Ginger is a plant with leafy stems and yellowish green flowers. The ginger spice comes from the roots of the plant. Ginger is native to warmer parts of Asia, such as China, Japan, and India, but now is grown in parts of South American and Africa. It is also now grown in the Middle East to use as medicine and with food.
Ginger is commonly used for various types of “stomach problems,” including motion sickness, morning sickness, colic, upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), nausea, nausea caused by cancer treatment, nausea caused by HIV/AIDS treatment, nausea and vomiting after surgery, as well as loss of appetite.
Other uses include pain relief from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis, menstrual pain, and other conditions. However, there is not strong evidence to support the use of ginger for these conditions.
Some people pour the fresh juice on their skin to treat burns. The oil made from ginger is sometimes applied to the skin to relieve pain. Ginger extract is also applied to the skin to prevent insect bites.
In foods and beverages, ginger is used as a flavoring agent.
In manufacturing, ginger is used as for fragrance in soaps and cosmetics.
One of the chemicals in ginger is also used as an ingredient in laxative, anti-gas, and antacid medications.
How does it work?
Ginger contains chemicals that may reduce nausea and inflammation. Researchers believe the chemicals work primarily in the stomach and intestines, but they may also work in the brain and nervous system to control nausea.
Uses & Effectiveness
Possibly Effective for
- Nausea and vomiting caused by HIV/AIDS treatment. Research suggests that taking ginger daily, 30 minutes before each dose of antiretroviral treatment for 14 days, reduces the risk of nausea and vomiting in patients receiving HIV treatment.
- Painful menstrual periods. Research shows that taking ginger powder 500-2000 mg during the first 3-4 days of a menstrual cycle modestly decreases pain in women and teens with painful menstrual periods. Some specific doses that have been used include 500 mg of ginger three times daily and a specific ginger extract (Zintoma, Goldaru) 250 mg four times daily. Doses were given for approximately 3 days starting at the beginning of the menstrual period. The specific ginger extract (Zintoma) seems to work about as well as the medications ibuprofen or mefenamic acid.
- Morning sickness. Taking ginger by mouth seems to reduce nausea and vomiting in some pregnant women. But it might work slower or not as well as some drugs used for nausea. Also, taking any herb or medication during pregnancy is a big decision. Before taking ginger, be sure to discuss the possible risks with your healthcare provider.
- Osteoarthritis. Most research shows that taking ginger by mouth can slightly reduce pain in some people with osteoarthritis. A small study shows that ginger might work as well as ibuprofen for pain in some people with hip and knee osteoarthritis.
- Nausea and vomiting following surgery. Most clinical research shows that taking 1 to 1.5 gram of ginger one hour before surgery seems to reduce nausea and vomiting during the first 24 hours after surgery. One study found ginger reduced nausea and vomiting by 38%. Also, applying 5% ginger oil to patients’ wrists before surgery seems to prevent nausea in about 80% of patients. However, taking ginger by mouth might not reduce nausea and vomiting in the period 3-6 hours after surgery. Also, ginger might not have additive effects when used with medications for nausea and vomiting. In addition, ginger might not lower the risk of nausea and vomiting after surgery in people who have a low risk for this event.
- Dizziness (vertigo). Taking ginger seems to reduce the symptoms of dizziness, including nausea .
Possibly Ineffective for
- Muscle pain caused by exercise. Research shows that taking ginger does not reduce muscle pain during exercise. Also, taking ginger doesn’t seem to help treat or prevent muscle pain after exercise.
- Preventing motion sickness and seasickness. Most research suggests that taking ginger up to 4 hours before travel does not prevent motion sickness. Some people report feeling better, but actual measurements taken during studies suggest otherwise. But in one study, ginger appears to be more effective than the drug dimenhydrinate at reducing stomach upset associated with motion sickness.
