Ginger - Pharmacognosy & Uses

By: Pharma Tips | Views: 19312 | Date: 28-Dec-2011

Botanical Description & Habitat - Zingiber officinaleFamily - Zingiberaceae

Ginger - Pharmacognosy & Uses


Native to southeastern Asia, a region whose cuisines still feature this wonderfully spicy herb, ginger has been renowned for millennia in many areas throughout the world. Ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern writings, and has long been prized for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties. After the ancient Romans imported ginger from China almost two thousand years ago, its popularity in Europe remained centered in the Mediterranean region until the Middle Ages when its use spread throughout other countries. Although it was a very expensive spice, owing to the fact that it had to be imported from Asia, it was still in great demand. In an attempt to make it more available, Spanish explorers introduced ginger to the West Indies, Mexico and South America, and in the 16th century, these areas began exporting the precious herb back to Europe.

Today, the top commercial producers of ginger include Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia.

Zingiber Officinale also known as Ginger Root, has been used as medicine in parts of world such as Asia, India, and Arabia as herbal traditions since ancient times. In China, for example, ginger has been used to help digestion and treat stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea for more than 2,000 years.

Ginger is an incredible herb with powerful anti inflammatory properties.  I can attest to this, as I use this herb regularly to manage inflammation associated with an autoimmune disease that I have known as Ankylosing Spondilitis.  It’s also good for approximately 100 other arthritic conditions including Osteoarthritis.   Because Ginger is a natural and very powerful (cyclooxygenase) Cox-2 inhibitor, just as NSAIDs and aspirin are, it is also quiet effective for pain. I find it incredibly helpful for the pain associated with AS, as well as the widespread musculoskeletal pain associated with having Fibromyalgia.

There have been studies on ginger comparing its efficacy to that of aspirin and not only did it take smaller dosages to accomplish pain relief, there were also no known side effects.  In further comparison to aspirin, it is common knowledge that doctor’s recommend daily usage of aspirin to inhibit the blood thickening enzyme which can lead to clogged arteries.  The only issue with taking aspirin daily are the potential side effects, such as stomach upset, bleeding ulcers, joint discomfort and a potentially compromised immune system.  Other studies show that regular aspirin consumption increases the rate of mortality, and this would include the use NSAIDs.  One way to successfully accomplish the effects of aspirin without the harmful side effects, is to substitute with the use of Ginger Root.  A  cardiology clinic in an Israeli hospital now recommends that all of its patients take 1/2 teaspoon of ginger daily in place of aspirin.  Ginger is quickly becoming the “wonder herb” because of its incredible healing effects on the circulatory system, even transcending the potential of many modern cardiovascular drugs.  Heart disease is the #1 killer in United States, and individuals are becoming more “heart health” aware, wanting positive results without the harmful side effects, so its no wonder that ginger is growing by leaps and bounds in its popularity.

A group of researchers from Cornell Medical School published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980 confirming that ginger did in fact inhibit the life-threatening process of platelet aggregation.  Because of ginger’s many physical healing properties, it offers synergistic cardiovascular effects, such as antioxidant, strengthening of the heart muscle and lowering serum cholesterol. Ginger is known to actually prevent cholesterol biosynthesis.

Because of Ginger’s stimulation of immunity and inhibition of platelet aggregation, it has a positive influence on cancer patients. Ginger also soothes the stomach and aids in digestion, so for this reason its great for symptoms relating to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), flu, stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, even chemotherapy related nausea.  It also eases cold symptoms, and works as a catalyst for other herbs making their effects stronger, so for this reason you’ll want to be mindful of other herbs and medications that you decide to use with Ginger. Because of Ginger’s effects on the circulatory system and its ability to regulate blood sugar it is great for diabetics and for those looking to give a boost to their reproductive system.  Researchers have concluded there is a significant increase in the sperm swimming ability and sperm content associated with ginger consumption, so with this being said Ginger has the ability to increase fertility.


