Ginger Monograph

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Infusing warmth and passion into the soul and the feeling, this aromatic is for the individual who has become apathetic, unmotivated and discouraged to the point of indifference, emotional coldness and downright depression.1

Holmes perfectly describes the warm, energizing qualities of ginger has on our psyche.

Synonyms

Another member of the same family is, Languas officinarum, known as ginger root or Chinese ginger.2

Family

Zingiberaceae

Botany and origins

Ginger is a tropical perennial herb growing 0.6 to 1.2 m high, with reed-like stems, lanceolate leaves and purple flowers. The stem grows directly from the thick tuberous rhizome, from which both the spice and essential oil are produced.2

Originally from India, ginger is now cultivated in India, China, most of South East Asia, many Pacific Ocean islands, Australia and the tropical regions of Africa.2

Method of extraction

Ginger oil is produced by steam distillation, occasionally by water and steam distillation of the dried, unpeeled, ground rhizomes of Zingiber officinale.

An oleoresin is produced by solvent extraction of the dried and unpeeled rhizome of Zingiber officinale since peeled ginger loses most of its essential oil content.3

Supercritical fluid extraction dissolves the aromatic and pungent principles from the powdered rhizomes in liquid carbon dioxide under pressure. Weiss states that this technique produces an extract that is considered near to the true ginger flavour and pungency.2

Characteristics

Ginger oil is a pale yellow to light amber coloured mobile liquid. Its odour is warm, but fresh-woody, spicy with a slight fresh top note. The sweet and heavy undertone is tenacious, sweet and rich, almost balsamic-floral.4

Ginger oleoresin and Ginger CO2 extract is a dark brown or very dark amber coloured, viscous liquid, with a warm-spicy, sweet aroma.4 

Much of the scent of ginger is due to the essential oil; however, its sharp, pungent taste is from the gingerols and shogaol. Schnaubelt suggests that the CO2 extract is best used in a blend. Whereas the steam distilled essential oil is warm, gentle and soft without the sharp components.5

Adulteration

Adulteration of ginger oil is not common.1,6

Historical and traditional uses

The Latin term Zingiber derives from the ancient Tamil root, ingiver, meaning ginger rhizome. The term ingiver spread to ancient Greece and Rome through the Arab traders, and from there to Western Europe. In 2nd century A.D. Rome, ginger was one of the very few commodities on which a duty was levied at Alexandria, the port of entry. In the Middle Ages, ginger was considered a privileged good. During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries next to pepper, ginger was the most common and most precious of spices.2

Ginger has been valued as a spice and medicinal plant since ancient times in India and in China. In India it was referred to as mahaoushadha and vishwabheshaja, literally meaning the great medicine and the universal cure respectively. Ginger was mentioned in the ancient Ayurvedic text of Charaka and Susruth.7

Ginger is used universally in traditional medicine as well as in modern medicine for the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy and for the prevention of travel and sea sickness. Many countries have approved ginger as a nonprescription drug for the prevention of motion sickness. It is also recognized as an anti-inflammatory drug beneficial for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.7

It is a vital ingredient in Chinese, Japanese and Indian cuisine as well as in the cuisines of many other Asian countries. Due to its universal appeal ginger has spread to most tropical and subtropical countries from the China-India region, where ginger cultivation originated.7

In Traditional Chinese Medicine ginger is used for colds and chills, both to promote sweating, expel mucous and stimulate the appetite. Dried ginger has been used to treat stomach ache, diarrhoea, nausea, cholera and bleeding.8

Ginger oleoresin is preferred for flavouring foods and beverages. It is used as a flavouring agent in baking goods, spice blends, meat sauces, candy, throat lozenges and carbonated soft drinks.4

Pharmacology and clinical studies

As a medicinal herb, ginger may be prepared by either decocting the fresh root or by preparing an alcoholic tincture or fluid extract with it. A tincture is considered the most complete preparation as it contains the essential oil constituents as well as the pungent alcohols, shogaol and gingerol found in the oleoresin.16

While it may be tempting to suggest that the essential oil and herbal extract have similar properties, Holmes points out that because the distilled essential oil contains no pungent components, the essential oil cannot have diaphoretic properties. He states that it is a waste of time using ginger essential oil as a diaphoretic at the onset of a cold.16

The oleoresin may be of interest to aromatherapists as it contains more of the pungent and warming components found in the herb. Gingerol and shogaol may have a local irritant effect on mucous membranes and it is possible that vascular stimulation that follows from taking ginger comes either from direct action on metarterioles or by reflex from sensory receptors at other sites.17

A considerable number of pharmacological studies involving the digestive, central nervous and cardiovascular systems have been reported for gingerol and shogoal. It has been identified that these constituents have potent inhibitory action against prostaglandin synthetase which corresponds with anti-inflammatory and anti-platelet aggregation.18

