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Herbs & Botanicals

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Ginger (gan jiang or sheng jiang)

What is ginger?

A knotted, beige-colored root, ginger has been used in cooking in China and India for more than 4,000 years. It is known for its sharp, spicy flavor. In addition to its culinary uses, it has several medicinal properties.

Why do we need ginger? What is it used for?

In animal studies, ginger has inhibited the absorption of cholesterol and increased the flow of bile. It also stimulates the circulatory system and acts as a blood thinner.

In humans, ginger has been shown to relieve motion sickness better than any over-the-counter medication. Other studies have found it to ease pain from sore throats and aches caused by colds and flu. High doses of ginger (10-20g per day) have been found to significantly decrease pain associated with migraines and rheumatoid arthritis.

How much ginger should I take?

Intake of ginger depends on the condition. In general, no more than 2-4 grams of fresh ginger should be taken daily in addition to whatever ginger you may get from your diet. However, other doses are recommended for the following conditions:

  • Nausea, gas or indigestion: 2-4g of fresh root (0.25-1.00g of powdered root)
  • Cold and flue symptoms, headaches: ginger tea (2 tablespoons of freshly shredded ginger steeped in boiled water 2-3 times daily)
  • Arthritis: 2-4g daily; use oil or fresh root in a warm poultice or compress and apply to the painful areas.

What forms of ginger are available?

Ginger is available in a variety of forms. In addition to fresh ginger root (which is available at most supermarkets), it can be found as an extract, tincture, capsule or oil. Another good source is crystallized ginger, which is covered in sugar.

What can happen if I take too much ginger? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

The American Herbal Products Association has given fresh ginger root a class I safety rating, meaning it is a safe herb with a wide dosage range. However, dried ginger root has a class II B rating, which means it should not be used during pregnancy.

Some evidence suggests that ginger may interfere with heart medications, diabetes medications and anticoagulants. Since ginger also increases the flow of bile, it should not be taken by patients with gallstones. Excessive amounts of ginger may cause mild heartburn.

References

  1. Awang DVC. Ginger. Can Pharma J 1992:309-311.
  2. Bone K. Ginger. Br J Phytother 1997;4(3):110-120.
  3. USP publishes information monographs on ginger and valerian. HerbalGram 1998;43:30,57,71.
  4. Grontved A, et al. Ginger root against seasickness: a controlled trial on the open sea. Acta Otolaryngol 1988;105:45-49.
  5. Schulick P. The many roles of ginger. Natural Foods Merchandiser's Nutrition Science News 1995:6-7.
  6. Schulz V, Hnsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physicians' Guide to Herbal Medicine, 3rd ed. Berlin, Germany: Springer; 1998.

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