What the doctor wants you to know about ginger’s benefits

Zingiber officinale is a spice that you know more commonly as ginger.

Research has markedly increased in studying ginger and the various components behind its reported health benefits as an herbal medicine.

Over the years, scientific studies have focused on verifying ginger’s pharmacological and physiological actions, with at least 115 constituents of fresh and dried ginger having been identified.

No wonder, since it has a reputation for healing that goes back more than 3,000 years!

Ginger has been broken down into at least 14 bioactive compounds, Gingerols comprise the predominant chemical compounds that give its medicinal properties with at least 31 known gingerol-related compounds.

Gingerols are essentially bioactive phenolic antioxidants — meaning they come from plants. 6-Gingerol is the predominant active component in ginger. Other gingerols include 4-gingerol, 8-gingerol, 10-gingerol, and 12-gingerol.

These bioactive compounds in ginger have well-proven anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer effects as well as being protective against other disease conditions.

Let me share them with you…

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1. Ginger for nausea control

The most well-established use of ginger is its use for alleviating symptoms of nausea and vomiting. This anti-nausea effect of the root has been attributed to its “carminative” effect — meaning it breaks up and helps expel intestinal gas.

Even randomized, double-blind trials show that ginger effectively accelerates gastric emptying and reduces nausea.

Related: 10 health benefits of eating ginger (slideshow)

2. Ginger for nerve health

Researchers analyzed fresh ginger extract and found it to have a significant anti-neuroinflammatory capacity. Neuroinflammation is a key factor of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.

As reported in a December 2013 issue of Food Chemicals, researchers analyzed the anti-inflammatory activities by seven gingerol-related compounds and fresh ginger extract in a nerve culture model. They concluded that, “Fresh ginger extract exhibited a significant anti-neuroinflammatory capacity, which was largely owing to 10-gingerol, but not 6-gingerol.”

3. Ginger for joint health

The Nrf2 pathway helps the body regulate the expression of antioxidants. When combined with Nrf2-activating herbs like turmeric, ashwagandha, milk thistle and green tea extract, 6-gingerol enhances the antioxidant enzymes produced in your body, and thereby decreases free radical production and inflammation.

In one study, researchers evaluated the effects of these two products on cartilage cells of people with osteoarthritis and also mice with osteoarthritis. They concluded that these in combination were “… essential in preserving cartilage and abolishing a number of factors known to be involved in [osteoarthritis].”

4. Ginger has anti-cancerous properties

Researchers study the bioactive substances in herbs largely to discover any medicinal benefit they may have. Only then do drug companies study the ingredients they can potentially patent and sell for health benefits. And when it comes to fighting cancer, the stakes and profits can be high.

For example, in a 2017 review in Food Function, researchers discuss the recent studies have indicated and highlighted the role of 10-gingerol with respect to its cancer prevention attributes. They admit that the purpose of their review is “…to provide an overview of all the experimentally validated health benefits of 10-G for nutraceutical applications.”

The researchers concluded that “The various findings have warranted the further investigation of 10-G and its possible use in various cancer treatments as well as its promising role as a chemo-preventive agent.” To be clear, a “chemo-preventive agent” is something that can inhibit, delay or reverse carcinogenesis.

Accordingly, there have been numerous studies of ginger on cancer prevention and treatment. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some drug companies marketing a ginger-derived anti-cancer drug soon.

To longevity and feeling good,

Michael Cutler, M.D.


  1. Ali B. H, Blunden G, Tanira M. O, Nemmar A. Some phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe): A review of recent research. — Food Chem Toxicol. 2008;46(2):409–20. Pubmed PMID: 17950516
  2. Wang S, Zhang C, Yang G, Yang Y. Biological properties of 6-gingerol: a brief review. — Nat Prod Commun. 2014 Jul;9(7):1027-30. Review. PubMed PMID: 25230520.
  3. Jiang H, Solyom A. M, Timmermann B. N, Gang D. R. Characterization of gingerol-related compounds in ginger rhizome (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) by high-performance liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. — Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2005;19(20):2957–64. Pubmed PMID:
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  9. Chapter 7: The Amazing and Mighty Ginger — Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.
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Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.