Insufficient Evidence for
- Sudden respiratory system failure (Acute respiratory distress syndrome). Research suggests that administering 120 mg of ginger extract daily for up to 21 days increases the number of days without ventilator support, the amount of nutrients consumed, and reduces the time spent in intensive care units in people with sudden respiratory system a failure. However, ginger extract does not seem to affect death rates in people with this condition.
- Liver injury from drugs used for tuberculosis. Some drugs used to treat tuberculosis can cause liver damage. Taking ginger along with these drugs might help prevent liver damage in some people.
- Nausea and vomiting due to cancer therapy. Taking ginger along with anti-nausea medicine does not seem to prevent delayed nausea and vomiting in people treated with cancer drugs. This type of nausea and vomiting occurs a day or more after cancer therapy. The effect of ginger on sudden nausea and vomiting due to cancer drugs is conflicting. Some research shows it helps when used with anti-nausea medicine. Other research shows it doesn’t. It’s possible that ginger helps reduce nausea caused by only some cancer drugs. It’s also possible that ginger helps reduce nausea caused by cancer drugs only when used with anti-nausea medicines that don’t work very well on their own.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Research shows that taking two capsules of a specific combination product (AKL1, AKL International Ltd) containing ginger twice daily for 8 weeks does not improve respiratory symptoms in people with COPD.
- Diabetes. Taking ginger seems to lower blood sugar in some people with diabetes. Doses of at least 3 grams of ginger per day seem to be needed. Lower doses might not help. And it might take about 2-3 months before benefits are seen.
- Upset stomach (dyspepsia). Research suggests that taking a single dose of 1.2 grams of ginger root powder one hour before eating speeds up how quickly food empties out of the some in people with dyspepsia.
- Alcohol hangover. Early research suggests that taking a combination of ginger, pith of Citrus tangerine, and brown sugar before drinking decreases symptoms of alcohol hangovers, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- High cholesterol. Research suggests that taking 1 gram of ginger three times daily for 45 days lowers triglyceride and cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol.
- High blood pressure. Drinking black tea with ginger might lower blood pressure by a small amount in people with diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Insect bites. Early research suggest that applying Trikatu to the skin, which contains ginger, long pepper, and black pepper extracts, does not reduce mosquito bite size.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Taking ginger alone doesn’t seem to improve IBS symptoms. But taking ginger along with other herbal ingredients might help. Whether the benefit of these combination agents is due to ginger or the other ingredients is unclear.
- Joint pain. Research shows that taking capsules of a specific combination product (Instaflex Joint Support, Direct Digital, Charlotte, NC) containing ginger for 8 weeks reduces joint pain by 37%. But this product does not seem to reduce joint stiffness or improve joint function.
- Speeding up labor. Early evidence suggests that bathing in water containing ginger oil does not shorten the length of labor.
- Heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia). Taking ginger might reduce menstrual bleeding in some young women with heavy menstrual bleeding.
- Migraine headache. Some reports suggest that taking a combination of ginger and feverfew might reduce the length and intensity of migraine pain. However, it is not clear if the effects are from ginger, feverfew or the combination.
- Recovery after surgery. Inhaling and applying lavender and ginger oils to the skin before surgery does not seem to reduce distress in children after surgery. Taking ginger by mouth might help reduce pain and improve wound healing in children who’ve had their tonsils removed.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). There is some early evidence that ginger might be helpful for decreasing joint pain in people with RA.
- Trouble swallowing. Evidence suggests that spraying a product containing ginger and clematix root in the mouth improves severe problems swallowing in stroke victims. However, it is not beneficial in people with less severe problems swallowing. Also, taking a single ginger tablet doesn’t help people with trouble swallowing due to aging.
- Weight loss. Taking ginger alone seems to help obese people lose a little bit of weight. Taking a ginger with other herbs does not result in consistent improvements in weight loss.
- Bacterial infection of the intestine (Cholera).
- Discontinuing use of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
- Loss of appetite.
- Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate ginger for these uses.