Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Zingiber officinale (Zingiberaceae) Ginger
(“Sheng Jiang” in Chinese, “Singabera” in Sanskrit)

Vitalist Actions and Energetics
Very hot, dry, vital stimulant, tonic, spicy, diffusive, warming diaphoretic

Clinical Actions
(Rhizome) aromatic, stomachic (salivary and gastric secretagogue effect), GI tonic and antiemetic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, platelet aggregation inhibitory, carminative, cholagogue, cholesterol reducing, mild cardiotonic, antispasmodic, antibacterial, antifungal, rubefacient (effects due to volatile oil and pungent principles), diaphoretic, anti-emetic, anti-spasmodic. Affects circulatory and digestive systems. Circulatory stimulant, digestive stimulant, emmenagogue, antiseptic.

Common Forms and Dosages

Tincture: 1:2 95% fresh rhizome. Take 30-60 gtts for acute nausea. Add to formulas as needed. (from 7song/ Michael Moore ratios)
1:4 60-80% dried rhizome (from Lisa Ganora’s book, “Herbal Constituents”). Energetically “hotter” (more stimulating) than fresh rhizome tincture.
Infusion: 28 g herb to 100 mL water, standard decoction- decoct fresh or dried rhizome for 20 minutes, then strain and add your other herbs and/ or honey. Drink as needed or desired.
Poultice: fresh sliced rhizome, placed directly on skin- see below in “primary uses”
Capsules: for morning sickness, take a 75 mg capsule every hour.
Essential oil: dilute 5 drops in 20 drops carrier oil and apply as needed (for arthritic aches and pains)

Primary Uses

Tea: during yoga teacher training, we drank ginger lemon tea every morning, after our morning kriya (cleansing) practices (usually neti). We started our days before the sunrise, meditating, cleansing, praying, and then practicing yoga asanas as the sun rose. The ginger lemon tea was very welcome in the morning cold. The ginger and lemon are both digestive stimulants. I could feel the heat of the ginger running all the way down to my extremities, and making my cheeks ruddy and pink. I would have regular morning poops, and be nice and hungry for breakfast!

At the first sign of sickness, my mom would make a lemon ginger decoction for me and my sister to drink. It helps to “move” the sickness or fever through the body more quickly by increasing circulation, and improving digestion and excretion.

Also used for nonulcer dyspepsia (with fullness, flatulence, minor cramps, heartburn, nausea), GI inflammation (chronic diarrhea, sluggish bowels, irritable bowel syndrome), and upper respiratory tract conditions (common cold, bronchitis, dry coughs), minor fatigue, high cholesterol, rheumatic complaints, and primary dysmenorrhea (take 1-2 days before menstruation, then 1-2 days into the cycle).

Food: used in Chinese cooking a lot, especially with toasted sesame seed oil and soy sauce. My grandmother says that vegetable dishes are commonly cooling, thus the ginger and sesame oil combo, which are both heating. The ginger is also a digestive stimulant and carminative. It is used throughout the year in traditional Chinese cuisine, but is especially prominently used in the winter, for increasing the core heat, and general circulation.

Ayurvedic Trikatu powder is sprinkled on food to stimulate digestive fire, with its diffusive and digestive qualities (equal parts ginger, black pepper, and long pepper)/

Tincture: for first aid, ginger tincture (30-60 gtts) and ginger candy is helpful with acute nausea, such as car-sickness. The stimulating hot nature of ginger makes it helpful to put into formulas as a “mover” too, to carry the medicine through the entire body, and to “warm” up people who are constitutionally or even emotionally “cold.”

Honey: Lisa Ganora puts ginger in her Arabic honey paste. (black pepper, tumeric, and ginger powders infused in honey.) The Arabic honey stimulates circulation, and is anti-inflammatory. Ginger honey can be used as a warming carminative treat, or can be rolled into honey balls (like ginger candy), for first aid use (or as a decadent indulgence). Ginger is also touted as an aphrodisiac, and commonly found in aphrodisiac formulas, which are usually sweet. The warming circulatory stimulant nature of the ginger infused in honey lends itself well to “heating up” the bedroom and making things “spicy.”

