Ginger, a root that has always been used as a natural remedy for nausea and vomiting, is a spice known for its culinary uses as well as for its health implications. To date, there are over 400 bioactive components obtained from this root with a spicy, almost balsamic and spicy flavor. Let's find out together in the course of this article which are its potential supported by science and which instead remain among the "folk remedies".

Nutritional characteristics

Ginger (whose scientific name is Zingiber officinale ) is a popular flowering plant, whose rhizome (the root of ginger or ginger) is used for the preparation of the ginger that we all know, characterized by colors that vary from white to brown depending on scraping of the outside.

From a nutritional point of view, 100g of ginger provides only 80 kcal, and contains:

  • 18g of carbohydrates;
  • 1.8g of protein;
  • 0.8g of fat;
  • 415mg of potassium;
  • 13mg of sodium.

Totally absent of cholesterol, while there are several micronutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamins A, B and C. This root can be used to prepare herbal teas and decoctions, to flavor drinks and enrich the flavors of meats and also as a condiment for vegetables.

The richness of ginger and its bioactive elements

Over 400 bioactive components have been found in ginger. These chemical components have been grouped into several active constituents such as diarylethanoids, gingerol analogs, phenylalkanoids, sulfonates, monoterpenoid glycosides, steroids and terpene compounds.

A great deal of scientific evidence has revealed that ginger has a wide range of biological activities, in particular protective effects against male infertility, nausea and vomiting, analgesics, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity and others.

Pharmacological activities have been attributed to its active phytonutrients such as 6-gingerol, gingerdiol, gingerol, gingerdione, paradols, shogaols, sesquiterpenes, zingerone, and other phenols and flavonoids. In recent years, several studies have revealed that gingerol and shogaol have binding affinities with the receptor protein in pathological conditions such as diabetes, inflammation, obesity and even in the case of contracting the SARS-CoV-2 virus. .

Effects on health

Below is a summary of the scientific evidence on the use of ginger and some of its active compounds as beneficial agents for health, found after the analysis of clinical studies.

  1. Anti-inflammatory activity

    A number of studies have shown that ginger is effective in reducing inflammation and related ailments such as colitis. The anti-inflammatory effects seem to be mainly due to these 3 factors: PI3K (phosphoatidylinositol-3-kinase), Akt (protein kinase B) and NF-kB (Nuclear Factor K, activator of B cells), although other mechanisms of action are being studied and seem equally promising (such as the protective action of shogaol on TNF-α - Tumor Necrosis Factor α).
  2. Antioxidant activity

    It is well known that the activity of ROS (reactive oxygen species) plays an important role in the development of chronic diseases. There are several plant extracts with antioxidant action, including ginger. Thanks to its phenolic compounds, this spice shows in vitro to be able to reduce oxidative stress and to have a strong antioxidant Energy.
  3. Antimicrobial activity

    The results of the studies on ginger in terms of antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal efficacy show quite interesting implications. This root appears to be effective in reducing and limiting the growth of various pathogens, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa , Streptococcus mutans , Fusarium verticilloides , Aspergillus flavus and also the hepatitis C virus.
  4. Neuroprotective activity

    Some individuals, especially the elderly, are at risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD). Recently, several researches have revealed how ginger can positively affect memory and neuronal inflammation, activities that could contribute to the management and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.
  5. Cardiovascular protection

    Ginger is able to reduce blood fat levels and even blood pressure, contributing to the prevention of cardiovascular risks: this is what several studies report, which highlight improvements in HDL-C, TC, LDL, TG and VLDL levels. .
  6. Anti-obesity activity

    The compounds gingerenone A, shogaol and gingerol have shown in vitro and in vivo to exert an antiobesogenic action, through mechanisms linked to the inhibition of adipogenesis and the increase in the catabolism of fatty acids.
  7. Anti-diabetic activity

    In this case, studies on the effect of ginger have shown that its bioactive compounds can protect both from the onset of diabetes mellitus and its complications. Although the specific mechanisms are still being clarified, it is likely that ginger is able to decrease insulin levels in the body and at the same time increase its sensitivity (allowing the body to better manage blood sugar levels).
  8. Anti-nausea activity

    Ginger is traditionally used to treat gastrointestinal symptoms and recent research has shown its effectiveness as a sedative against nausea and vomiting. Also very valid as a remedy for nausea and emesis induced by pregnancy and chemotherapy.
  9. Protective activity against respiratory tract diseases

    In several studies, ginger and its extracts have been shown to have a bronchodilator and anti-hyperactivity action. The results indicate that some of its bioactive constituents, including gingerol and shogaol, have a protective action against respiratory disorders, mediating them through the relaxation of the smooth muscles of the airways and attenuating inflammation.

These results support the nutritional and therapeutic properties of ginger, which proves to be a spice to be held in high regard and which should never be missing in our pantries.

