidant constituents included 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol, 10-gingerol, and 6-shogaol.
A 2017 study from Kyung Hee University tested ginger along with several of its constituents with nerve and brain cells. They found that ginger and constituents like 6-gingerol, 6-shogaol, 6-paradol, zingerone, and dehydrozingerone, “are effective for ameliorating the neurological symptoms and pathological conditions of age-related neurological disorders by modulating cell death or cell survival signaling molecules.”
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
Koçak İ, Yücepur C, Gökler O. Is Ginger Effective in Reducing Post-tonsillectomy Morbidity? A Prospective Randomised Clinical Trial. Clin Exp Otorhinolaryngol. 2017 Sep 8. doi: 10.21053/ceo.2017.00374.
Konmun J, Danwilai K, Ngamphaiboon N, Sripanidkulchai B, Sookprasert A, Subongkot S. A phase II randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study of 6-gingerol as an anti-emetic in solid tumor patients receiving moderately to highly emetogenic chemotherapy. Med Oncol. 2017 Apr;34(4):69. doi: 10.1007/s12032-017-0931-4.
Rasool A, Khan MU, Ali MA, Anjum AA, Ahmed I, Aslam A, Mustafa G, Masood S, Ali MA, Nawaz M. Anti-avian influenza virus H9N2 activity of aqueous extracts of Zingiber officinalis (Ginger) and Allium sativum (Garlic) in chick embryos. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2017 Jul;30(4):1341-1344.
ulkarni RA, Deshpande AR. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect of ginger in tuberculosis. J Complement Integr Med. 2016 Jun 1;13(2):201-6. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2015-0032.
Si W, Chen YP, Zhang J, Chen ZY, Chung HY. Antioxidant activities of ginger extract and its constituents toward lipids. Food Chem. 2018 Jan 15;239:1117-1125. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.07.055.
Choi JG, Kim SY, Jeong M, Oh MS. Pharmacotherapeutic potential of ginger and its compounds in age-related neurological disorders. Pharmacol Ther. 2017 Aug 24. pii: S0163-7258(17)30220-6. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2017.08.010.
Pashaei-Asl R, Pashaei-Asl F, Mostafa Gharabaghi P, Khodadadi K, Ebrahimi M, Ebrahimie E, Pashaiasl M. The Inhibitory Effect of Ginger Extract on Ovarian Cancer Cell Line; Application of Systems Biology. Adv Pharm Bull. 2017 Jun;7(2):241-249. doi: 10.15171/apb.2017.029.
Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Naderi Z, Dehghan A, Nadjarzadeh A, Fallah Huseini H. Effect of Ginger Supplementation on Proinflammatory Cytokines in Older Patients with Osteoarthritis: Outcomes of a Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. J Nutr Gerontol Geriatr. 2016 Jul-Sep;35(3):209-18. doi: 10.1080/21551197.2016.1206762.
Hirata A, Funato H, Nakai M, Iizuka M, Abe N, Yagi Y, Shiraishi H, Jobu K, Yokota J, Hirose K, Hyodo M, Miyamura M. Ginger Orally Disintegrating Tablets to Improve Swallowing in Older People. Biol Pharm Bull. 2016;39(7):1107-11. doi: 10.1248/bpb.b15-01045.
Li Y, Li S, Meng X, Gan RY, Zhang JJ, Li HB. Dietary Natural Products for Prevention and Treatment of Breast Cancer. Nutrients. 2017 Jul 8;9(7). pii: E728. doi: 10.3390/nu9070728.
Therkleson T. Topical Ginger Treatment With a Compress or Patch for Osteoarthritis Symptoms. J Holist Nurs. 2013 Dec 4.
Paramdeep G. Efficacy and tolerability of ginger (Zingiber officinale) in patients of osteoarthritis of knee. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2013 Apr-Jun;57(2):177-83.
Jenabi E. The effect of ginger for relieving of primary dysmenorrhoea. J Pak Med Assoc. 2013 Jan;63(1):8-10.
Matsumura MD, Zavorsky GS, Smoliga JM. The Effects of Pre-Exercise Ginger Supplementation on Muscle Damage and Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Phytother Res. 2015 Jun;29(6):887-93. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5328.
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.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.