Essential oil: warming circulatory stimulant, topical analgesic (use in small quantities). Use for arthritic aches and pains, muscle soreness or spasms (warming anti-spasmodic), physical coldness, etc. My friend and teacher Lucy Mitchella put ginger with birch essential oil in her “Achey Brakey Salve,” along with comfrey, arnica, St. Johnswort, and yarrow infused in olive oil, beeswax, cayenne, and vitamin E. You can also add 5 drops into a bath for a circulatory stimulant bath. Or, 1-2 drops into a foot soak, to bring heat to your feet and extremities, before going to bed on a cold night, for a constitutionally cold or sick person.

Poultice (topical): (used in folk Chinese medicine, along with acupuncture and moxibustion on the same points, by laying the ginger over the acupuncture points, needling the points, then setting moxa on fire, atop the needles. Or, the moxa can just lay directly on the ginger.) This is used in cases of extreme dampness or coldness, where much stimulation is desired at a certain point. The circulatory stimulant effect of the ginger accentuates the moxa and acupuncture treatment with added heat, further drawing the focus of the treatment to the said area.

Volatile oil (zingiberene, bisabolene, etc), pungent principles (mostly aryl-alkanones: gingerols, shogaols, diaryl-heptanoids), lipids, glycolipids, starch, etc. Shogaols are more pungent than gingerols. They’re formed from gingerols during drying and storage of the root in good conditions, and during the production of the oleoresin. Poorly dried and stored ginger mostly just contains the non-pungent zingerone. Dried ginger is more heating than fresh ginger.

Cautions and Contraindications
Check with health professional before using with gallstones.

Personal Experience

I never really thought of ginger as a medicine. Growing up, it was always just “that root” that we dug out of every meal, grimacing as we accidentally chewed into it, always surprised with the strength and heat of its bite. “Why do you put ginger into everything?” I’d ask my mom, gingerly picking even the smallest pieces out of my food. She’d shake her head, with no answer.

After traveling to Taiwan and spending time with my grandmothers Ama and Nainai, I finally realized why ginger went into all of our meals, and was always present on the kitchen counter: my grandmothers do the same thing. Their mothers and grandmothers probably did the same thing, too. Ginger is a staple of the Chinese and Taiwanese diet. Racist yet realistic: what makes Chinese food, well... Chinese food? Answer: ginger, sesame oil, and soy sauce. These things that I have eaten all my life, and consequently carry with me wherever I wander, too. Roots run deep. Rhizomes spread wide...

Ama and Nainai both put extra ginger into the foods that they cooked for me. They’d grate the raw root over less well-cooked dishes, but usually it was just the fresh root cut into big slices, about 1-3 slices thrown into each place of vegetables, or soups. They explained that because I am vegetarian, my body tends toward cold. Vegetable dishes tend toward cold energetics. Putting ginger in the food helps to warm it, to balance the foods as they enter the body. They would put in extra ginger during the winter season, too. When I got sick, my mom would make ginger decoction, with a splash of lemon thrown in at the end, and honey to balance it out. I remember drinking a whole pot of this tea once when I was sick, then getting wrapped into blankets and sent to bed. I woke up hot, sweaty, uncomfortable... and over m ffever.

We often use ginger tincture in formulas to “move” the formula through the entire body, via its heating and circulatory stimulant actions. Ginger is a great corrigent, a rhizome to help bring balance and unity to a formula, “activating” or “potentiating” the formula.

Wild ginger flowers (unsure if Zingiber spp.) grew profusely along the trails of the Yangmingshan mountains above Taipei, Taiwan. They enjoy the edge of jungle, between the wilderness and civilization. They smell intoxicating: powerfully sweet, almost cloying, completely exuberant. My elder Aji would pick these flowers (called “Ye Jiang Hua” in Chinese), and place just one sprig in the center of her house. The bright white color of the flowers with the almost neon green stem of the plant, with its graceful lines and shapes, would visibly brighten up the energy of the old wooden room, with all its earthen ceramic tea cups and pots, and all the old instruments sitting against walls, the grass mat on the floor where I practiced yoga. Within a few minutes of placing the flowers in the room, the entire room would smell like the Ye Jiang Hua aroma, and the smell and beauty would last for about a week. (I checked online on the National Taiwan Normal University plants database site, and found 5 Zingiber species plants in Taiwan.)

