What Is This Medicinal Plant Ginger Root Really About?

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Ginger Root (Zingiber officinale) is a part of the Zingiberaceae family, a flowering rhizome, and herbaceous perennial. It grows annual stems about a meter tall bearing narrow green leaves and yellow flowers. What Is This Medicinal Plant Ginger Root Really About? Ginger originated in the tropical rain forests in the Indian subcontinent to Southern Asia where it shows considerable genetic variation. The plant produces clusters of white and pink flower buds that bloom into yellow flowers that are often used in landscaping around subtropical homes. It is a perennial reed-like plant with annual leafy stems, about a meter (3 to 4 feet) tall. Traditionally, the rhizome is gathered when the stalk withers; it is immediately scalded, or washed and scraped, to kill it and prevent sprouting.

Ginger also was one of the first spices exported from the Orient, arriving in Europe during the spice/slave trade, and was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Traditional medicine has used ginger for centuries to reduce inflammation, great herbs for weight loss, or medicinal herbs/medicinal plants. And there is some evidence that ginger may help reduce pain from Osteoarthritis.

In addition, it has a sialagogue action that stimulates the production of saliva and makes swallowing easier. Studies have found no clear evidence of harm from taking ginger during pregnancy, though its safety has not been confirmed with thorough testing and we still don't really know about it. That said, human trials suggest that 1g daily of ginger may reduce nausea and vomiting in pregnant women when used for short periods (no longer than 4 days). Several studies have found that ginger is better than placebo in relieving morning sickness.

Raw ginger is composed of 79% water, 18% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and 1% fat(table). In 100 grams, raw ginger supplies 80 Calories and moderate amounts of vitamin B6 (12% of the Daily Value, DV) and the dietary minerals, magnesium (12% DV) and manganese (11% DV). When used as a spice powder in a common serving amount of one US tablespoon (5 grams), ground dried ginger (9% water) provides negligible content of essential nutrients, with the exception of manganese (70% DV).

What is Ginger Root Good For? Preliminary studies suggest that ginger may lower cholesterol and help prevent blood from clotting. That can help treat heart disease where blood vessels can become blocked and lead to heart attack or stroke. Other studies suggest that ginger may help improve blood sugar control among people with type 2 diabetes. More research is needed to determine whether ginger is safe or effective for heart disease and diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels.

Although modern medicine has been routinely used in the treatment of various diseases, it is less than 100 years old. Traditional medicine, in comparison, has served mankind for thousands of years, is quite safe and effective. The mechanism or the scientific basis of traditional medicine, however, is less well understood, pretty much nonexistent in comparison. The beneficial effects of Ginger are achieved through dietary consumption, both at low levels and high levels, over long periods of time. A precise understanding of effective dose, safety, and mechanism of action is required for the "western medical system" to recognize and start the use of Ginger in the treatment of human diseases. Further clinical studies are warranted if Ginger is to be employed in meeting human needs and improving human welfare. The use of Ginger as a spice and as a household remedy has been known to be safe for centuries, just not here. To date, no studies in either animals or humans have discovered any toxic effects associated with the use of Ginger, and it is clear that it's not toxic even at very high doses.


Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.


Chapter 7 The Amazing and Mighty Ginger
Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.
Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors.
Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011


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