Health Care Professional Information
Zingiberis rhizoma, ginger root, shen jiang
Derived from the rhizome of the plant, ginger is native to Asia. It has been used as food and as medicine primarily for gastrointestinal symptoms. In vitro studies suggest that ginger has antiemetic (18), anticancer (8) (9) (10), anti-inflammatory (23), and hypoglycemic effects (23) and may protect against Alzheimer's disease (11). The antiemetic action of ginger is attributed to its constituents, shogaol and gingerol, and their interactions with 5HT-3 receptors (18).
Clinical trials indicate that ginger can effectively reduce nausea and vomiting following surgery (2) and that associated with pregnancy (3) (4) and motion sickness (6). Evidence of ginger's potential against chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting is generally positive (20) (21) (24) (29). Conclusions from systematic reviews suggest moderate efficacy of ginger for treating osteoarthritic and chronic low back pain (22), and its anti-inflammatory potential (26). More studies are needed to confirm these effects.
Ginger also influences gastric emptying in healthy individuals (7). It may also increase risk of adverse effect of some prescription drugs.
- Drug withdrawal symptoms
- Motion sickness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Stomach and intestinal gas
- Carbohydrates: Starch (up to 50%)
- Lipids: Free fatty acids (6-8%); palmitic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid
- Oleo-resin: Gingerol homologue (up to 33%)
- Volatile oils: Hydrocarbons (1-3%), B-bisabolene, curcumene, farnesene, sesquiphellandrene, zingiberol, and zingiberene
- Monoterpenes: Linalool, borneol, neral, and geraniol
- Amino acids
Mechanism of Action
The antiemetic action of ginger is attributed to the shogaol and gingerol constituents found in the rhizome. They are believed to stimulate the flow of saliva, bile, and gastric secretions. Additional activities include the suppression of gastric contractions and improvement of the intestinal muscle tone and peristalsis (17). Constituents in ginger are thought to interact with 5HT-3 receptors and may be partially responsible for its antiemetic activity (18). Ginger has been shown to inhibit thromboxane formation and inhibit platelet aggregation (15); however, this effect appears dependent on dose and formulation (e.g., dried, fresh, or extract) (19). An in vitro study suggests that ginger may have therapeutic effects against Alzheimer's disease by protecting neuronal cells from beta-amyloid insult (11). Apoptosis of gastric cancer cells by gingerol is mediated through TRAIL-dependent caspase 3/7 activation while shogaol alone reduces in vivo tumor growth (8). Gingerol inhibits cell cycle progression by reducing cyclin D1 expression and induces apoptosis in colorectal cancer cells (9), and also inhibits secretion of angiogenic cytokines such as VEGF and IL-8 in ovarian cancer cells (10).
After administering 2.0 g/day ginger extracts to healthy human subjects for 24 days, their blood samples were drawn within 24 hours of the last dose. The levels of 10-gingerol sulfate, 8-gingerol glucuronide, 8-gingerol sulfate, 6-shogaol gluruconide, and 6-shogaol sulfate were below the detection limit in all the participants due to their short half-lives, between 1 and 3 h, and rapid clearance (27).
- Common: Heartburn and dermatitis (12).
- Case Report: A 76-year-old woman on long-term phenprocoumon therapy developed an elevated INR and epistaxis following use of ginger products. Her INR returned to the normal range after discontinuing ginger along with administration of vitamin K (25).
Anticoagulants / Antiplatelets: Because ginger can inhibit thromboxane formation and platelet aggregation, concomitant use with anticoagulants may increase the risk of bleeding (14).
Hypoglycemics / Insulin: Ginger may cause additive reductions in blood glucose (23).
Tacrolimus: Pre-treatment with ginger increases the plasma levels of tacrolimus (28).
Literature Summary and Critique
Wu KL, et al. Effects of ginger on gastric emptying and motility in healthy humans. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 2008;20(5):436-440.
The influence of ginger on gastric emptying and motility was assessed in this randomized, double-blind, controlled study of 24 healthy participants. Following an 8-hour fast, participants received placebo or 1200 mg of ginger. After 1 hour, participants consumed a low-nutrient soup (500 ml) following which dimensions of the antrum and fundus and antral contractions were analyzed. In participants who received ginger, antral area was reduced and contractions were more frequent. The authors suggest using more sensitive three-dimensional ultrasound or MRI to further define the exact stomach areas affected by ginger. Because this study analyzed healthy individuals, the effect of ginger on gastric emptying and motility in individuals with gastrointestinal symptoms such as dyspepsia remains unknown.
