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Ginger Root – A Common Spice Used Therapeutically

In this article, I will be interviewing one of my favorite botanicals, the spice ginger root. The use of ginger goes back thousands of years. The Chinese, Indian, Green and Southeast Asian cultures used ginger for treating numerous conditions, ranging from stomachache, diarrhea, nausea, cholera, hemorrhage, rheumatism and toothaches. Currently ginger is one of the top ten spices used worldwide. Let’s get into our interview with this prominent herb.

Hawkins: Tell us about yourself. How did you get your name and how did you become so popular?

Ginger: My official name is zingiber officinale and I was named by the famous 18th century Swedish botanist, Linnaeus. He derived the title zingiber from its Indian Sanskrit name singabera, which means shaped like a horn. There are over 1400 species belonging to my family, including turmeric and cardamom. I have a beautiful flower, and I like a hot moist climate. Currently, I am the world’s most cultivated spice. I am grown in the following major countries: Indonesia, India, Australia, China, Africa, Jamaica, and Hawaii. The leading importers are Saudi Arabia, the US, Yemen, Japan and the UK.

Hawkins: Tell us now about your biochemical makeup and how you are being used medicinally?

Ginger: I literally contain hundreds of compounds that give beneficial effects to the human body. Let’s divide them up into four main categories:

  1. taste or pungency
  2. essential oil or fragrance
  3. macro/micro nutrients
  4. synergists

Let me explain further – my pungent taste is due to oily-resinous compounds called gingerols and shogoals. Gingerols are present when I am freshest and the shogoals are more prevalent when I am dried. These two compounds have been widely researched and add to the therapeutic effects. My fragrance is sweet, warm and has a citrusy aroma. It has been used in the perfume and beverage industries. There are over 200 different components of my essential oil. When it comes to nutrients, I contain proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Potassium, phosphorus, Vitamin C and Vitamin B-2 are just a few. In regards to synergists, because of my many compounds the therapeutic effects cannot be attributed to just the two mentioned above, but to the way that these compounds work with the whole of me. I have an enzyme called zingibain, which is a powerful protein digesting enzyme. It has been compared to papaya and bromelain from pineapple with good results.

Hawkins: Let’s look at some of the conditions and therapeutic applications you exhibit. How do you accomplish all these benefits?

Ginger: This is a very interesting part of me that I love to share. I have been used to treat the following conditions: arthritis, nausea, vomiting, morning sickness, migraines, motion sickness, vertigo, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pain, ulcers and numerous other ailments. In many of the herb books when they discuss my properties, which are my actions, they begin with: analgesic, immuno-supportive, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-tussive, hypocholesteremic, anti-thrombic, digestive and anti-oxidant.

Hawkins: Very impressive. Tell us more about some of your specific effects, such as anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and thermogenic properties.

Ginger: I have been researched for numerous years now. Many companies have been trying to patent some of my constituents but they have had many problems. The following information is the results of some of this research. Let’s begin with the anti-oxidant effects. I contain more than 12 constituents that are superior to Vitamin E. I am currently being investigated as an agent to prevent the rancidity of meat products. I can prolong the shelf life of these foods. Next, let’s look at anti-inflammation. My pungent principal, as stated earlier, blocks the formation of inflammatory compounds called prostaglandin and leukotrienes. I also have the ability to inhibit platelet aggregation (sticky blood) by interfering with the substance in your blood that causes blood platelets to clump together. I help the liver to reduce cholesterol by stimulating the breakdown of cholesterol. In regards to pain control I, like cayenne, block the formation of substance P. I help relieve gas and bloating by aiding the digestion of food and have antispasmodic effects.

Hawkins: Tell us about thermogenesis and how you help someone to increase metabolism.

Ginger: Thermogenesis is what many refer to as the fire element. This is metabolic activity. In a weight loss profile, by stimulating this principal it creates heat that in turn burns fat stores in the body. I am considered a diaphoretic herb because I help bring the blood to the surface of the skin and therefore activate circulation.

Hawkins: In regards to motion sickness and nausea, how do you help those with these ailments? How do you compare yourself to the drug Dramamine?

Ginger: That is a good question. This can get technical but I will keep it simple. My anti-emetic (vomiting) effects are being researched for post operative vomiting after surgery, morning sickness, and the side effects of chemotherapy. This action is due to the increase of digestive enzymes that help to clear the stomach quickly and neutralize toxins and stomach acid working with the involvement of a compound called 5 HT or serotonin. In comparison studies with Dramamine, I can accomplish the same result without the drowsiness.

Hawkins: Share with us some of the dosage recommendations and is there any cause for concern about toxicity?

Ginger: It is important to always consult with a trained health care professional or an authoritative herbal manual when dosing for therapeutic results. The dose will be dependent on what effect you are expecting. A simple cup of fresh root tea can calm a nauseous stomach. I will give you a recipe later. Many folk don’t like tea, so capsules of dried root are fine. One or two capsules 2 or 3 times a day is suggested. There are standardized preparations on the market now that give higher levels of potency. In regards to toxicity, I am very safe. Very high doses of over six grams can cause gastrointestinal upset if taken on an empty stomach. For common use as a tea or in cooking there is no problem.

Hawkins: Please give us a standard tea recipe.

Ginger: If you are using fresh root, take 2-4 thin slices (1 tsp grated) and pour boiling water over it. Steep for 10 -12 minutes. Strain and add a small amount of honey and fresh lemon for a refreshing cup of tea. You can also use 1 teaspoon powdered ginger.

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