Botanical Description & Habitat

 Zingiber officinale



Common names
African ginger
Black ginger
Race ginger

Native to India and cultivated in other tropical areas.

Has a tuberous perennial root one inch or more in length. The root is flattened on its upper and under surfaces, irregularly branched, and a light ash color. It produces an annual leafy stem which is two to three feet in height. The leaves are lanceolate, oblong, smooth, and five to six inches in length. They grow alternately along the length of the stem. A leafless flower stalk grows by the side of the stem and terminates in an oval, obtuse flower spike. The flowers range from dingy yellow to purple and yellow-spotted, and have green bracts with yellow margins.

The spice ginger is the underground rhizome of the ginger plant, known botanically as Zingiber officinale. The plant's botanical name is thought to be derived from its Sanskrit name singabera which means "horn shaped," a physical characteristic that ginger reflects.

The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. It is covered with a brownish skin that may either be thick or thin, depending upon whether the plant was harvested when it was mature or young. The ginger rhizome has a firm, yet striated texture and a taste that is aromatic, pungent and hot.

Medicinal parts
Root - dried, scraped

See also
Ginger Root
Ginger - Ground

Historical Properties & Uses

Ginger is commonly used around the world, and has been employed in the treatment, cure, and prevention of numerous conditions. Its concentration of aromatic oil and related constituents is responsible for its stomachic, stimulant, aperitive, digestive, carminative, and sialagogue effects.

Research has demonstrated its long list of useful properties: anti-emetic, anti-nausea, anti-motion sickness, antidiarrheic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, cholinergic, analgesic, and antipyretic.

Ginger reduces cholesterol levels and resists cholesterol buildup. In addition, it is inotropic and inhibits platelet aggregation. Regular use, therefore, tends to promote cardiovascular health. Ginger root also promotes transitory phagocytic activity.

Ginger root has approval status by the German Commission E for dyspepsia and motion sickness. It is considered to be an antiemetic and a cholagogue.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Nutritional Profile

In-Depth Nutritional Profile

In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Ginger is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling."

1.00 oz-wt
6.00 grams
4.80 calories
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
excellentDV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very goodDV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
goodDV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%


Nutrition in Ginger

Aromatic, pungent and spicy, ginger adds a special flavor and zest to Asian stir fries and many fruit and vegetable dishes. Fresh ginger root is available year round in the produce section of your local market.

Ginger is the underground rhizome of the ginger plant with a firm, striated texture. The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. It is covered with a brownish skin that may either be thick or thin, depending upon whether the plant was harvested when it was mature or young.

Nutrients in
1.00 oz-wt (6.00 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value

Calories (4)0%

This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Ginger provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Ginger can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Ginger, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

Method of Action

Ginger Root eliminates and prevents nausea
Ginger root, in the powdered, encapsulated form, has been found more effective than dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) in preventing the nauseating symptoms of motion sickness. Human subjects, spun in a chair, were given either ginger root, dimenhydrinate, or placebo 20 minutes before the trial. The psychophysical method of magnitude estimation was used to record subjective impressions of stomach feelings during the session.

Statistical analysis of power functions obtained from subjective estimations showed significant differences between all groups, with ginger root being clearly superior. Other field trials and pilot studies revealed for most people who are susceptible to motion sickness, two or three capsules one-half hour before a trip, two-three capsules at regular (1-2 hour) intervals during the trip is usually sufficient to prevent the nausea that often accompanies travel. It is recommended enough ginger root be ingested to cause a ginger aftertaste in the throat.

Powdered, encapsulated ginger root is effective in preventing and relieving nausea and diarrhea associated with several other conditions, including morning sickness (up to 75% success rate), stomach flu, dizziness and vertigo (40-50% success rate).

Ginger Root is hypocholesterolemic
Ginger root has a good hypocholesterolemic property. An oleoresin of ginger root, included in a hypercholesterolemic diet for rats at 0.5 to 1.0%, was significantly capable of preventing the rise in serum and hepatic cholesterol levels seen in control animals. It is thought the herb interferes in cholesterol absorption from the stomach through a bile acid sequestering ability.