Clinical trials have shown that the oleoresin is a cholesterol lowering agent. Gingerol has been found to be a cholagogue and is a hepatoprotective agent.18,19

Antiemetic activity

Clinical trials have identified that ginger has antiemetic properties. Most of the trials revealed an activity superior to that of a placebo for motion sickness, postoperative nausea or morning sickness (at the usual of 1 gm per day). The antiemetic action may be a consequence of the direct stimulating effect on the gastrointestinal tract.19

A single-blind, controlled, randomized cross-over study assess the efficacy of inhaling ginger essential oil for the management of nausea, vomiting and health-related quality of life in breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. The evidence from this study found that inhaling ginger essential oil was not effective for alleviating nausea. However, the study confirmed that there was a significant improvement in the health-related quality of life.20

However, another double-blind trial involving 744 cancer patients found that oral supplementation of dried ginger powder at a daily dose of 0.5g – 1.0g significantly reduced the severity of acute chemotherapy-induced nausea in adult cancer patients.21

6-gingerol and 6-shogaol are implicated in ginger’s anti-nausea properties as they are found to suppress gastric contraction and increase both gastrointestinal motility and spontaneous peristaltic activity. Davis explains that this then reduces the gastrointestinal feedback to the central chemoreceptors, thus reducing the feeling of nausea.3

Postoperative nausea is a common complication of anaesthesia and surgery. Anti-emetic medication may reduce postoperative nausea but does not reliably prevent it. A randomized trial examined the benefits of aromatherapy in reducing postoperative nausea. Inhalation of ginger oil was found to be effective as a treatment for postoperative nausea.22

Anti-inflammatory activity

Davis cites studies involving the oral consumption of dried, powdered ginger for between 3 months and 2.5 years by patients with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis was able to provide relief of pain and swelling. The researchers suggested that the effects of ginger could be related to the inhibition of prostaglandin and leukotriene biosynthesis.3

6-gingerol and four gingerdione derivatives were identified as the main active compounds which are able to inhibit the biosynthesis of thromboxane and prostaglandin. Davis summarises the results of an in vitro assessment of two different supercritical fluid extracted ginger oils at Southern Cross University and found that both essential oils had significant anti-inflammatory activity. All of the known compounds [6]-gingerol, [8]-gingerol, [10]-gingerol and [6]-shogaol in ginger oil displayed potent anti-inflammatory activity. 10-gingerol, for example, had over twice the inhibitory activity of aspirin at 100µM concentration.3

When administered orally ginger oil exhibited anti-inflammatory activity in rats with induced severe chronic adjuvant arthritis.6

Oral administration of ginger essential oil for one month significantly increased superoxide dismutase, glutathione and glutathione reductase enzymes levels in the blood of mice and glutathione-S-transferase, glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase enzymes in the liver. Ginger oil produced significant reduction in acute inflammation produced by carrageenan and dextran and formalin induced chronic inflammation.23

Antimicrobial activity

Lis-Balchin cites studies that confirm the antibacterial activity of ginger is low. However, she states that the sesquiterpenes from ginger rhizomes have in vitro activity against rhinovirus IB.6

The antimicrobial activities of the essential oil and oleoresins of ginger were examined using various food-borne pathogenic fungal and bacterial species. The essential oil and the oleoresin both had good to moderate inhibitory activity; however the essential oil was found to be better than the oleoresin.24

Digestive activity

The pungent principles (6- gingerol and 10-gingerol) present in an extract of ginger were found to increase bile secretion and were responsible for the cholagogic effect of ginger. These pungent principles found in ginger were also reported to enhance gastrointestinal motility. A number of sesquiterpenes (β-bisabolene, ar-curcumene and α-zingiberene), 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol have been identified as having anti-ulcer effects in rats.25

Herbal Uses

The German Commission E recommends using the rhizome powder for gastrointestinal distress and to prevent motion sickness (2 gm/day). It is described as having antiemetic, positive inotropic and stimulant effects on intestinal peristalsis, salivary and gastric secretions.26

Nowadays ginger is used in herbal medicine as a carminative, diaphoretic and antispasmodic. It has been used for colic, flatulence, dyspepsia and intestinal colic. It is also effective in the prevention of nausea and vomiting, especially associated with motion sickness. It is also recommended in the treatment of inflammatory conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.6

Ginger has been shown to reduce pain associated with periods in women at doses of 1 g daily. The two-month placebo-controlled trial found that ginger was as effective as ibuprofen and mefenamic acid.27

