What is Ginger Root?
Ginger root is the underground rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale. Ginger root has a bracing, spicy-sweet smell and taste that is used to flavor many cuisines around the world. Ginger root can be eaten fresh, powdered, dried, or as an oil or juice. It is also a popular ingredient in supplements and natural remedies.
Ginger root is a popular folk remedy for nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach. It is also sometimes used to treat motion sickness and morning sickness. Some people take ginger root to help with indigestion, gas, and bloating. Ginger root is also said to boost immunity and circulation, and to reduce inflammation.
Ginger root has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern texts for its medicinal properties. In Ayurvedic medicine, ginger is used to help treat a variety of ailments, including indigestion and nausea.
Ginger root is generally considered safe. However, it can cause heartburn, diarrhea, and gas in some people. Ginger root should be used with caution by people with bleeding disorders or taking blood-thinning medications. Pregnant women should also avoid using ginger root in large amounts, as it may increase the risk of miscarriage.
Ginger root is available in supplements, teas, and fresh or dried form. It can also be found in many Asian markets.
Side Effects & Safety
Ginger is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately. Some people can have mild side effects including heartburn, diarrhea, and general stomach discomfort. Some women have reported more frequent bleeding during their menstrual period after taking ginger. Ginger is POSSIBLY SAFE when it is applied to the skin appropriately, short-term. Some skin irritation has been reported, such as burning, stinging, and itching.
Pregnant women should avoid using ginger in large amounts because it might increase the risk of miscarriage. Ginger can act like a blood thinner and might cause extra bleeding during and after childbirth. Ginger might also interfere with labor pain medications called “beta-blockers.” Avoid using ginger if you are taking beta-blockers.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Ginger is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in small amounts during pregnancy. Some pregnant women have used ginger for morning sickness with few reported problems. However, consuming more than 1 gram of ginger per day is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Ginger can cause mild heartburn, diarrhea, and general stomach discomfort. There are not enough reliable data to know if larger amounts are safe to take during pregnancy. Not enough is known about the safety of using ginger during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Bleeding disorders: Ginger might slow blood clotting. Taking ginger might increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using ginger at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Diabetes: Ginger might lower blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes and take insulin or other diabetes medications, monitor your blood sugar carefully after taking ginger.
Heart conditions: Ginger can increase heart rate and cause irregular heartbeat. Be cautious with this herb if you have a heart condition.
Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Ginger might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use ginger in medicinal amounts.
High blood pressure: Ginger can increase blood pressure in some people. If you have high blood pressure, monitor your blood pressure carefully if you take ginger.
Surgery: Ginger might slow blood clotting. There is a concern that it might increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using ginger at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
The appropriate dose of ginger depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for ginger. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.
Ginger root supplements are available in dried, fresh, capsule, and tablet forms. Ginger tea can also be made by steeping 1 gram of grated ginger root in 2 cups of boiling water for 10 minutes. It is unclear if taking larger amounts of ginger is more effective than taking smaller amounts.
Some research suggests combinations of herbs work better than ginger alone for some conditions. For example, a specific product (Iberogast, Medical Futures, Inc) containing ginger, German chamomile, licorice, peppermint oil, and other ingredients has been used in Europe for indigestion. This product seems to be more effective than ginger alone. Follow package directions carefully.
What Other Drugs Interact with Ginger?
If you are taking any medications, be sure to consult your healthcare provider before using ginger or any other herbal remedy. Various medications can interact with ginger, including:
Cytochrome P450 3A4 Inhibitors
Ginger might decrease how quickly the body breaks down some medications. Taking ginger along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking ginger, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some medications that are changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), diazepam (Valium), zileuton (Zyflo), celecoxib (Celebrex), fluvoxamine (Luvox), glimepiride (Amaryl), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), irinotecan (Camptosar), losartan (Cozaar, Hyzaar), tamoxifen (Nolvadex), phenytoin (Dilantin), probenecid (Benemid), sertraline (Zoloft), and others.
Ginger might decrease blood pressure in people with hypertension. In theory, taking ginger might make the effects of some medications used for lowering blood pressure too strong.
Medications used for lowering blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), ramipril (Altace), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), fosinopril (Monopril), and many others.
Ginger might decrease how quickly the body breaks down some medications used for chemotherapy. Taking ginger along with these medications might increase the effects and side effects of some cancer medications. Before taking ginger, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking medication for cancer.
Some medications used for chemotherapy include etoposide (Etopophos), vincristine (Oncovin), paclitaxel (Taxol), docetaxel (Taxotere), and others.
Ginger is commonly used to treat diarrhea. Ginger might increase the risk of bleeding or bruising in people with bleeding disorders.
Ginger might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking ginger along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely.
The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
Ginger is commonly used for heartburn. Ginger might increase the risk of bleeding or bruising in people with bleeding disorders.
Ginger is commonly used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy, chemotherapy, and surgical recovery. Ginger does seem to be effective for preventing sea sickness and treating nausea after surgery. However, it does not seem as effective as some other medications for reducing nausea during chemotherapy treatment or pregnancy-related nausea. It also does not seem to be effective at preventing or treating postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV).
Some research shows that taking ginger by mouth can decrease pain and swelling in people with osteoarthritis of the knee. Ginger does not seem to be effective for treating other types of pain.
Ginger is commonly used to reduce various types of pain, including pain caused by arthritis, menstrual cramps, and muscle soreness. Other research suggests that taking ginger does not decrease exercise-induced muscle pain. However, one study showed that taking a specific ginger extract (ABG) 3 times daily for 12 weeks can significantly reduce muscle pain in people with primary fibromyalgia compared to placebo.
Ginger might decrease cholesterol by preventing cholesterol from being absorbed into the blood. Ginger also seems to inhibit an enzyme that is important in the production of cholesterol in the body.
High blood pressure
Ginger might lower blood pressure. In theory, ginger might make the effects of some blood pressure medications too strong.
Early research suggests that taking a specific product containing ginger powder and various herbs three times daily for 16 weeks increases CD4 cell levels in people with HIV/AIDS, compared to taking placebo.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
Ginger might decrease pain and swelling associated with RA. However, other research shows that it does not reduce morning stiffness or improve grip strength in people with RA.
Ginger does not seem to prevent stroke. Some early research suggests that taking ginger by mouth four times daily for 11 days does not decrease the risk of stroke recurrence.
Ginger might increase bleeding during surgery. Stop taking ginger at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.