Ginger Root has good cardiovascular properties
A crude methanol extract of ginger root has a powerful, dose-dependent, positive inotropic effect on the isolated left atria of experimental animals. It would therefore aid circulation by increasing the force of muscular contractions in the atria. Gingerols were determined to be the active constituents (specifically (6)-, (8)-, and (10)-gingerol).

An aqueous extract of ginger has recently been shown to inhibit platelet aggregation in vitro in a dose-dependent manner. Platelet aggregation was induced by arachidonic acid, collagen, ADP, and epinephrine. Venous blood from healthy subjects was used. Ginger inhibit platelet aggregation induced by arachidonic and drastically reduced (by 73%) thromboxane B2 formation. Platelet formation of TxB2 and prostaglandin (PGF2-alpha, PGE2 AND PGD2) was significantly reduced in the presence of the ginger extract. The researchers suggest ginger's primary focus of activity is to inhibit cyclooxygenase. The extracts did not inhibit endogenous prostacyclin formation in rat aortic rings.

Other pharmacology of Ginger Root
Several Chinese medicines were studied for their anti-inflammatory properties. The most effective contained ginger root along with licorice root and scutellaria. It is impossible to tell how much each herb contributed to the total effect.

In routine screenings of plants for antibacterial properties, ginger root has often yielded positive results, against both gram negative and gram positive pathogens.

Ginger root oil has been found to increase capillary permeability and to induce transitory phagocytic activity of the capillary endothelium. Histamine has been considered a mediator of the defense mechanism because it appears quickly after any injury, increases capillary permeability, and induces a locally-acquired transitory phagocytic activity in the endothelial cells of the skin capillaries. Bicyclo-decapentane and other liposoluble substances have similar properties. Thirty-five volatile oils or their components were tested for this activity. Of these, ginger oil and four others were effective (the others were linalool, citronellol, juniper oil and pine needle oil). In reference to tuberculosis, these oils increased the effectiveness of small doses of dihydrostreptomycin.

Water extracts of Zingiber mioga also have histaminergic properties; they are also cholinergic, i.e., they possesses mild sedative and blood lowering properties. However, alcohol extracts of Zingiber officinale, containing the resinous fraction, stimulate the vasomotor and respiratory centers of anesthetized cats, and have a direct stimulating effect on the heart.

There is evidence the fresh root of ginger may differ in pharmacology from the dried root. The word "may" is stressed because whole root was not used in the experiments. Instead (6)-gingerol and (6)-shogaol were used. Fresh ginger root contains a large amount of (6)-gingerol and hardly any (6)-shogaol, but the dried root contains large amounts of both. While both compounds were found to have good analgesic and antipyretic properties, each effect was higher in the (6)-shogaol. This chemical also had antitussive and anticonvulsive properties not shared by the (6)-gingerol. Both substances inhibited spontaneous movement, enhanced sodium hexobarbital-induce sleep. Again, (6)-shogaol was more effective. Administered orally, both constituents inhibited charcoal meal traversibility through the digestive system. (6)-shogaol inhibited gastric movement in situ in a dose-dependent manner when administered intravenously. In low doses both drugs produced depressor responses on the systemic blood pressure, but at high doses a three phase pattern was seen--fall immediately after administration and the marked rise and decrease. Both substances produced decreases in heart rate at low doses, but at higher doses, after i.v. administration, they produced marked bradycardia. Interestingly, Chinese medicine has separate names and sets of medicinal properties for fresh root (Shokyo), dried root (Kanshokyo), and dried steamed root (Kankyo).

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions
Any one or all of the following drugs may be imperfectly absorbed if ginger is being used on a daily basis: tetracycline derivatives, oral anticholinergics, phenothiazines, digoxin, isoniazid, phenytoin, warfarin.

In addition, certain antipsychotic drugs, such as the phenothiazines, as well as other psychoactive agents which are poorly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, may be even more poorly absorbed if ginger is also being used.

