What is Ginger?

This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!


Ginger (Rhizome)

What it is:

Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) is a 2-4 foot tall flowering plant with grass-like leaves that reach up to a foot in length. The underground root (aka rhizome) is what’s harvested for commercial use (1). Traditionally, the rhizome is gathered when the plant withers and the stalk tips over (2). Then it’s cleaned, cured, and shipped (2).   

What it does:

You’re probably familiar with ginger as it’s used in foods and beverages: gingerbread cookies, ginger ale, ginger chicken – there are tons of ways to enjoy its warm, spicy flavor. And people have been enjoying it for a long, long time. Ginger is native to Asia where it’s been used as a culinary spice for at least 4,400 years (3). But it’s not just a tasty spice. The Chinese have used ginger as an herbal remedy for at least 2,500 years (1). Today, ginger is used worldwide in foods, condiments, baked confections, candies, beverages, cosmetics, perfumes, supplements, and herbal remedies (4).

Why we use it:

Research is on-going in regards to the potential benefits of ginger, but one that’s been touted for millennia is it’s ability to calm upset stomachs, which is why you’ll find it in our prenatal multi-vitamins (1,3,5-8). With such a long history of safe (and tasty!) use, we’re looking forward to seeing what other beneficial uses the research may uncover.


  1. Kemper, K. J. (1999). Ginger (Zingiber officinale). Longwood Herbal Task Force, Available at: http://www. mcp. edu/herbal/default. htm, 1-18.
  2. Nishina, M. S., Sato, D. M., Nishijima, W. T., & Mau, R. F. L. (1992). Ginger root production in Hawaii. Retrieved January 12, 2016, from http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/CFS-GIN-3A.pdf
  3. Ginger. (n.d.). Retrieved January 12, 2016, from https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/ginger  
  4. Medicinal Spices Exhibit – UCLA Biomedical Library: History & Special Collections. (n.d.). Retrieved January 12, 2016, from https://unitproj.library.ucla.edu/biomed/spice/index.cfm?displayID=15
  5. Ali, B. H., Blunden, G., Tanira, M. O., & Nemmar, A. (2008). Some phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe): a review of recent research. Food and chemical Toxicology, 46(2), 409-420.
  6. Smith, C., Crowther, C., Willson, K., Hotham, N., & McMillian, V. (2004). A randomized controlled trial of ginger to treat nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 103(4), 639-645.
  7. Borrelli, F., Capasso, R., Aviello, G., Pittler, M. H., & Izzo, A. A. (2005). Effectiveness and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting. Obstetrics & gynecology, 105(4), 849-856.
  8. Vutyavanich, T., Kraisarin, T., & Ruangsri, R. A. (2001). Ginger for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: randomized, double‐masked, placebo‐controlled trial. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 97(4), 577-582.
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