Ginger - Zingiber officinale:


Ginger is a slender plant reaching 2 to 3 feet in height, with elongated narrow leaves, with greenish-yellow flowers that are streaked with purple. These flowers are said to be markedly fragrant.

Growing Info:

Typically, ginger is propigated from its rhizome, which is broken off and planted. As it was first discovered in the Asian tropics, it prefers a similar climate -- hot and humid, with sufficient shade. Rich, loamy soil is essential. The rhizome ranges from white to yellow.

Culinary Uses:

Ginger is used as a flavoring in many Asian dishes, as well as the flavor in ginger ale. Certain very sweet confections are made with ginger, although raw ginger's unique, almost biting, taste is not in the sugary category. It is the fleshy rhizome, often mistaken for a root, which is used for culinary and other purposes.

Medicinal Uses in Folklore:

In the Ayurvedic system of medicine, ginger is regarded as having anti-inflammatory and anti-rhematoid activities.

Scanning the Scientific Literature:

Ginger is known to stimulate digestion beneficially. It may enhance intestinal lipase activity as well as that of the disaccharidases sucrase and maltase. It does not appear to be a useful substance in preventing postoperative nausea, although results here are mixed. It is apparently useful in at least some other medical procedures that typically involve nausea. Both vitamin B-6 and ginger are useful for treating nausea during early pregnancy, although moderation in ginger use during pregnancy is recommended. It is postulated that ginger produces antimotion sickness action by central and peripheral anticholinergic as well as antihistaminic effects, rather than by affecting the gastric emptying rate. 6-gingesulfonic acid has been isolated as an anti-ulcer constituent of the ginger rhizome. Other anti-ulcer constituents are beta-sesquiphellandrene, beta-bisabolene, ar-curcumene and 6-shogaol.

Anti-tumor effects of ginger extract have been seen in mouse experimental models. With regards to liver function, aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase activity was significantly elevated with ginger oil treatment. This activity seems to be implicated with activation and detoxication of foreign biotic compounds, including chemical carcinogens and mutagens. Components of ginger also appear to be mild superoxide scavengers, an activity with implications for its anti-carcinogenic effects.

Ginger oil suppressed arthritis in a rat model of this disease. In a study of human clients, powdered ginger helped many but not all arthritis patients by relieving pain and swelling. All the patients with muscular discomfort experience pain relief. No adverse effects were noticed during the period under study. Established medical drugs from industry all show mild or serious side effects. One mechanism by which ginger may show effective behavior may be related to inhibition of prostaglandin and leukotriene biosynthesis. Gingerols and diarylhepatanoids have been identified as active anti-prostaglandin compounds. Another constituent, (6)-shogaol, may act as an analgesic by inhibiting the release of the immunoreactive substance P.

While some preparations of ginger can increase blood coagulation time, by interfering with the performance of blood platelets, therapeutic doses of dried ginger do not seem to have an effect.

Dried ginger rhizomes exhibit antirhinoviral activity in the plaque reduction test. Several sesquiterpenes, especially beta-sesquiphellandrene, were isolated with this effect. (The rhinovirus is the virus associated with the common cold; thus ginger apparently can act against the virus which causes the common cold.

Contact dermatitis is possible with ginger.

Other Info:


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This information is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment. If conditions worsen, or persist, consult your healthcare practitioner.

Last Updated: March 7, 1999.