The rhizomes (underground stem) and stems of ginger have assumed significant roles in Chinese, Japanese and Indian medicine since the 1500s. The oleoresin of ginger is often contained in digestive, antitussive, antiflatulent, laxative, and antacid compounds.
There is supportive evidence from one randomized controlled trial and an open-label study that ginger reduces the severity and duration of chemotherapy-induced nausea/emesis. Effects appear to be additive to prochlorperazine (Compazine®). The optimal dose remains unclear. Ginger's effects on other types of nausea/emesis, such as postoperative nausea or motion sickness remain indeterminate.
Ginger is used orally, topically, and intramuscularly for a wide array of other conditions, without scientific evidence of benefit.
Ginger may inhibit platelet aggregation/decrease platelet thromboxane production, thus theoretically increasing bleeding risk.
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These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Uses based on scientific evidence
Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum)
Preliminary studies suggest that ginger may be safe and effective for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy when used at recommended doses for short periods of time (less than five days). Some publications discourage large doses of ginger during pregnancy due to concerns about mutations or abortion. Additional research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of ginger during pregnancy before it can be recommended for longer periods of time.
Motion sickness / seasickness
There is mixed evidence in this area, with some studies reporting that ginger has no effect on motion sickness, and other research noting that ginger may reduce vomiting (but not nausea). Before a recommendation can be made, more studies are needed comparing ginger to other drugs used for this purpose.
Nausea (due to chemotherapy)
Initial human research reports that ginger may reduce the severity and length of time that a patient feels nausea after chemotherapy. Other studies show no significant effects. Additional studies are needed to confirm these results and to determine safety and dosing. Numerous prescription drugs are highly effective at controlling nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and the available options should be discussed with the patient's medical oncologist.
Nausea and vomiting (after surgery)
Some human studies report improvement in nausea or vomiting after surgery if patients take ginger before surgery. However, other research shows no difference. Additional studies are needed before the use of ginger before surgery to help with nausea and vomiting can be recommended.
Rheumatoid arthritis / osteoarthritis / joint and muscle pain
There is limited scientific evidence in this area, and it is not clear if ginger is beneficial.
Uses based on tradition or theory
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Alcohol withdrawal, antacid, antifungal, antioxidant, antiseptic, anti-spasm, antiviral, aphrodisiac, arthritic inflammation, asthma, atherosclerosis, athlete's foot, bacterial dysentery, baldness, bile secretion problems, blood thinner, body warming, bronchitis, bleeding, burns (applied to the skin), cancer, cholera, colds, colic, cough suppressant, depression, diarrhea, digestive aid, diminished appetite, dose reduction or stopping of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), dyspepsia, elevated cholesterol, fungal infections, flatulence (gas), flu, gonarthritis, headache, heart disease, Helicobacter pylori infection, high blood pressure, immune stimulation, impotence, increased drug absorption, increased metabolism, insecticide, intestinal parasites, Kawasaki's disease, kidney disease, laxative, liver disease, low blood pressure, migraine headache, malaria, pain relief, perspiration, poisonous snake bites, promotion of menstruation, psoriasis (applied to the skin), repellent (curcuma aeruginosa - pink and blue ginger), serotonin-induced hypothermia, shortening labor, stimulant, stomach ache, stomach ulcers, testicular inflammation, tonic, toothache, upper respiratory tract infections.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Standardization involves measuring the amount of certain chemicals in products to try to make different preparations similar to each other. It is not always known if the chemicals being measured are the "active" ingredients. While there is no universal standard, ginger products are often standardized to gingerol content.
Adults (18 years and older)
Note: Common forms of ginger include fresh root, dried root, tablets, capsules, liquid extract, tincture, and tea. Many publications note that the maximum recommended daily dose of ginger is 4.0 grams. It is believed that the mild stomach upset sometimes caused by ginger may be reduced by taking ginger capsules rather than powder.
General use: Many experts and publications suggest that ginger powder, tablets, or capsules or fresh cut ginger can be used in doses of 1 to 4 grams daily, by mouth, divided into smaller doses.
Nausea and vomiting: To prevent nausea after surgery, ginger has been given as 1 gram by mouth 1 hour before surgery. For chemotherapy-induced nausea, capsules of ginger root powder have been given orally 1 gram per day for 5 days, starting on the first day of chemotherapy. For nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, 75 milligrams to 2 grams daily, by mouth, in divided doses has been used for 1 to 5 days. Some sources warn against higher doses in pregnancy due to concerns about mutations or abortion. Supervision by a qualified healthcare professional is recommended for pregnant women considering the use of ginger.
Motion sickness, seasickness: 1 to 2 grams daily, by mouth, in divided doses has been used.
Arthritis: 1 to 2 grams of powdered ginger daily, by mouth, in divided doses has been used. In one study, patients who mistakenly took 2 to 4 grams daily reported faster and better relief, although superiority of this dose has not been proven.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is insufficient scientific evidence to recommend the use of ginger in children.