Ginger Oil: Benefits, Uses, Properties, and Side Effects
From being a baker’s favorite to treating various ailments, the ginger oil benefits are abundant. When we say “ginger essential oil,” you might wonder if this could be used in the form of essential oil as well.
Not many are aware that besides ginger being used as a herb, it can also be used in its potent oil form. On that note, let’s comprehend its health benefits, properties, chemical structure, usage, and much more.
What Is Ginger Oil?
The ginger essential oil is obtained from the rhizomes of Zingiber officinale. It is a flowering plant that belongs to the family called Zingiberaceae. It is one of the most commonly consumed spices in the world.
Ginger is a perennial herb with its roots extending downwards. Long, thin, reed-like leaves and edible rhizomes characterize the plant (1).
For the extraction of essential oil, the rhizomes are dried for a couple of weeks after harvesting.
The concentration of the essential oil increases with the age of the ginger used. If the essential oil extraction is the primary purpose, then ginger is harvested for nine months or longer. The dried ginger is then crushed and dried again. It is sieved before steam distillation.
The plant is indigenous to warm tropical climates and is spread throughout Asia. China, India, Sri Lanka, and the Caribbean are the principal places of production.
The spice has been used traditionally to regulate menstruation, heartbeat, enhance digestion and treat various gastrointestinal problems. The medicinal uses of ginger essential oil are similar to the spice itself (2).
Apart from its medicinal uses, the ginger essential oil is a key ingredient in exotic and oriental-type perfumes. The spice is also used in food industries as a flavoring agent in both sweet & savory dishes. It is also used in making ginger beer and wine.
Scientific Name Of Ginger Oil
The botanical name of ginger is Zingiber officinale.
History Of Ginger Oil
Though the actual origin of ginger is not known, it is believed that the Indians and Chinese cultivated ginger for over 5000 years. It has been an integral part of traditional medical systems since ancient times.
People in those days used ginger to treat a plethora of ailments. However, the plant doesn’t grow in the wild.
The spice is called “srngaveram” in Sanskrit, which translates “horn root” for its appearance. In Greek, it was called “ziggiberis” and in Latin “zinziberi.” The present name ginger comes from the middle English term “gingivere.”
In India, the spice was used as a tonic and a common flavoring agent from the earlier times. Besides being a medicinal spice, ginger played an essential role in trade and commerce.
Considering its importance and popularity, the Roman Empire imported ginger from India over 2000 years ago. Ginger was valued for its medicinal properties in the entire Roman Empire.
Even after the fall of the Roman Empire, ginger continued to be the most sought-after commodity in Europe. During those times, the Arab merchants controlled the trade of ginger and other spices for centuries.
In the medieval times, ginger was primarily imported to be used in sweets. In some period of history, it is documented that only the rich could afford ginger. It is said that in the 13th and 14th centuries, the value of 1 pound of ginger was equivalent to the cost of a sheep.
Colour, Consistency, and Smell Of Ginger Oil
- The color of ginger oil is pale yellow to dark yellow.
- The consistency of ginger oil is thin.
- The smell of ginger oil is warm, earthy, and spicy.
Properties Of Ginger Essential Oil
The therapeutic properties of ginger essential oil include:
- Analgesic – Reduces pain sensation
- Anti-inflammatory – Alleviates inflammation
- Antimicrobial – Prevents microorganism growth
- Anti-bacterial – Prevents bacterial growth
- Antidepressant – Alleviates depression
- Antiseptic – Destroys microbes and prevents their development
- Antispasmodic – Prevents or relieves spasms, convulsions, or contractions
- Antitussive – Relieves coughs
- Antioxidant – Inhibits oxidation
- Carminative – Relieves flatulence, easing abdominal pain and bloating
- Circulatory – Promotes the flow of blood and lymph
- Expectorant – Promotes the removal of mucus from the body
- Febrifuge – An antifebrile (anti-fever) agent
- Immuno-stimulant – Stimulates the action of the immune system
- Laxative – Assists in bowel elimination
- Pectoral – Beneficial for diseases or conditions of the chest and respiratory system
- Stimulant – Increases the overall function of the body
- Stomachic – Good for the stomach; gastric tonic, digestive aid
- Thermogenic – Stimulates heat production
Chemical Compounds In Ginger Oil
The chemical components and its composition vary according to the area of cultivation (3).
The major components present in the ginger essential oil (cultivated in China) include Zingiberene 38.1%, ar-Curcumene 17.1%, b-Sesquiphellandrene 7.2%, Camphene 4.7%, b-Bisabolene 5.2%, b-Phellandrene 2.5%, Borneol 2.2%, 1,8-Cineole 2.1%, a-Pinene 1.3%, and b-Elemene 1.2%.