The urinary excretion of alkaline drugs, such as amphetamines or quinidine, may be inhibited by the antacid nature of ginger. The antacid nature of ginger may also decrease or delay the absorption of nalidixic acid and the sulfonamides.

It should be noted the weak antithrombotic effect of ginger may be increased by concomitant administration of anabolic steroids, antidiabetics, clofibrate, dextrothyroxine, disulfiram, phenlybutazone, salicylates, and thyroid preparations. Other agents which may increase this antithrombotic effect include allopurinol, aminoglycosides, chloramphenicol, ethacrynic acid, and glucagon.

Ginger inhibits platelet activity.

Lumb AB. Effect of dried ginger on human platelet function. Thromb Haemost 1994;71(1):110-1.

Srivastava KC. Effect of onion and ginger consumption on platelet thromboxane production in humans. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 1989;35:183-5.

Ginger may decrease the absorption of dietary iron, when used as an antacid.

The use of large amounts of ginger on a continuous basis may partially block the digestion, absorption or resorption of a wide variety of drugs and fat-soluble vitamins. Furthermore, the absorbent nature of ginger may inhibit absorption of lincomycin and digitalis.

Conversely, ginger may potentiate the effects of oral coumarin anticoagulants, such as warfarin and dicumarol, to the extent it stimulates the liver to catabolize and excrete cholesterol and its by-products via the biliary route.

It should be noted ginger may mask the ototoxicity caused by aminoglycoside antibiotics such as neomycin.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Large doses of zingerone, a constituent of ginger root, has produced experimental toxicity in lab animals, but the ingestion of zingerone as found in ginger root poses not threat to health.

Generally regard as safe by the FDA.

Ginger root has approval status by the German Commission E.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Recommended daily dosages in Germany are as follows:

2 - 4 g rhizome.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Health benefits of Ginger

Ginger, with its strong and spicy aroma, has its own place in Indian cuisine. It may be used fresh or dried, powdered or pickled or in the form of juice or oil.  Ginger tea, the classic Indian household favourite, is the most commonly used form, not to mention the ginger concoction given every time someone catches a cold.

For thousands of years, ginger has been used for the treatment of innumerable ailments due to its powerful therapeutic and preventive effects. It has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, and anti-emetic properties. It helps to decrease inflammation, swelling and pain due to its ability to inhibit prostaglandin and leukotriene synthesis. It inhibits serotonin receptors and has the ability to break up and expel intestinal gas (carminative effect) which makes it a good antiemetic agent. Its antioxidant activity, the ability to induce cell death (apoptosis) and suppressing certain protein bestows it with anticancer properties. Compounds found in ginger are known to suppress allergic reactions. All these properties make ginger a powerhouse of health benefits. Here are few of them:

Ginger is good for:

1) Inflammation

2) Pain

3) Stomach upset/Digestion

4) Nausea

5) Morning Sickness

6) Chemotherapy Related Nausea

7) Heart Health

8) Circulation

9) Immunity

10) Blood Sugar

11) Fertility

12) Cold & Flu

Respiratory problems

Ginger’s antihistamine property helps in treating allergies. It is also known to inhibit airway contraction and help stimulate the secretion of mucus. It is the herb of choice for persistent cough and sore throat associated with colds. A teaspoon of ginger juice with honey is effective against sore throat. And ginger tea is an all-time favourite to get rid of congestion in the throat and nose. Fresh ginger juice mixed with fenugreek and honey is excellent during asthma.

Treating nausea and vomiting

Chewing on ginger could reduce nausea and vomiting. According to studies, ginger can treat sensations of nausea following surgery, and due to motion sickness, seasickness, etc. It is also beneficial for nausea as a result of adverse effect of chemotherapy.

Preventing morning sickness

Some pregnant women may find ginger beneficial in preventing their morning sickness. But it is advisable to consult your doctor before taking it.

