Ginger has long been consumed around the world to relieve various ailments such as rheumatism, nausea, colds and headaches. Ginger can be used in different forms, such as capsules, powder, herbal teas, fresh or syrup. This sheet will focus on the health effects of eating fresh or dried ginger (see our Ginger (psn) sheet in the Natural Health Products section for the effects of ginger in other forms).
Active ingredients and properties of ginger
Antioxidants : Antioxidants are compounds that protect the body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals. The latter are highly reactive molecules that are believed to be involved in the development of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other age-related diseases1. About 40 antioxidant compounds have been found in ginger2-5. Some of them are said to be heat-resistant and may even be released during cooking, which may explain the increased antioxidant activity of cooked ginger6. Ground ginger ranks third in antioxidant content among more than 1,000 foods analyzed7. However, it should be noted that this comparison was made on the basis of 100 g of food and not per usual serving (which corresponds to about 2 g in the case of ginger). Fresh ginger also has a high antioxidant activity compared to other vegetables and spices consumed in Asia8. After about 30 tests, ginger, as well as turmeric, mint, coriander, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, were ranked among the 14 fresh plants with the highest antioxidant levels8.
Ginger, garlic and onion
Eating ginger with garlic or onion (or better yet, both) would create a synergy between their different antioxidant compounds. This would allow them to surpass their individual antioxidant effects6.
The main active compounds responsible for the spicy taste of fresh ginger are (6)-gingerol9 and (10)-gingerol. Their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties are well known10 and their anticancer potential is demonstrated in vitro11,12. A recent study showed a promising effect of ginger as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of prostate cancer30. During the dehydration of ginger, gingerols are converted into compounds called shogaols. This group of compounds is therefore found in greater quantities in dried or powdered ginger than in fresh ginger9. A study shows that shogaols could protect the cells of a compound involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease13. The effects of the various antioxidant compounds isolated from ginger have been observed in vitro as well as in animals. These are promising results that have yet to be demonstrated in humans.
Nausea and vomiting: Several studies have evaluated the antiemetic effect (the ability to prevent or stop nausea and vomiting) attributed to ginger. First, two studies indicate that consuming 0.5 g to 1.5 g of powdered ginger (in capsule form) may be effective in treating nausea and vomiting during pregnancy14,15. In addition, a recent meta-analysis shows that 1 g of ginger powder (in capsule form) would be more effective than placebo in preventing nausea and vomiting after surgery16. For comparison, 1 g to 2 g of powdered ginger is equivalent to about 10 g of fresh ginger17. Finally, ginger consumption could prevent nausea and vomiting related to motion sickness, but there is still insufficient evidence to conclude that it is effective14. In this regard, two studies did not see any antiemetic effect following the consumption of fresh ginger18,19. The gingerols and shogaols contained in ginger14 are believed to play a role in the antiemetic effect, by acting, among other things, on the reduction of stomach movements20. To date, the majority of randomized studies have been conducted with ginger powder (capsules) and compared to placebo. Thus, it is difficult to determine whether the consumption of fresh ginger, crystallized ginger or herbal tea, for example, could provide the same effects.
Digestion: A review article, in which animal studies have been reviewed, shows that ginger (like other spices) could stimulate bile secretion and the activity of different digestive enzymes, resulting in faster digestion of food21. The quantities of ginger used in these studies are high and even higher than those that could be consumed by populations known to be large spice consumers, such as India. Although the consumption of such quantities is realistic for these populations, it is more difficult in a North American context where spices (including ginger) have less place in traditional dishes. Since the effect of fresh ginger consumption on the digestion process has not been well controlled in human clinical studies, more research may eventually lead to more precise conclusions on the subject.
Inflammation: The anti-inflammatory properties of some ginger components have long been recognized and are well documented in vitro22. Among the known compounds are mainly gingerols, the beneficial effects of which have also been observed in animals23, but also shogaols and paradols which would exert their effects through different mechanisms of action22. In humans, ginger consumption has shown promising results in reducing arthritis-related pain (only a few studies using fresh ginger)14. However, the results of these studies are difficult to compare, given the different preparations and quantities of ginger used (from 0.5 g to 50 g of ginger per day). More studies are therefore needed before concluding that fresh ginger consumption has a real effect on the prevention and treatment of pain associated with chronic inflammatory disorders.
Diabetes: A recent rigorous scientific study has shown a beneficial effect of consuming 3 g of ginger powder for 8 weeks in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Indeed, ginger extract would lower fasting blood glucose and glycated hemogloblin values and improve insulin resistance31-32.