Smith C, Crowther C, Willson K, Hotham N, McMillian V. A randomized controlled trial of ginger to treat nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Apr;103(4):639-45.
Two hundred and ninety-one women who were less than 16 weeks pregnant were randomly assigned to receive either 1.05 grams of ginger or 75 mg of Vitamin B6 daily for three weeks. Nausea and vomiting scores were measured weekly. Women receiving ginger had similar reductions in nausea, vomiting and retching as those receiving vitamin B6. In addition, women in both groups had similar outcomes of pregnancy suggesting that ginger is a safe and effective treatment for nausea and vomiting due to pregnancy.
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- Bone ME, et al. Ginger root—a new antemetic. The effect of ginger on postoperative nausea and vomiting after major gynaecological surgery. Anaesthesia 1990;45:669-71.
- Phillips S, et al. Zingiber officinale (ginger)— an antiemetic for day case surgery. Anaesthesia 1993;48:715-7.
- Smith C, Crowther C, Willson K, Hotham N, McMillian V. A randomized controlled trial of ginger to treat nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Apr;103(4):639-45.
- Vutyavanich T, Kraisarin T, Ruangsri R. Ginger for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol 2001;97:577-82.
- Hickok JT, Roscoe JA, Morrow GR, Ryal JL. A Phase II/III Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind Clinical Trial of Ginger (Zingiber officinale) for Nausea Caused by Chemotherapy for Cancer: A Currently Accruing URCC CCOP Cancer Control Study. Support Cancer Ther. 2007 Sep 1;4(4):247-50.
- Ernst E, Pittler MH. Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systemic review of randomized clinical trials. Br J Anaesth 2000;84:367-71.
- Wu KL, Rayner CK, Chuah SK, et al. Effects of ginger on gastric emptying and motility in healthy humans.Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 May;20(5):436-40.
- Ishiguro K, Ando T, Maeda O, et al. Ginger ingredients reduce viability of gastric cancer cells via distinct mechanisms. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2007 Oct 12;362(1):218-23. Epub 2007 Aug 10.
- Lee SH, Cekanova M, Baek SJ. Multiple mechanisms are involved in 6-gingerol-induced cell growth arrest and apoptosis in human colorectal cancer cells. Mol Carcinog. 2008 Mar;47(3):197-208.
- Rhode J, Fogoros S, Zick S, et al. Ginger inhibits cell growth and modulates angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2007 Dec 20;7:44.
- Kim DS, Kim DS, Oppel MN. Shogaols from Zingiber officinale protect IMR32 human neuroblastoma and normal human umbilical vein endothelial cells from beta-amyloid(25-35) insult. Planta Med 2002;68:375-6.
- Newall, CA et al. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professional. London: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
- Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions, 2nd ed. Sandy (OR) Eclectic Med. Publications; 1998.
- Shalansky S, Lynd L, Richardson K, et al. Risk of warfarin-related bleeding events and supratherapeutic international normalized ratios associated with complementary and alternative medicine: a longitudinal analysis. Pharmacotherapy 2007;27(9):1237-47.
- Srivastava KC. Isolation and effects of some ginger components on platelet aggregation and eicosanoid biosynthesis. Prostaglandins Leukot Med 1986;25:187-98.
- Fetrow CW, et al. Professional's Handbook of Complementary and Alternative Medicines. Philadelphia: Springhouse; 1999.
- Bisset NG. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals; a Handbook for Practice on Scientific Basis. Boca Raton: Medpharm Publishers; 1994.
- Lumb AB. Mechanism of antiemetic effect of ginger. Anaesthesia 1993;48:1118.
- Lumb AB. Effect of dried ginger on human platelet function. Thromb Haemost 1994;71:110-1.
- Zick SM, Ruffin MT, Lee J, et al. Phase II trial of encapsulated ginger as a treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Support Care Cancer. 2009 May;17(5):563-72.
- Levine ME, Gillis MG, Koch SY, et al. Protein and ginger for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced delayed nausea. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Jun;14(5):545-51.
