Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a large tuberous perennial plant native to southern Asia, now cultivated extensively in almost all tropical and subtropical countries. The underground stem, or rhizome, of the ginger plant, commonly known as the ginger root, is well-known for its medicinal properties. Ginger has been used as a medicine for millennia, recorded in early Sanskrit, Chinese, ancient Greek, Roman, and Arabic medical literature. In Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine as well as herbal medicine, it is a key herb used for conditions of both the respiratory and digestive tracts.
Ginger’s healing properties are supported not only based on its history of use in these well established systems of traditional medicine, but also a more recent and extensive body of phytochemical studies as well as animal and human clinical studies. Ginger contains a number of key vitamins and minerals, and most of its health benefits are derived from gingerol, a compound with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Common forms of ginger include the fresh or dried root (whole or ground), tablets, capsules, liquid extracts, teas and essential oil.
Antioxidant compounds present in plants play a vital, health-protecting role in human life. Antioxidants have been shown to help protect against various metabolic diseases, heart disease, brain disorders and age-related syndromes, as they help the body combat cellular damage caused by free radicals (reactive chemicals containing oxygen).
Researchers have identified over 40 antioxidant compounds from Ginger. Its potent free radical-scavenging activities and antioxidant properties are attributed to a number of phenolic and flavonoid compounds which have been isolated and in particular, a key compound called gingerol. In a 2017 study, daily supplementation of ginger extract was shown to significantly increase antioxidant activity and reduce oxidative marker levels in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Ginger is traditionally used in herbal medicine to provide relief from digestive upset, including gas and bloating, lack of appetite, nausea, digestive spasms and indigestion.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ginger is thought to target the spleen, which assists with digestion, and the stomach, responsible for digestion as well as the movement of digested food doward to the intestines. Key gastrointestinal conditions for which Ginger is used include abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
Ginger is traditionally used in herbal medicine as an expectorant and cough suppressant, and to help relieve bronchitis, coughs and colds.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, dried Ginger is considered an herb that is ‘hot’ in nature and fresh Ginger is considered a “warm” herb. Both are used to warm the body’s interior, expel cold, warms the lungs and as an expectorant of phlegm. Key respiratory conditions for which Ginger are used include congestion, common cold, coughing and asthma.