This article corroborates what Chinese herbalists have observed over the centuries about ginger:
What are the benefits of ginger? A nutritionist explains why it’s so good for us (source: Stylist magazine)
Western science has determined that main active chemicals in ginger are gingerols and their derivates, shogaols and zingerones. These compounds have anti-oxidant, anti-fungal, anti-tumor, and general anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Gingerols stimulates glutathione activity, which is an essential compound the body uses for building and repairing tissue. And Gingerols increase insulin independent glucose uptake into cells, decrease fasting glucose and improve insulin sensitivity.
There are four classically listed herbal actions for ginger (or sheng jiang) in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM):
1.) “To release the exterior and disperse cold.”
WESTERN MEDICAL TRANSLATION: This essentially equates to disrupting the prodromal stage of viral infection. In Western medicine the prodromal stage describes the period after a virus has replicated enough to trigger your immune system, but before the onset of full blown symptoms.
POSSIBLE REASON IT WORKS: Gingerols have been shown to intervene in cell replication, stopping damaged and infected cells from growing.
2.) “To warm the middle burner” (which alleviates vomiting).
WESTERN MEDICAL TRANSLATION: The “middle burner” in TCM means the digestive system in Western medicine. And to “warm” means to bring digestive system back to normal function by restoring homeostasis (bringing the system’s parts back into equilibrium).
POSSIBLE REASON IT WORKS: Gingerols restore digestive homeostasis through anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects.
3.) “To warm the lungs” (which stops coughing).
WESTERN MEDICAL TRANSLATION: Just as with the digestive system, when TCM practitioners “warm the lungs” they are taking measures to bring the system of the lungs back into homeostasis.
POSSIBLE REASON IT WORKS: Since coughing is caused by inflammation of the lung tissue, the anti-inflammatory effects of Gingerols act directly to reduce this inflammation.
4.) To treat toxicity from the overdose of other herbs or from seafood poisoning.
POSSIBLE REASON IT WORKS: Gingerols are natural antioxidants, which can help neutralize toxic compounds in the body. In addition, Gingerols act specifically against Enterotoxigenic E. coli, the type of E. coli bacteria that causes diarrhea.
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