The results of a systemic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials provided evidence for the effectiveness of ginger in treating primary dysmenorrhea. The research clearly demonstrates that 750-2000mg/day of dried powdered ginger during the first 3-4 days of the menstrual cycle provided very promising potential treatment for pain and discomfort associated with primary dysmenorrhea.28

Properties

Many aromatherapists suggest that ginger essential oil has analgesic, carminative, expectorant, febrifuge, rubefacient, stimulant, stomachic, sudorific and tonic.1,13,14,15

Aromatherapy uses

Circulatory system

Mojay describes ginger as a circulatory stimulant and tonic of the heart. It is recommended for poor circulation, cold hands and feet, cardiac fatigue and angina pectoris.29

Digestive system

Ginger stimulates and warms the digestive system; therefore it is indicated for poor digestion, abdominal distention and flatulence.1 Mojay says that it should be blended with Roman chamomile and sweet orange to relieve travel and morning sickness.29

Immune system

Holmes describes ginger as a good antiviral and immunostimulant agent and suggests using the oil or a tincture of ginger to treat the onset of colds and flu. He states that it has been shown to stimulate both T-lymphocytes and cell-mediated immunity. However, he goes on to say that it is less useful once the infection has set in and becomes bacterial.1

Musculoskeletal system

Ginger oil may be used in a compress or massage for rheumatism, arthritis and muscular pain of a cold contracting type.13,15,29

Psychological

Holmes recommends using ginger whenever we have poor motivation, low willpower, feel discouraged, suffer from burnout, confusion and feel emotionally empty and cold.  He states that it will promote motivation, courage and self-confidence.1

Zeck recommends using ginger when our body has become depleted of physical and emotional energy. When there has been a loss of energy on a physical and emotional level, this may lead to feelings of melancholy and grief for oneself. According to Zeck when you are not lasting the distance ginger will help build your strength and energy to succeed.30

Respiratory system

Ginger is recommended for catarrhal conditions, coughs, sinusitis and sore throats.13,15

Personality profile

Ginger is ideal for people who have clear plans and good intentions, but who lack the personal drive and optimism to manifest initiative and take real or immediate action. A ginger personality is a strong silent type. The character of ginger is warming, strengthening and encouraging.31

Worwood states that this personality can be very strong, masculine and forceful, however they are always respectful of other people’s personal space and they will never be possessive. Ginger personalities make good listeners, however they are not good conversationalists. She says that a ginger personality will expect you to do your own thing, just as they expect you to leave them alone to do theirs.31

Mojay says that ginger is ideal for those who have clear plans and good intentions, but who lack the personal drive and optimism to manifest initiative and take real or immediate action.29

Holmes says that the fragrance of ginger will increase willpower and clarity. He recommends it for conditions associated with loss of motivation and inner strength, especially when there is apathy, indecision and confusion.1

According to the principles of Myers Briggs, I would classify the ginger personality as an ISTJ.  ISTJs are very stable, responsible and dependable. They are very private, they like to be punctual, precise and are very orderly. They have good concentration and are difficult to distract. They find it hard to relax as they think that things that help relax are considered non-productive. They prefer simplicity to status. They enjoy being in nature.

Subtle aromatherapy

The scent of ginger will increase determination and clarity. It is recommended for conditions associated with loss of motivation, will or inner strength, especially when these present apathy, listlessness, indecision, confusion and disconnection.16

Holmes best describes the effect of ginger on the psyche:

Infusing warmth and passion into the soul and the feeling life, this aromatic is for the individual who has become apathetic, unmotivated and discouraged to the point of indifference, emotional coldness and downright depression.1

According to Holmes, ginger will help those individuals who have become emotionally withdrawn to become more fully present and passionate about the things they truly and deeply care for.1

Worwood describes ginger as a fragrance of valour and courage. She states that it will give strength and courage to those who are faint-hearted and weak.32

Ginger has a very strong affinity with the solar plexus chakra. This is the chakra that helps to strengthen our self-confidence and willpower.

Energetics

The properties of ginger are described as warming. Not only is this warming quality beneficial for stimulating arterial circulation, but it also helps dispel cold conditions associated with the digestive system, respiratory system and reproductive system.1,29

It has a warming and stimulating effect on the lungs and is ideally suited to treat chronic bronchitis. Ginger’s ability to tonify the Yang energy of the kidneys makes it a useful oil for relieving lower back pain associated with muscular fatigue.29

Holmes states that low sex drive, frigidity, fatigue, cold skin and extremities and apathy are also associated with Kidney Yang deficiency.1

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Five Elements, Mojay says that ginger will help strengthen the Will (Zhi). The Zhi is responsible for our willpower and determination. He therefore recommends ginger for;

Those who may have clear plans and intentions, but who lack the personal drive and optimism to manifest initiative and take real or immediate action. Such individuals tend to procrastinate and doubt themselves, waiting for others to spur them on. They are frequently disconnected from their physical body, and may shy away from vigorous and sustained activity. 29

According to the principles of Five Elements, ginger has a strong affinity with the Fire Element and it would also help to reduce Cold associated with the Water element. According to the principles of Ayurveda ginger has a strong stimulating effect on the Pitta dosha as such it is commonly advised to avoid ginger if you have strong Pitta dosha. Ginger is ideally suited to reduce excess Kapha.

