Ginger: Gingerols and Shogaols, What's that all about?

Ginger: Gingerols and Shogaols, What's that all about?

The Zingiber Officinale is the Latin name for the common Ginger Plant. The word “Zingiber” comes from the Sanskrit language, “Zing” meaning horn and “bera’ meaning body, used to describe the structure and flavour of the Ginger root[1]. Ginger is from the Zingiberaceae, or Ginger family, also in this group are Turmeric and Cardamom. Ginger is a herbaceous, slow growing plant native to India, South Asia.

However, due to advanced agricultural technology it can now be cultivated in continents from Africa, to Latin America, Australia, and the Caribbean. Its optimal growing conditions are subtropical humid climates, with sporadic shade. The plant is a short leafy plant that produces flowers and thick roots. The flowers of the plant are unique as they are cone shaped green/yellow flowers with purple tips. Moreover, the most important part of the plant are the roots. The roots/rhizomes are what we recognise as the culinary Ginger and where the medicinal extracts are sourced from. They have a thick pale beige skin and a vivid yellow flesh interior. The active ingredients and essential oils within Ginger are called Gingerols and Shogaols. They provide Ginger with their health food status.[2]

It’s only in the recent century that Ginger has been used as a flavouring, herb and spice in the culinary world. Prior to this it was used as a traditional medicine. One report showed that Ginger was used for over 50% of traditional medicines [3]. Its use pre-dates biblical times, in 500BC Conficus, a Chinese Philosopher noted that “I was never without ginger when I ate”, under the belief it aided discomfort during and after eating. It is noteworthy that in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine Zingiber Officinale is referred to as “healing from the gods” and the Koran refers to it as “A beverage of the holiest heavenly spirits”. In the Anglo-Saxon era it was preserved in sugar syrup and fed as medicine. It is clear that Ginger is held in the highest regard with notable explorers, Vasco Da Gama and Marco Polo writing extensively about its cultivation. Finally, in the 17th century the plant arrived in Europe, where it was largely used as a preservative.[4]

What are the Health Benefits of Ginger?

As noted throughout history Ginger is an excellent relief of gastric and digestive problems, however, Ginger has many other prominent health benefits. Zingiber Officinale is also well known for soothing joint pain, nausea, sickness, inflammation and bacterial infection.

Gastric and Digestive Problems

Health problems related to the stomach and digestive tract include, indigestion, discomfort, cramps, irregular gastric emptying, diarrhoea, constipation and gas. One study concentrated on the rate of gastric emptying, particularly on patients who suffered from slow bowel movement. They took 24 volunteers and gave one group a 1,200mg strength capsule. They then measured a portion of the stomach’s contractions and its emptying time. An increase in stomach contractions and decrease emptying time was found in the group that took the 1,200mg capsule. [5]

Joint Health

Joint problems include Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis. Joint problems and their painful effects are all too common, with approximately 8.75 million people in the UK suffering from Osteoarthritis [6]. A study by Altman and Marcussen (2001) found that taking a medicinal dose of Ginger daily can lead to a reduction in pain symptoms of osteoarthritis. They used 247 patients and measured experience of knee pain when standing. A massive 63% reduction in pain was recorded in the group taking the herb daily. [7]


Inflammation is caused by inflammatory prostaglandins, these are molecules that stimulate typical symptoms of inflammation, heat, redness, swelling and pain. Those prostaglandins worth mentioning are NFκB and TNF-α. Research by Habib et-al (2008) found that Ginger reduced the production of these molecules in rats[8]. These molecules are responsible for generating the inflammation associated with Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, Osteoarthritis and Atherosclerosis.[9]

Nausea and Sickness

Ginger is advised for all kinds of sickness, morning sickness, general nausea and post-operative sickness[2]. Firstly, general sickness and nausea, one meta-analysis review of six studies found that taking ginger post-operatively was substantially greater than the placebo and had an equal effect to taking metoclopramide(used for heartburn and acid reflux)[10]. In addition, Ginger has shown to be hugely beneficial for morning sickness (Hyperemesis Gravidarum, HG), but only when taken in prescribed doses. A recent 2014 scientific review showed that taking ginger for 4 days whilst suffering from pregnancy induced nausea and vomiting can generate a 5-fold improvement in symptoms. [11]

How much should I be consuming? What are the best sources?

It’s important that the correct amount of Ginger is taken to feel the therapeutic affects. A normal adult should take up to 4g a day, but no more. For pregnant women, it is advised that you take no more than 1g a day. Generally, it’s advised to take a 250mg tablet a 2-4 times a day, or a greater strength (1000mg-6400mg) just once a day. [12]

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  1. Harper.D. (2016). Ginger. Available:
  2. Kew Gardens. (2008). Zingiber Officinale (ginger). Available:
  3. Lad and Frawley (1998), Yoga of Herbs b. Sakai, Y.m et al. :”Effects of medicinal plant extracts from Chinese herbal medicines on the mutagenic activity of benzo(a)pyrene.” Mutation Research, 206 .Pg. 327-334.
  4. Whitney.M. (1998). Ginger. Available:
  5. Wu.KL, et-al. (2008). Effects of ginger on gastric emptying and motility in healthy humans.. European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 20 (5), Pg. 436-440.
  6. Arthritis Research. (2009). Osteoarthritis. Available:
  7. Altman,RD. Marcussen,KC.. (2001). Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis.. Arthritis and Rheumatism. 44 (11), Pg. 2531-2538.
  8. Habib.SH, et-al. (2008). Ginger extract (Zingiber officinale) has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects on ethionine-induced hepatoma rats.. Clinics. 63 (6), Pg. 807-813.
  9. Aggarwal,BB. Shishodia,S. (2006). Molecular targets of dietary agents for prevention and therapy of cancer.. Biochemical Pharmacology. 71 (10), Pg. 1397-1421.
  10. Ernst,E. Pittler,MH. (2000). Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials.. British Journal Of Anesthesia . 84 (3), Pg. 367-371.
  11. Thomson.M, et-al. (2014). Effects of ginger for nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: a meta-analysis. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 27 (1), Pg. 115-122.
  12. UMM. (2015). Ginger. Available:
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