Remedy for loss of appetite

Fuel a dull appetite by eating fresh ginger just before you have your meal. Ginger can get your digestive juices going and increase your appetite.

Aiding in digestion

Had a large meal? Eat ginger. Ginger improves absorption and assimilation of essential nutrients and aids in digestion. It also helps break down the proteins in your food. Ginger protects your stomach against ulcers by promoting mucus secretion.


Calm in your upset stomach with ginger. Its carminative (gas expulsion) property provides relief from bloating and gas and helps reduce flatulence.

Reduce menstrual pain

Ginger, when taken at the beginning of the menstrual period, can reduce symptoms of menstrual pain in some women.

Relieve headache

Applying diluted ginger paste on the forehead is believed to relieve migraine headache. The ability of ginger to inhibit prostaglandin synthesis helps relieve pain and inflammation in blood vessels thereby providing relief from migraine.


The analgesic and anti-inflammatory property of ginger may help reduce joint pain of arthritis in some people. To help relieve muscle and joint ache, add some ginger oil into your bath.


Ginger root contains a very high level of antioxidants. Ginger has the ability to induce cell death (apoptosis) and suppress certain protein. According to some studies, ginger may be a powerful weapon against cancers.

Historically, ginger has a long tradition of being very effective in alleviating symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. In herbal medicine, ginger is regarded as an excellent carminative (a substance which promotes the elimination of intestinal gas) and intestinal spasmolytic (a substance which relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract). Modern scientific research has revealed that ginger possesses numerous therapeutic properties including antioxidant effects, an ability to inhibit the formation of inflammatory compounds, and direct anti-inflammatory effects.

Gastrointestinal Relief

A clue to ginger's success in eliminating gastrointestinal distress is offered by recent double-blind studies, which have demonstrated that ginger is very effective in preventing the symptoms of motion sickness, especially seasickness. In fact, in one study, ginger was shown to be far superior to Dramamine, a commonly used over-the-counter and prescription drug for motion sickness. Ginger reduces all symptoms associated with motion sickness including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweating.

Safe and Effective Relief of Nausea and Vomiting During Pregnancy

Ginger's anti-vomiting action has been shown to be very useful in reducing the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, even the most severe form, hyperemesis gravidum, a condition which usually requires hospitalization. In a double-blind trial, ginger root brought about a significant reduction in both the severity of nausea and number of attacks of vomiting in 19 of 27 women in early pregnancy (less than 20 weeks). Unlike antivomiting drugs, which can cause severe birth defects, ginger is extremely safe, and only a small dose is required.

A review of six double-blind, randomized controlled trials with a total of 675 participants, published in the April 2005 issue of the journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology,has confirmed that ginger is effective in relieving the severity of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. The review also confirmed the absence of significant side effects or adverse effects on pregnancy outcomes.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols. These substances are believed to explain why so many people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly. In two clinical studies involving patients who responded to conventional drugs and those who didn't, physicians found that 75% of arthritis patients and 100% of patients with muscular discomfort experienced relief of pain and/or swelling.

Arthritis-related problems with your aging knees? Regularly spicing up your meals with fresh ginger may help, suggests a study published in a recent issue of Osteoarthritis Cartilage. In this twelve month study, 29 patients with painful arthritis in the knee (6 men and 23 women ranging in age from 42-85 years) participated in a placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study. Patients switched from placebo to ginger or visa versa after 3 months. After six months, the double-blind code was broken and twenty of the patients who wished to continue were followed for an additional six months.

By the end of the first six month period, those given ginger were experiencing significantly less pain on movement and handicap than those given placebo. Pain on movement decreased from a score of 76.14 at baseline to 41.00, while handicap decreased from 73.47 to 46.08. In contrast, those who were switched from ginger to placebo experienced an increase in pain of movement (up to 82.10) and handicap (up to 80.80) from baseline. In the final phase of the study when all patients were getting ginger, pain remained low in those already taking ginger in phase 2, and decreased again in the group that had been on placebo.