7song likes to carry ginger candy with him on roadtrips, and in his first aid kit. Most of the first aid medicine are strong tinctures, quick acting and slightly allopathic. The ginger candy is sweet though, something I’d chew on whether or not I needed it. It’s one of his favorite medicines for car-sickness or nausea, one of the first lines of defense against these things, then secondarily backed up with peppermint spirits, if needed.

It’s one of my favorite tinctures to use in “Gas-Ease” tincture blends, or digestive bitters: to stimulate digestion, heat the body, ease putrid gassiness due to undigested food, and energetic coldness stemming from the GI.

Through these two weeks of working with ginger, I made ginger vinegar, and used that as my salad dressing. It helped to heat the cold energetics of the salad, and I find the warming slightly spicy taste of ginger delicious, and pleasing. I drank ginger teas, put it into my kombucha, and continued to cook with it everyday. I like pairing it with other heating herbs during cooking, to bring more heat into my food, with slightly different tastes. The weather is still mostly cool, so this helps with the current temperatures. I paired it with tumeric, black pepper, and rosemary, in its powdered form (which provides more heat). I finely chopped ginger into my beet-carrot-ginger-kraut, which turned out delicious, warming, and nourishing.

My body tends toward cold, since I am a vegetarian, and grew up in a warm climate (my body is used to a warmer environment.) Eating ginger daily is part of my life. For clients, I would use ginger for people with cooler constitutions as well, or to balance, potentiate, or heat a formula. It’s a commonly found plant that is a food, medicine, and pretty well known.

My next steps with this plant: grow an indoor ginger plant, rub myself down with ginger oil tonight, take a ginger bath, take an energetic dose of ginger tincture, then go to sleep.

Spicy gingery dreams to you! Yeow!

Pairs and Triplets
Zingiber officinale and Amygdalus (scalding urine- Cook)
Zingiber officinale and Apocynum, Pimpinella (sluggish liver without irritability, wiry pulse, or piles- Cook)
Zingiber officinale and Arctium (for diffusive effects- Priest)
Zingiber officinale and Caulophyllum, Dioscorea (colic- Cook)
Zingiber officinale and Gentiana (digestive bitter- DHC)
Zingiber officinale and Gentiana, Rheum palmatum (digestive bitter- BHP)
Zingiber officinale and Juglands cin. (chronic constipation- Priest)
Zingiber officinale and Leonurus, Caulophyllum (premenstrual tension, congestive amenorrhea, or dysmenorrhea- Priest)
Zingiber officinale and Lobelia (fever- Cook)
Zingiber officinale and Matricaria, Alpinia (suppressed menstruation- Priest)
Zingiber officinale and Commiphora, Aloe spicata (emmenagogue, cathartic- Cook)
Zingiber officinale and Nepeta (childhood fevers- Priest)
Zingiber officinale and Prodophyllum, Glycyrrhiza (jaundice- Shook)
Zingiber officinale and Rheum off., Dioscorea (full catharsis- Priest)
Zingiber officinale and Valeriana, Dioscorea (colic- Priest)
Zingiber officinale and Apocynum, Rhamnus purshiana (jaundice- Clymer)
Zingiber officinale and Myica (circulatory stimulant and diaphoretic- Clymer)


Formula 1- 大補湯 (“Da Bu Tang”- Big Nourishing Soup) (decoction)
Zingiber Officinale (ginger) (4 slices of fresh root)
Angelica sinensis (dang gui) (1/2 slice dried root)
Lycium barbarum (goji) (1/2 handful)
Ziziphus jujuba (jujube dates) (8 dates, per person)
Astragalus membranaceous (astragalus) (8 slices dried root)
Codonopsis pilosula (dang shen) (4 slices dried root)
Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng) (2 slices dried root)

Proportions are for a 3 Liter pot of soup. They are not written in grams, because the amounts of each herb are so small, that it’s difficult to measure. Handle this recipe according to the folk method, get used to the herbs, and figure out a way that works for you. Also traditionally, some things like the Jujube are not meant to be overeaten... it’s said that you can only eat 8 jujubes everyday. Otherwise, it’s too heating, and you may develop mouth blisters over time.

Soak all the ingredients either overnight or all day, then bring the water to a boil. Let decoct on low heat for at least 30 minutes, if not longer. (The longer, the better.) You can add more vegetables and/ or protein sources to the soup, or make extra and freeze it as soup stock. It tastes good ladled over noodles for a Chinese Medicine noodle soup, but my favorite way to make this (it feels most nourishing) is with a diversity of vegetables and protein sources thrown in, for a hearty Medicine Stew.