- Chrubasik JE, Roufogalis BD, Chrubasik S. Evidence of effectiveness of herbal antiinflammatory drugs in the treatment of painful osteoarthritis and chronic low back pain. Phytother Res. 2007 Jul;21(7):675-83.
- Ojewole JA. Analgesic, antiinflammatory and hypoglycaemic effects of ethanol extract of Zingiber officinale (Roscoe) rhizomes (Zingiberaceae) in mice and rats. Phytother Res. 2006 Sep;20(9):764-72.
- 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.
- Krüth P, Brosi E, Fux R, Mörike K, Gleiter CH. Ginger-associated overanticoagulation by phenprocoumon. Ann Pharmacother. 2004 Feb;38(2):257-60.
- Terry R, Posadzki P, Watson LK, Ernst E.The use of ginger (Zingiber officinale) for the treatment of pain: a systematic review of clinical trials. Pain Med. 2011 Dec;12(12):1808-18.
- Yu Y, Zick S, Li X, et al. Examination of the pharmacokinetics of active ingredients of ginger in humans. AAPS J. 2011 Sep;13(3):417-26.
- Egashira K, Sasaki H, Higuchi S, Ieiri I. Food-drug interaction of tacrolimus with pomelo, ginger, and turmeric juice in rats. Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 2012 Apr 25;27(2):242-7.
- Ryan JL, Heckler CE, Roscoe JA, et al. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces acute chemotherapy-induced nausea: a URCC CCOP study of 576 patients. Support Care Cancer. 2012 Jul;20(7):1479-89.
How It Works
Bottom Line: Ginger may help to relieve nausea and vomiting
Ginger root contains compounds that may help relieve or prevent nausea and vomiting. These substances can increase the flow of saliva and digestive juices. They may also help to calm the stomach and intestine. Scientists are still unsure exactly how ginger exerts these effects. In humans, studies have shown that eating fresh ginger (but not dried ginger) in high doses can “thin” the blood by preventing the platelets from sticking together. In addition, one laboratory study suggests that ginger can protect brain cells from the plaques that cause Alzheimer's disease, but this effect has not been studied in humans.
- To stimulate appetite
Ginger is known to stimulate the flow of saliva and digestive secretions, but clinical trials have not been performed.
- To treat colic and reduce gas in the stomach and intestine
Compounds found in ginger are known to calm the stomach and intestine, but human data are lacking.
- To treat diarrhea
Compounds found in ginger are known to calm the stomach and intestine. Scientific evidence is lacking.
- To relieve indigestion
Ginger is known to stimulate the flow of saliva and digestive secretions, but clinical trials have not been performed to evaluate this use.
- To treat nausea and vomiting
Several clinical trials support use of ginger for short-term treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, pregnancy, motion sickness, and surgical anesthesia.
- To treat rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
A few studies have been conducted with positive results but more research is needed.
Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy:
To test the ability of ginger to treat pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting, researchers randomly gave 70 women early in their pregnancy (less than 17 weeks) either one gram of ginger or a placebo. All women had episodes of vomiting 24 hours prior to starting the study. After four days of therapy, women taking ginger reported significantly fewer episodes of nausea and vomiting than women taking the placebo. In addition, women taking ginger had no more problems with their pregnancies than women taking the placebo, suggesting that ginger is safe for pregnant women.
Another trial of ginger involved 291 women less than 16 weeks pregnant. The women were randomly assigned to receive either ginger or vitamin B6 (a vitamin that is known to reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy) daily for three weeks. Women receiving ginger had similar reduction in nausea, retching and vomiting.
- Due to its blood thinning effects, ginger supplements should be stopped a week or two before undergoing surgery.
Do Not Take If
- You are taking warfarin or other blood thinners (Ginger supplements may increase the risk of bleeding).
- You are taking insulin or medication to lower blood glucose (Ginger supplements may cause additive reductions in glucose levels).
- You are taking tacrolimus (Ginger supplements increase the plasma level of tacrolimus and may increase the side effects).
- Dermatitis (swelling, irritation, and redness of the skin)
- Case Report: A 76-year-old woman on long-term phenprocoumon therapy developed an elevated INR and epistaxis (nosebleed) following use of ginger products. Her INR returned to the normal range after discontinuing ginger along with administration of vitamin K.
Last updated: October 8, 2012