Is ginger an antioxidant?
A little: the TAC index for ginger powder is 288 umol.
Is ginger acidifying?
Data not available.
Does ginger have a high glycemic load?
Most important nutrients
See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols
Excellent source Manganese
Ground ginger is an excellent source of manganese for women and a good source for men, their needs for this mineral being different. Manganese acts as a cofactor of several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also helps to prevent damage caused by free radicals.
Raw ginger is a source of copper. As a component of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (a protein used for tissue structure and repair) in the body. Several enzymes containing copper also contribute to the body’s defense against free radicals.
What is a “portion” of ginger worth?
- Raw ginger (root), 23 g (60 ml)
- Ground dried ginger, 2 g (5 ml)
- 0,4 g
- 0,2 g
- 4,2 g
- 1,3 g
- 0,2 g
- 0,1 g
- Dietary fibres
- 0,5 g
- 0,2 g
Source: Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File, 2005.
Different properties attributed to ginger (such as anticoagulant and hypoglycemic effects) suggest that its consumption could interfere with certain drugs, plants or supplements, increasing their effects24. In this regard, several authors recommend that people taking blood medications (such as heparin, coumadin or aspirin) or before surgery avoid consuming large amounts of ginger to reduce the risk of excessive bleeding25-27.
In addition, large doses of ginger may interfere with heart medications (cardiotonic effect) and diabetes medications (hypoglycemic action)24. However, these risks of interaction are theoretical and have not necessarily been observed in patients.
Ginger over time
The term “ginger” is derived from the Sanskrit shringavera, which means “in the shape of deer antler”. From there came the Greek ziggiberis and the Latin zingiber, then “gingibre” in French, and finally “ginger”, which first appeared in 1256 in a written book.
The Zingiber genus is thought to be found in southern India and China, where it has been used as a condiment, food and medicinal plant for over 5,000 years, but its wild ancestors have never been found.
One of the first oriental spices to enter Europe, ginger was brought to Europe by Arab merchants about a century before our era. Two centuries later, the Greek Dioscorides and the Roman Pliny the Elder mentioned it in their medical writings, emphasizing its carminative properties and its virtues as an antidote against poisons. It was known in France and Germany in the 9th century and in England in the 10th century. During the conquest, the Spanish established it in the West Indies and Mexico so that, by the middle of the 16th century, Spain could import the precious spice from this part of the world. It was the first time that a spice of Eastern origin had been successfully grown in the New World.
A spice that deceives the nose
In the 16th and 17th centuries, in several European countries, the famous gingerbread, with its many regional variations, was developed and originally still included ginger. Why? Why? Because this highly aromatic spice masked the flavour of the flour, which was almost always rancid.
Nowadays, ginger is grown in all the hot regions of the world. Depending on climatic conditions, the nature of the soil and the methods of cultivation, the composition and quality of the rhizomes vary considerably from one country to another, so that we have come to establish a kind of map of the vintages:
- jamaican, known for its delicate aroma and used mainly fresh, in cooking and to flavour various drinks. This is the one we are most likely to find in our grocery stores;
- the Australian, with a distinctly sweet and lemony flavour, which is reserved for confectionery;
- the stronger African of Nigeria and Sierra Leone has a powerful camphor flavor that makes it a product of choice for the production of essential oil and oleoresin, from which flavors used in cooking, perfumery or Far Eastern medicine are derived;
- indian, with a pleasant lemon flavour: it is mainly intended for export, so that most of the country’s production is dehydrated;
- chinese, produced in very large quantities, but whose rhizomes are generally excluded from our markets because they are treated with sulphur dioxide.
Recipe with ginger
Discover our ginger-based lemonade recipe.
Marinated, it is essential in Japanese cuisine. It is served with sushi, sashimi, oriental noodles, tempura, etc. Grated or freshly chopped, ginger rhizome is used in sautéed dishes and curries, soups, oriental stews and fish dishes. Add the ginger at the end of cooking to get the most out of it. Remember to add it to a dressing made of oil, vinegar, honey and soy sauce. It can also be added to tea water or made into an infusion at the end of the meal: heat ½ tsp. grated ginger and three or four cardamom seeds in a cup of a half-milk half-water mixture or in water. Pass. Take hot or iced.
Candied or crystallized, it is used in the composition of biscuits, cakes or other desserts. Finely chopped, it is excellent in whipped cream.