You can drink this once a week, or once every other week. Taken too often, it might be too heating and stimulating. It depends on the person’s constitution.

Other suggestions:
For vegetables, I like to add root veggies, such as carrots, daikon radish, potatoes, etc. Seaweed, black fungus, and mushrooms are traditionally added into this stew, too. Protein is usually added in the form of meat or tofu, though I like to add half a cup of beans or grains to thicken the stew. Miso complements the above tastes well.

Fallopia multifora (He Shou Wu, or Fo Ti) can be added to the above ingredients to create a dark richly colored soup with a slight astringency and bitterness, and deep Earthy grounded nature; intense and delicious. I’d add 2 slices of the He Shou Wu to the above ingredients for a different stew.

To make a sweet soup, I would take the above ingredients, and additionally add lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) seed and/ or root, brown sugar or honey, raisins, more goji and jujube, Bai mu er (Tremella fuciformis), longan (Dymocarpus longana), and rice. (Pick and choose from the above ingredients. I wouldn’t add all of them. But I gave you this list, so that you have options.) I would would cook it for a long time, to make a congee (rice porridge).

I love traditional Chinese food, especially foods that integrate medicine with nutrition... which is what most traditional Chinese foods do, balancing energetics and deliciousness. Hooray for ancestral knowledge!

Client Description 1
This soup is helpful for bringing circulation and warmth to the entire body as a nourishing chi tonic and gentle stimulant. It’s helpful for releasing cold: helping with people of cold constitutions, helping get warm in cold temperatures, etc. Ginger, Dang Gui, and Ginseng are all strongly heating. Goji, Jujube, Astragalu, and Dang Shen are more gently warming. But, the entire soup formula heats the system. It’s helpful for someone who is weak, has lack of tone or energy, and is prone to cold or sickness. It’s said to increase resistance to both physiological and emotional stress.

Do NOT drink this soup if you are sick. The heating and tonifying herbs in this soup are too stimulating for one who is sick already. If one has an auto-immune disease, then consult with your healthcare provider before drinking this soup, as it contains immuno-modulating herbs.
Also, do not drink this soup during menstruation. The Jujube and Dang Gui are emmenagogues, and may increase menstrual flow. They are said to “overheat” the body during menstruation.


Formula 2- Digestive Bitters (Tincture)
Artemisia vulgaris (Mugwort)- 0.5 pt (7.5 mL)
Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion root)- 1 pt (15 mL)
Arctium lappa (Burdock root)- 0.5 pt (7.5 mL)
Zingiber Officinale (Ginger rhizome)- 0.25 pt (3.75 mL)
Achillea millefolium (Yarrow leaf and flower)- 0.25 pt (3.75 mL)
Echinacea purpurea (Echinacea root)- 0.25 pt (3.75 mL)
Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet flower and leaf)- 0.25 pt (3.75 mL)
Matricaria recutita (Chamomile flower)- 0.5 pt (7.5 mL)
Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi leaf)- 0.25 pt (3.75 mL)
Cinnamomum cassia (Cinammon bark)- 0.25 pt (3.75 mL)

Proportions are for a 2 oz. bottle of tincture, to carry around.

Take 30 gtts (1 dropperful) 10 minutes before meals, while traveling, or while feeling constipated.

Client Description 2
This digestive bitters travelers’ tincture is for myself. It is also helpful for anyone who tends toward a cold constitution, or tends to eat more energetically cold foods. (I am a vegetarian). It’s a rather complicated formula. Many things can be taken out or lumped together; I just wanted to attack symptoms and support the being on many different levels, thus all the ingredients. The Dandelion or Burdock can be substituted for one another, as can the Meadowsweet or Chamomile. The Tulsi and Chamomile help the client deal with the stress of travel, while Echinacea boosts the immune system, and Yarrow helps to kill negatory organisms in the body, and provide an energetic boundary to negatory influences. Cinnamon and Ginger are warming corrigents that help to circulate the bitters through the system. The stimulating nature of Ginger helps to carry the bitters Mugwort, Dandelion, Burdock, and Yarrow through the body. All of the herbs in this formula hhave a relationship with the digestion. The leading herbs are the bitter, stimulant, and nutritive herbs: Mugwort, Dandelion, and Burdock. The adjuvant herbs in this formula are vulnerary, relaxant, and carminative: Meadowsweet, Chamomile, and Tulsi. The corrigents of this formula are immune support, antibiotic, and circulatory stimulants: Yarrow, Echinacea, Cinammon, and Ginger. This formula helps when one has lack of diversity in foods during travel, while ingesting more potential food allergens that cause gaseousness and a tendency towards constipation or bloating. There is a feeling of never being fully satiated with food, lack of proper balanced nutrition. I would give cold-constitution constipation-prone traveler this digestive bitter formula, along with directions for preparing good travel food: dried nuts, seeds, and fruits, and a good supply of chia and spirulina.


