What is Ginger?
Ginger is a plant that has been historically used for cooking and a variety of medicinal purposes as early as 400 BC in China. Ginger can be used in numerous forms including powder, capsules, oil, or topical gels or ointments for medicinal purposes. This plant is most commonly grown in Asia or other humid, tropical regions.
The rhizome is the underground root part of the plant. It is an edible piece often cooked within meals due to its peppery and slightly sweet taste with a strong and spicy aroma. In India and China, it is believed that the rhizome of ginger has been utilized for over 5000 years to treat many ailments.
Potential Ways to Use Ginger
Various studies have found that ginger is potentially effective in certain health conditions such as nausea, vomiting, osteoarthritis pain, or even dysmenorrhea (painful abdominal cramps during menstruation). Below describes some findings regarding whether consuming ginger is possibly beneficial in reducing pain, nausea or vomiting whereas in other instances ginger consumption was of no help at all for individuals.
Nausea and vomiting
Oral ginger usage in studies suggest that ginger appears to be beneficial in nausea treatment in pregnant mothers. These studies utilized ginger doses of 500 to 2500 mg by mouth once daily, divided into two to four daily doses for 3 days to 3 weeks. On the other hand, those dealing with nausea during or after chemotherapy do not show any improvement if they were to take ginger. Study results showed no firm proof of ginger helping improve their nausea symptoms.
With individuals who struggle with abdominal pain during menstruation it has been found that ginger is possibly effective in treating pain as ibuprofen would. A study found that taking a specific ginger extract, Zintoma or Goldaru brand, 250 mg by mouth four times daily for 3 days at the beginning of the menstrual period might help relieve pain.
Another study in young females with dysmenorrhea found that taking ginger 500 mg capsules, in either brand called Vomigone or Dineh Co., by mouth once daily along with mefenamic acid, a medication in the same class of ibuprofen, 250 mg twice daily for 5 days also may help reduce pain when compared with taking mefenamic acid alone.
Studies have found that ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever to help reduce the swelling in the joints. Some research shows that taking ginger extract by mouth might improve pain in some patients with osteoarthritis. Topical ginger, on the other hand, has not shown benefit for knee osteoarthritis. Although a study found no potential benefit for ginger in osteoarthritis patients they saw that some individuals found that taking ginger extract 500-1000 mg by mouth once daily for 3-12 weeks may modestly improve pain.
Is Ginger Safe to Consume?
Ginger is recognized as an alternative herb for usage whether in root powder, liquid, or capsule formulation depending on the health condition.
Several studies found that consuming ginger can cause mild abdominal discomfort if large amounts are ingested. Exceeding 4 grams per day of oral ginger can cause mild heartburn, abdominal discomfort, low blood pressure, burping or acid reflux effects. Topical usage of ginger appears to have less side effects, with the most common being skin irritation, itching, or rash.
Some individuals should be cautious if considering taking ginger especially in those who:
- Have an upcoming surgery or are currently taking blood thinners such as warfarin, clopidogrel, or aspirin due to a potential increased risk for bleeding
- Are using insulin due to potential risk for low blood sugar
- Are breastfeeding due to the unknown effects to the infant
- Have gallstones due to an increase in bile flow
It is important to look for the USP verification mark on products before purchasing a supplement and/or vitamin over the counter. Vitamins and supplements are not regulated for their safety and effectiveness profile by the Food and Drug Association (FDA). Therefore, the mark is a helpful indicator that the product has had additional testing to confirm the strength and amount of ingredients listed, and does not have any present level of contaminants. The FDA urges customers to consult with their doctor or pharmacist before the use or purchase of a dietary supplement over the counter.
There is conflicting data and clinical studies that have discussed the effectiveness of ginger as mentioned above. Ginger has a relatively safe side effect profile. When used in doses such as those mentioned above, there appears to be a lower risk for mild upset stomach effects. For some, ginger may be an alternative option for nausea, vomiting, dysmenorrhea, and/or osteoarthritis. For those considering using ginger, it is important to reach out to their doctor or pharmacist and confirm if the supplement is effective and safe for them.
Prepared by Tera Hinchman, PharmD Candidate 2024
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