How to use

Bath

Typically for a full body bath in a tub, use up to 5 drops of essential oils in the tub of warm water.  Foot or hand baths may be prepared by adding 2-3 drops of essential oil to a bowl of warm water.

I recommend avoiding the use of CO2 ginger extract in a bath as it may cause dermal irritation.

Massage

Use a 2.5% dilution of the appropriate blend of essential oils to the chosen carrier oil. A 2.5% dilution equates to 5 drops of essential oil to 10mL of carrier oil.

Inhalation

The best way to use essential oils for inhalation is by diffusing them. When you are using essential oils in an ultrasonic diffuser, please follow the instructions of the diffuser that you are using.

The pungent components in CO2 ginger extract can be irritating to the sinuses, so I would not recommend using it in a diffuser.

Blending tips

Perfumery

Ginger oil adds a warm, sensual note to any floral oil. It blends well with ylang ylang, rose absolute or jasmine absolute to create a rich oriental floral style perfume. Warm spice oils such as ginger blend so well with the vibrant citrus oil such as lemon, grapefruit, mandarin or sweet orange. Ginger oil blends well with Amyris, Virginian or atlas cedarwood, sandalwood, coriander seed and citrus oils to create a spicy woody masculine style perfume.

In flavour composition, the CO2 ginger extract blends very well with sweet orange and lime essential oils.4

Aromatherapy

For the relief of colds and flu associated with bronchial congestion ginger combines very well with all the leaf oils such as eucalyptus, lemon myrtle, pine or tea tree.

I recommend blending ginger with kunzea, fragonia, pine or rosemary to create a blend with analgesic and warming qualities to relieve muscular aches and pains.

Ginger with sweet orange or peppermint is the perfect combination to alleviate nausea. To help alleviate nausea and hiccups try blending ginger with sweet fennel, peppermint and cardamom.

Perfect Potion classics with ginger

I actually surprised myself to see how often I use ginger essential oil in Perfect Potion products. It is often not the main star ingredient but in just the right small amount it can add just the right amount of warmth and give a blend a lift.

Ginger together with lemongrass, black pepper and lime essential oils creates the lush tropical aroma of Thai Fusion Essential Oil Blend and Room Spray.

If you are feeling lethargic, suffer from fluid retention and often experience joint problems, your Kapha dosha may be out of balance. Ginger oil definitely plays a very import role in Kapha Essential Oil Blend to help to balance your excess Kapha energy.

Ginger’s warming and immune boosting properties make it useful together with essential oils such as eucalyptus, tea tree, lemon and pine in our classic Breathe Easy Essential Oil Blend and Breathe Easy Balm which helps alleviate colds and flu and bronchial congestion.

Kyoto Essential Oil Blend will magically transport you back to the back streets of Kyoto and into one of the many beautiful temples. Ginger oil infuses beautifully with other spice oils and the woody aromas of hiba, hinoki, sandalwood, cedarwood and vetiver essential oils.

Ginger essential oil provides our beautiful Green Goddess Essential Oil Blend with that hint of spiciness and warmth that enhances all the other oils in the blend, especially the florals.

Ginger resonates with the solar plexus chakra but also supports the base chakra and the sacral chakra. It therefore plays a very important role in our beautiful Chakra Balancing Range.

You will find ginger oil in two of our peace perfumes. In An, a dash of ginger oil was all that was needed to make rose otto and rose absolute warm our hearts. Shalom is my favorite – but I can only wear it in the cooler months. Its aroma is mysterious and it has such an intense sensual, spiritual feeling. This feeling was created with essential oils such as rock rose, benzoin, patchouli and rose absolute. Just a small amount of ginger was all that was needed to harmoniously balance these intense aromas.

Our Honey and Chai Double Cream feels so beautiful on the skin and smells divine. Ginger oil together with honey and cinnamon makes this double cream smell so good that you want to eat it.

Ginger is one of the many important ingredients in our Active Balm which helps ease  aching and tired muscles and joints. Together with essential oils such as lemon and peppermint, ginger makes Jet Setter Aromatic Mist the perfect travel companion.

Safety

There are no known hazards or contra indications associated with ginger oil. Ginger oil is non-toxic and non-irritant. When tested at 4% on 25 volunteers it had neither irritating nor sensitizing effect.33

References (see PDF)

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