Formula 3- Aphrodisiac Elixir
Rosa rugosa (Rose petal honey)- 2 pts (333 mL)
Damiana turnera (Damiana leaf tincture)- 1 pts (166.5 mL)
Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi honey)- 1 pts (166.5 mL)
Theobroma cacao (Cacao infused into all)- 0.5 pts (83.25 mL)
Lepidium meyenii (Maca infused into all)- 0.5 pts (83.25 mL)
Zingiber Officinale (Ginger rhizome tincture)- 0.25 pts (41.6 mL)
Amomum costatum (Cardamon infused into all)- 0.25 pts (41.6 mL)
Cinnamomum cassia (Cinnamon tincture)- 0.25 pts (41.6 mL)
Vanilla planifolia (Vanilla bean infused into all)- 0.25 pts (41.6 mL)
Capsicum annuum (Cayenne)- 2 drops tincture per 1 oz medicine (33 gtts)

Directions for making the elixir:
Mix Damiana and Ginger tincture together, then add to the tincture: Caco, Maca, Cardamon, Cinnamon, and Vanilla. Let infuse for two weeks, then strain out the herbs.
Add all of the tinctures infused (brandy or other tasty alcohol preferred) together, then stir in the Rose and Tulsi honeys and Capsicum.

The proportions are for 1 Liter (1000 mL) of Elixir. I would keep a 2 oz bottle of this Elixir near the bedside, within easy reach.

Take 30 gtts as needed or desired.

Client Description 3
This warming and gently stimulating Aphrodisiac Elixir helps “warm up” constitutionally cold people. Rose, Damian, and Tulsi are relaxing, whereas most of the other herbs in this formula are various stripes of stimulating. Cacao and Maca also add some grounding nutritious support to the blend. Ginger, Cardamon, and Cinammon are commonly occuring herbs in chai, which is a warming circulatory stimulant. Cacao, Maca, Rose, and Damiana are traditionally used in Aphrodisiac formulas. Rose gently opens the heart. Damiana is a lovely combo of relaxing and exciting. Tulsi provides some digestive support, and opens the heart through relaxing the belly, as a mild carminative. Cacao is exciting, Earthy, grounding, and sexy. With vanilla also in the formula, there is a richness of tone. Cacao, rose, and ginger make a great trio: stimulating, relaxing, and warming. Ginger and Cayenne are the two energetically “hottest” herbs in the formula, circulatory stimulants that get the blood moving to where it needs to go: everywhere! The energetics of the formula are pretty well balanced, but slightly more warming, rather than cooling. But, it’s a gentle enough formula for anyone who wants a little bedroom support, a luxurious and delicious Elixir to increase enjoyment through simultaneous stimulation and relaxation of the heart, body, mind, and spirit. YUM!

For a person who is already over-stimulated or overly “hot,” such as a person of vata tendencies, I may reduce the amount of honey in this formula, and add more of the relaxing herbs, less of the stimulating herbs. Otherwise, enjoy. It’s a safe formula, and absolutely delicious... in a very sexy way.

Resources Cited
Herbal Vade Mecum, Skenderi, pg. 169
Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Chevallier, pg. 155
Planetary Herbology, Tierra, pg. 153-154, 244
Herbal Pairs Database, Bergner, pg. 34-35
Actions Database (http://naimh.com/Actions/naimh-actions-database.htm)
National Taiwan Normal University plants database (http://tai2.ntu.edu.tw/PlantInfo.php)

(photo from during the ginger honey making process)