Ginger is the dried or fresh root of a tropical member of the ginger family native to the Old World tropics.
Cultivated for millennia in both China and India, ginger reached the West at least 2,000 years ago. Most of the thousands of prescriptions in Chinese traditional medicine (TCM) are combinations of many herbs; ginger is used in nearly half of them to mediate the effects of other ingredients as well as to stimulate the appetite and calm the stomach. In European herbal traditions, ginger is primarily used to stop nausea and quiet an upset stomach.
Ginger is now recognized for helping to treat stomach upset and prevent symptoms of motion sickness. It has been studied for its antibacterial, antifungal, pain-relieving, anti-ulcer, antitumor, and other properties. Six clinical studies have looked at ginger's potential to reduce motion sickness. Four European studies reported positive results, while two American studies gave negative findings. In one English study, thirty-six volunteers were given either ginger or a common anti-motion sickness drug. When blindfolded and subjected to time in a spinning chair, those who took ginger held out an average of 5.5 minutes, while those who took the conventional drug lasted about 3.5 minutes before becoming ill. Another study involved eighty naval cadets at sea. Those who took a placebo developed seasickness. Those who were given gingerroot capsules had fewer cold sweats and less nausea. A 1988 NASA study that tested ginger in forty-two volunteers, however, concluded it was ineffective in relieving motion sickness. Clearly, more studies are needed.
Ginger is believed to reduce nausea by increasing digestive fluids and absorbing and neutralizing toxins and stomach acid. It increases bile secretion as well as the action and tone of the bowel. Ginger also has been shown to reduce the stickiness of blood platelets and may thereby reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Limited studies suggest ginger may reduce morning sickness as well as nausea after surgery. Both uses require a physician's supervision.
Fresh root, dried root, capsules, tablets, tinctures, and standardized products. The dried roots have a synergistic interaction between compounds in the essential oil and pungent principles such as gingerol. Some products are now standardized to gingerol content.
The German therapeutic monograph on ginger warns patients with gall bladder disease to avoid it and also cautions against exceeding the recommended dosage. Pregnant women contemplating ginger use during morning sickness (short-term only) should avoid it if gall bladder disease is present.