Ginger: The “Universal Medicine”
My study of essential oils began in early 2018 when a friend of mine posted on social media a list of essential oils for post-workout inflammation and pain relief. I had started to live a more holistic lifestyle, one that incorporated a daily exercise routine, and was intrigued by the possibility of enhancing my wellness practice with essential oils. One of the first oils I purchased was ginger (Zingiber officinale). I was familiar with the ginger root as I enjoyed using raw ginger in smoothies and soup recipes. But as I began to research muscle massage oils to use post-workout, I was intrigued by the abundance of formulations that used ginger essential oil for its warming properties. I was also riveted by the claims that the scent could promote an uplifting, energy push when used aromatically. These recipes and claims sparked my interest and captivated my attention, so I began scouring the web to find out more about this amazing root.
Regarded as the “universal medicine” (or “vishwabheshaja”) in Ayurvedic medicine, ginger is widely consulted to help with digestion, nausea and vomiting (Castro, n.d.) and has been used as a digestive aid for over 2,000 years (Penn State Health, 2011). There are several documented ways to use ginger to ward off symptoms of nausea and digestion upset, including aromatically, topically and internally. Aromatically, ginger essential oil can be diffused or added to a bowl of steaming hot water (i.e. the bowl method) and inhaled to help alleviate nausea (Worwood, 2016). Topically, it can be applied (with a carrier oil) to pressure points, including wrists and behind the ears, to ease nausea discomfort. Massage can also be beneficial in easing the discomfort of stomach issues by applying ginger essential oil diluted with fractionated coconut oil to the abdomen and rubbing the abdomen. Internally, raw ginger root can be chewed to help ease nausea (Alyana, 2017) and also added to boiling water to make ginger tea or ginger water to sooth the stomach (Link, 2018). Although scientific studies vary in their findings on how well ginger actually works to relieve nausea, it is worth noting that some studies have found that ginger worked better than a placebo to relieve symptoms of both morning sickness and motion sickness (Penn State Health, 2011).
Considered to be a “super herb” by some (Alyana, 2017), ginger is renowned by holistic practitioners around the globe for its versatile medicinal uses (Link, 2018). In recent studies, ginger is found to have analgesic, anti-spasmodic, and anti-inflammatory properties (Castro, n.d.). For example, Black, Herring, Hurley and O’Connor (2010) found that patients who consumed raw ginger experienced a significant reduction in muscle pain post-workout. The findings also supported other claims that ginger decreased sensitively to pain in osteoarthritis patients. This is a profound discovery for the practice of alternative medicine because it provided scientific proof that natural herbs can help ease the discomfort of people suffering from muscle and joint pain.
Ginger is closely related to turmeric and cardamom, two herbs also known for their anti-inflammatory properties, and contains a list of anti-inflammatory compounds, such as gingerol, shogaol, paradol and zingerone (Link, 2018). It contains a high content of Sesquiterpenes, categorizing it as a soothing oil for pain and inflammation (Pompeii Organics, 2019); Ylang Ylang and Myrrh are also a part of this chemical family and are considered two of the most calming and uplifting oils out there.
I currently enjoy ginger essential oil topically and aromatically, and although I’ve read that you can take it internally to promote digestive, muscle and joint health, I discourage this practice unless under the care and supervision of a certified aromatherapist or medical doctor. There are adverse side effects that can result from an internal overuse of ginger, including but not limited to complications with blood-thinning medications, irregular heartbeat, hypoglycemia due to complications with diabetes medications, stomach upset, mild heartburn, and gas (Penn State Health, 2011). Topically, sensitivity to ginger can show up as symptoms similar to food allergies, such as hives and swelling. Essential oils are highly concentrated; therefore, it is always recommended to dilute with a carrier oil to avoid skin sensitivity.
Research on ginger has only scratched the surface and more studies are needed to uncover the many health benefits this root has to offer. The more I learn about ginger, the more I want to find creative ways to enjoy it aromatically in my diffuser and topically as a nice muscle massage. It’s no wonder so many of the roller bottle recipes found online for muscle pain call for ginger, as well as massage oils for arthritis and menstrual pain. Although I’ve just recently started using ginger essential oil for muscle and joint inflammation, I look forward to discovering more ways to incorporate this “super herb” into my daily routine.
Bio: Deirdre Marsac’s love for nature and native plants has manifested into a passion for learning about essential oils, aromatherapy and herbalism. She enjoys sharing her knowledge of essential oils with family and friends, and hopes to one day start an ecommerce business sharing recipes and blends with clients across the United States. She will be joining the U.S. Navy this summer, and lives with her U.S. Marine husband and German Shepard Leo in southern California.
Alyana, S. (2017). 5 ways to use ginger as a super herb. Retrieved from
Black, C. D., Herring, M. P., Hurley, D. J., & O’Connor, P. J. (2010). Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces muscle pain caused by eccentric exercise [Abstract]. The Journal of Pain, 11(9), 894-903. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2009.12.013
Castro, B. (n.d.). Ginger: An ancient panacea for modern times. Retrieved from
Link MS RD, R. (2018). 12 major benefits of ginger for body and brain. Retrieved from
Penn State Health. (2011). Ginger. Retrieved from
Pompeii Organics. (2019). Ginger, fresh essential oil. Retrieved from
Worwood, V. A. (2016). The complete book of essential oils and aromatherapy: Over 800 natural, nontoxic, and fragrant recipes to create health, beauty, and safe home and work environments (25th anniversary ed.). Novato, CA: New World Library.
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