Ginger and immunity

Innate immunity is the defense system that protects us from attack by pathogens. It plays a key role in the onset of inflammation, which is triggered through several receptors (called PRR, TLR, CLR, NOD, NLR, and RAGE). The binding of foreign pathogens to these receptors is able to initiate various cell signaling pathways (such as NF-kB, MAPK, TBK1, IRF-3) which lead to the production of molecules called cytokines, which perform a pro- inflammatory.

6-gingerol and 6-shogaol have been reported to attenuate the production of pro-inflammatory molecules such as prostaglandins by suppressing enzymes called cyclooxygenases (COX-1 and COX-2).

Some of the properties attributed to ginger, such as the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial, make it a valuable ally for our immune system, which strengthens its ability to defend itself from external attacks and also from "dangerous" situations that can occur within the our body.

Scientific references

Unuofin JO, Masuku NP, Paimo OK, Lebelo SL. Ginger from Farmyard to Town: Nutritional and Pharmacological Applications. Front Pharmacol. 2021 Nov 26;12:779352. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2021.779352. PMID: 34899343; PMCID: PMC8661456.

Mao QQ, Xu XY, Cao SY, Gan RY, Corke H, Beta T, Li HB. Bioactive Compounds and Bioactivities of Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe). Foods. 2019 May 30;8(6):185. doi: 10.3390/foods8060185. PMID: 31151279; PMCID: PMC6616534

Ji K, Fang L, Zhao H, Li Q, Shi Y, Xu C, Wang Y, Du L, Wang J, Liu Q. Ginger Oleoresin Alleviated γ-Ray Irradiation-Induced Reactive Oxygen Species via the Nrf2 Protective Response in Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:1480294. doi: 10.1155/2017/1480294. Epub 2017 Oct 18. PMID: 29181121; PMCID: PMC5664313.

Poprac P, Jomova K, Simunkova M, Kollar V, Rhodes CJ, Valko M. Targeting Free Radicals in Oxidative Stress-Related Human Diseases. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2017 Jul;38(7):592-607. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2017 May 24. PMID: 28551354.

Fu L, Xu BT, Gan RY, Zhang Y, Xu XR, Xia EQ, Li HB. Total phenolic contents and antioxidant capacities of herbal and tea infusions. Int J Mol Sci. 2011;12(4):2112-24. doi: 10.3390/ijms12042112. Epub 2011 Mar 25. PMID: 21731430; PMCID: PMC3127106.

Hosseinzadeh A, Bahrampour Juybari K, Fatemi MJ, Kamarul T, Bagheri A, Tekiyehmaroof N, Sharifi AM. Protective Effect of Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) Extract against Oxidative Stress and Mitochondrial Apoptosis Induced by Interleukin-1β in Cultured Chondrocytes. Cells Tissues Organs. 2017;204(5-6):241-250. doi: 10.1159/000479789. Epub 2017 Sep 7. PMID: 28877520.

Luettig J, Rosenthal R, Lee IM, Krug SM, Schulzke JD. The ginger component 6-shogaol prevents TNF-α-induced barrier loss via inhibition of PI3K/Akt and NF-κB signaling. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016 Dec;60(12):2576-2586. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201600274. Epub 2016 Sep 16. PMID: 27487982.

Kim HS, Park HD. Ginger extract inhibits biofilm formation by Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA14. PLoS One. 2013 Sep 27;8(9):e76106. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076106. PMID: 24086697; PMCID: PMC3785436.

Hasan S, Danishuddin M, Khan AU. Inhibitory effect of zingiber officinale towards Streptococcus mutans virulence and caries development: in vitro and in vivo studies. BMC Microbiol. 2015 Jan 16;15(1):1. doi: 10.1186/s12866-014-0320-5. PMID: 25591663; PMCID: PMC4316655.

Park G, Kim HG, Ju MS, Ha SK, Park Y, Kim SY, Oh MS. 6-Shogaol, an active compound of ginger, protects dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson's disease models via anti-neuroinflammation. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2013 Sep;34(9):1131-9. doi: 10.1038/aps.2013.57. Epub 2013 Jul 1. PMID: 23811724; PMCID: PMC4003157.

Wu HC, Horng CT, Tsai SC, Lee YL, Hsu SC, Tsai YJ, Tsai FJ, Chiang JH, Kuo DH, Yang JS. Relaxant and vasoprotective effects of ginger extracts on porcine coronary arteries. Int J Mol Med. 2018 Apr;41(4):2420-2428. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2018.3380. Epub 2018 Jan 11. PMID: 29328426.

Kawamoto Y, Ueno Y, Nakahashi E, Obayashi M, Sugihara K, Qiao S, Iida M, Kumasaka MY, Yajima I, Goto Y, Ohgami N, Kato M, Takeda K. Prevention of allergic rhinitis by ginger and the molecular basis of immunosuppression by 6-gingerol through T cell inactivation. J Nutr Biochem. 2016 Jan;27:112-22. doi: 10.1016/jnutbio.2015.08.025. Epub 2015 Sep 1. PMID:26403321.