Not only did participants' subjective experiences of pain lessen, but swelling in their knees, an objective measurement of lessened inflammation, dropped significantly in those treated with ginger. The mean target knee circumference in those taking ginger dropped from 43.25cm when the study began to 39.36cm by the 12th week. When this group was switched to placebo in the second phase of the study, their knee circumferences increased, while those who had been on placebo but were now switched to ginger experienced a decrease in knee circumference. In the final phase, when both groups were given ginger, mean knee circumference continued to drop, reaching lows of 38.78 and 36.38 in the two groups.

How does ginger work its anti-inflammatory magic? Two other recent studies provide possible reasons.

A study published in the November 2003 issue of Life Sciences suggests that at least one reason for ginger's beneficial effects is the free radical protection afforded by one of its active phenolic constituents, 6-gingerol. In this in vitro (test tube) study, 6-gingerol was shown to significantly inhibit the production of nitric oxide, a highly reactive nitrogen molecule that quickly forms a very damaging free radical called peroxynitrite. Another study appearing in the November 2003 issue of Radiation Research found that in mice, five days treatment with ginger (10 mg per kilogram of body weight) prior to exposure to radiation not only prevented an increase in free radical damage to lipids (fats found in numerous bodily components from cell membranes to cholesterol), but also greatly lessened depletion of the animals' stores of glutathione, one of the body's most important internally produced antioxidants.

A study published in the February 2005 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine sheds further light on the mechanisms of action that underlie ginger's anti-inflammatory effectiveness. In this research, ginger was shown to suppress the pro-inflammatory compounds (cytokines and chemokines) produced by synoviocytes (cells comprising the synovial lining of the joints), chrondrocytes (cells comprising joint cartilage) and leukocytes (immune cells).

Protection against Colorectal Cancer

Gingerols, the main active components in ginger and the ones responsible for its distinctive flavor, may also inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells, suggests research presented at the Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, a major meeting of cancer experts that took place in Phoenix, AZ, October 26-30, 2003.

In this study, researchers from the University of Minnesota's Hormel Institute fed mice specially bred to lack an immune system a half milligram of (6)-gingerol three times a week before and after injecting human colorectal cancer cells into their flanks. Control mice received no (6)-gingerol.

Tumors first appeared 15 days after the mice were injected, but only 4 tumors were found in the group of -gingerol-treated mice compared to 13 in the control mice, plus the tumors in the -gingerol group were smaller on average. Even by day 38, one mouse in the (6)-gingerol group still had no measurable tumors. By day 49, all the control mice had been euthanized since their tumors had grown to one cubic centimeter (0.06 cubic inch), while tumors in 12 of the (6)-gingerol treated mice still averaged 0.5 cubic centimeter—half the maximum tumor size allowed before euthanization.

Research associate professor Ann Bode noted, "These results strongly suggest that ginger compounds may be effective chemopreventive and/or chemotherapeutic agents for colorectal carcinomas."

In this first round of experiments, mice were fed ginger before and after tumor cells were injected. In the next round, researchers will feed the mice ginger only after their tumors have grown to a certain size. This will enable them to look at the question of whether a patient could eat ginger to slow the metastasis of a nonoperable tumor. Are they optimistic? The actions of the University of Minnesota strongly suggest they are. The University has already applied for a patent on the use of (6)-gingerol as an anti-cancer agent and has licensed the technology to Pediatric Pharmaceuticals (Iselin, N.J.).

Ginger Induces Cell Death in Ovarian Cancer Cells

Lab experiments presented at the 97th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer, by Dr Rebecca Lui and her colleagues from the University of Michigan, showed that gingerols, the active phytonutrients in ginger, kill ovarian cancer cells by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) and autophagocytosis (self-digestion).

Ginger extracts have been shown to have both antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects on cells. To investigate the latter, Dr Liu examined the effect of a whole ginger extract containing 5% gingerol on a number of different ovarian cancer cell lines.

Exposure to the ginger extract caused cell death in all the ovarian cancer lines studied.