Dried and ground, it is suitable for breads, pastries, sweets, puddings and desserts. With nutmeg, it is a perfect seasoning for pumpkin soup. It is used in the composition of four spices, which are used to season simmered dishes.
To access other recipes, you can visit the CuisineAZ.com cooking recipe site, which offers, among other things, the following recipes: candied ginger, ginger juice, chicken with ginger
If you grow ginger, you can use the young shoots when they reach seven or eight centimetres. Sauté them in a Chinese style, or marinate them in a Japanese style, in a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar or honey and sesame oil.
In the refrigerator, keep it on a shelf and not in the vegetable drawer, which is too damp, which can lead to mould growth. It can easily be kept for two to three weeks. It can also be kept as an expense, such as onions and potatoes.
Put the rhizomes in a jar, cover them with sherry or brandy, close and refrigerate. They will keep each other indefinitely, so to speak.
In the freezer: simply take out a piece of rhizome if necessary, and grate it while it is still frozen. Avoid letting it thaw, as it becomes soft and difficult to grate.
In pieces, it can be dried in the oven at low temperature, door slightly open, for 10 to 12 hours, after boiling it for about ten minutes to prevent it from germinating during drying. If it is peeled and sliced, it does not need to be scalded. It will dry in a few days at room temperature.
Asians keep it in a sugar syrup. Maple syrup should be perfectly suitable for this purpose.
A tropical plant that requires nine or ten months of frost-free growth, ginger is not normally grown in our climates. However, unconditional amateurs will be able to produce them on a small scale.
Not so long ago, it was possible to start growing rhizomes from grocery stores, but since the Canadian government approved the irradiation of spices, which, in the case of ginger, is precisely to prevent it from germinating, plants must be obtained from specialized seed companies, or rhizomes from organic farming and, therefore, not irradiated.
Cultivation in containers, then in the ground. Order your young plants in early fall. Immediately transplant them into 20 cm pots filled with a compost composed of equal parts vermiculite, peat moss (or leaf moss) and compost (vegetable, sheep manure, shrimp, etc.). Water well and place the pots in front of an east- or west-facing window, or under a “Grolight” neon. For the rest of the winter, avoid over-watering, but never let the plants dry out.
The ginger pot
As its name suggests, the ginger pot was used to preserve this spice. In China, where it comes from, it was offered as a wedding gift. Very popular in Europe in the 18th century and beyond, it was immortalized by famous painters, including Van Gogh, Cézanne and Toussaint.
At the beginning of June, transplant your plants, spacing them from 20 to 25 cm apart, into light, loose and rather sandy soil, enriched with compost or ripe manure; ideally, into a raised flowerbed or ridge, situations that allow good irrigation without presenting a risk of rot. Ginger likes water, but hates having its feet wet too long.
Mulch the plants to conserve moisture and limit weed growth with grass clippings or dead leaves. Every month, and even every two weeks, apply a foliar fertilizer (seaweed and fish emulsion, animal or vegetable manure).
If the stem turns yellow or frost threatens, harvest all rhizomes. Set aside the healthiest for your next crop, which will start two or three months later after a period of dormancy. In the meantime, keep them cool and dark.
Culture in containers. The method of cultivation is about the same as for plants in the ground, except that they are grown in 20 or 25-litre containers filled with very rich soil. In spring, when the frost no longer threatens, take the pots outdoors and place them in a semi-shaded place, protecting them – very important – from the wind. The application of foliar fertilizer and an adequate supply of water are essential here, as the plants raised in it are much more exposed to temperature extremes and deficiencies of essential nutrients.
At harvest time, leave part of the rhizome in the soil of the pots and store them in a cool, dry and dark place for about two or three months, after which time the plants will form stems again and give you another harvest eight or nine months later.
Feel free to remove some of the rhizomes when they are still young – around five months. They are then tender and fine, less spicy than mature rhizomes.
Ecology and environment
Like garlic and turmeric, and unlike most plants, ginger has lost the ability to reproduce sexually (through seed) and only multiplies vegetatively (through the rhizome), which generally indicates that the plant has been domesticated for a very long time. All the ginger in the trade is therefore made up of clones from a handful of very old cultivars, perhaps dating back to the beginning of agriculture, 12,000 years ago…. These cultivars are resistant to almost anything that is a disease and insect, otherwise they simply would not have survived the millennia. From an ecological point of view, this is ideal since their production requires relatively few fungicides or pesticides, except when growing conditions are inadequate.