A pro-inflammatory state is thought to be an important contributing factor in the development of ovarian cancer. In the presence of ginger, a number of key indicators of inflammation (vascular endothelial growth factor, interleukin-8 and prostaglandin E2) were also decreased in the ovarian cancer cells.

Conventional chemotherapeutic agents also suppress these inflammatory markers, but may cause cancer cells to become resistant to the action of the drugs. Liu and her colleagues believe that ginger may be of special benefit for ovarian cancer patients because cancer cells exposed to ginger do not become resistant to its cancer-destroying effects. In the case of ovarian cancer, an ounce of prevention—in the delicious form of liberal use of ginger—is an especially good idea. Ovarian cancer is often deadly since symptoms typically do not appear until late in the disease process, so by the time ovarian cancer is diagnosed, it has spread beyond the ovaries. More than 50% of women who develop ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the advanced stages of the disease.

Immune Boosting Action

Ginger can not only be warming on a cold day, but can help promote healthy sweating, which is often helpful during colds and flus. A good sweat may do a lot more than simply assist detoxification. German researchers have recently found that sweat contains a potent germ-fighting agent that may help fight off infections. Investigators have isolated the gene responsible for the compound and the protein it produces, which they have named dermicidin. Dermicidin is manufactured in the body's sweat glands, secreted into the sweat, and transported to the skin's surface where it provides protection against invading microorganisms, including bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (a common cause of skin infections), and fungi, including Candida albicans.

Ginger is so concentrated with active substances, you don't have to use very much to receive its beneficial effects. For nausea, ginger tea made by steeping one or two 1/2-inch slices (one 1/2-inch slice equals 2/3 of an ounce) of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water will likely be all you need to settle your stomach. For arthritis, some people have found relief consuming as little as a 1/4-inch slice of fresh ginger cooked in food, although in the studies noted above, patients who consumed more ginger reported quicker and better relief.

How to Select and Store

Whenever possible, choose fresh ginger over the dried form of the spice since it is not only superior in flavor but contains higher levels of gingerol as well as ginger's active protease (it's anti-inflammatory compound). Fresh ginger root is sold in the produce section of markets. When purchasing fresh ginger root, make sure it is firm, smooth and free of mold. Ginger is generally available in two forms, either young or mature. Mature ginger, the more widely available type, has a tough skin that requires peeling while young ginger, usually only available in Asian markets, does not need to be peeled.

Even through dried herbs and spices like ginger powder are widely available in supermarkets, you may want to explore the local spice stores in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness than those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, when purchasing dried ginger powder try to select organically grown ginger since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.

Ginger is also available in several other forms including crystallized, candied and pickled ginger.

Fresh ginger can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks if it is left unpeeled. Stored unpeeled in the freezer, it will keep for up to six months.

Dried ginger powder should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Alternatively, you can store it in the refrigerator where it will enjoy an extended shelf life of about one year.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

Tips for Preparing Ginger

To remove the skin from fresh mature ginger, peel with a paring knife. The ginger can then be sliced, minced or julienned. The taste that ginger imparts to a dish depends upon when it is added during the cooking process. Added at the beginning, it will lend a subtler flavor while added near the end, it will deliver a more pungent taste.

How to Enjoy

A Few Quick Serving Ideas
  • Turn up the heat while cooling off by making ginger lemonade. Simply combine freshly grated ginger, lemon juice, cane juice or honey and water.
  • Add extra inspiration to your rice side dishes by sprinkling grated ginger, sesame seeds and nori strips on top.
  • Combine ginger, soy sauce, olive oil and garlic to make a wonderful salad dressing.
  • Add ginger and orange juice to puréed sweet potatoes.
  • Add grated ginger to your favorite stuffing for baked apples.
  • Spice up your healthy sautéed vegetables by adding freshly minced ginger.

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Individual Concerns

Ginger is not a commonly allergenic food and is not known to contain measurable amounts of oxalates or purines.




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