The major components found in the essential oil extracted from Indian ginger include Zingiberene 40.2%, ar-Curcumene 17.1%, b-Sesquiphellandrene 7.3%, b-Bisabolene 6.0%, Camphene 4.5%, b-Phellandrene 3.4%, Borneol 2.8%, 1,8-Cineole 1.7%, a-Pinene 1.4%, and 2-Undecanone 1.4%.
Health Benefits Of Ginger Oil
Though the ginger oil benefits are numerous, the most notable ones include:
1. Effective for arthritis
Ginger has been traditionally used to treat inflammation-related illnesses. It has been a significant remedy for joint pains and rheumatic arthritis.
When studies were done to find the anti-inflammatory effect of ginger essential oil in rats, it was observed that it significantly inhibited the chronic phase of arthritis and decreased the swelling of joints (4).
You can make a massage mixture by blending 3 to 4 drops of ginger oil with 2 drops of lavender oil, 2 drops of rosemary oil, and 2 tablespoons of suitable carrier oil. Apply it on the painful joints and let it sit for a few minutes.
2. Relieves sinus congestion
There are about 14 – 16 air-filled sinus cavities in the skull. Usually, a small amount of mucus (present in the sinus) helps filter the bacteria and germs in the air that we breathe in. Thus, preventing it from entering the respiratory tract.
However, when the cavities are inflamed, there is an excessive mucus secretion, causing sinus congestion in return. Sinus congestion may lead to conditions like cough, nausea, sore throat, or diarrhea.
However, do not apply the oil directly on your face, as it is highly potent and irritates the skin. You can use ginger essential oil as one of the ingredients for steam inhalation but in minimal quantity. For best aromatherapy benefits, diffuse and inhale the spicy aroma of ginger oil.
3. Alleviates menstrual cramps
Menstrual cramps is one of the most common problems women face and can be highly discomforting. While a healthy lifestyle, nutritious diet, regular physical exercise, and good mental health gives a long-term relief from this issue, ginger essential oil relieves it in a few minutes.
Ginger essential oil stimulates the menstrual flow and regularizes the cycle. A gentle massage of the oil on your lower abdomen can do wonders to the health. It is a potential expectorant, analgesic, and anti-depressant (8).
You can use ginger essential oil for a therapeutic bath during menstrual times. It elevates your mood and relieves you from pain.
4. Recovers muscle fatigue
When your muscles become weak, and you find that its ability to perform has decreased over time, this phase is called muscle fatigue.
It can happen due to various reasons like overuse of muscles, increased physical activities, age, stress, anxiety, infections, mineral deficiency, and much more.
It causes soreness in muscles, trembling, cramps, and pain. However, you can overcome this by massaging the joints with ginger essential oils followed by adequate rest.
This is because ginger essential oil is an excellent antispasmodic and analgesic (9).
Mix 5 drops of ginger oil, 4 drops of black pepper oil, 10 drops of rosemary oil with 1-2 tablespoons of any carrier oil. Apply this blend on your lower back and over the area that feels fatigued.
5. Cures digestive problems
Ginger is one of the most commonly used home remedies for any digestive issue. It is a well known carminative, stomachic, and laxative. You can cure gastrointestinal spasm, flatulence, constipation, and nausea using ginger essential oil.
A good abdominal massage with ginger oil stimulates heat production. It relieves abdominal pain within a few minutes (10).
A gentle massage on the abdomen is the best solution for any digestive problem. Dilute 6 to 7 drops of ginger oil with 1 tablespoon of castor oil. Gently massage your tummy in a small clockwise rotation before bedtime. Let the oil sit on your stomach and leave the rest to it.
6. Gets rid of travel sickness
Travel is one of the most joyous activities. However, some people tend to feel sick when traveling in a car or plane or ship. Nausea and uneasy stomach are the most common travel sickness problems, and it can ruin the entire journey.
The ginger essential oil is famous among sea travelers. It helps you get rid of seasickness. It is useful for other types of travel sickness too.
Put 2 drops of ginger essential oil on a handkerchief or a tissue. Inhale the aroma when you feel like vomiting.
7. Eases frozen shoulders
When the connective tissues around the shoulder joints thicken or tighten, it causes stiffness and pain. This condition is generally referred to as frozen shoulder. The connective tissue, in this case, restricts its movements.
It can cause immense pain and uneasiness. But it can be cured with stretching and strengthening exercises along with a gentle oil massage.
For massage, make a mixture by blending 10 drops of ginger oil and 5 drops of black pepper oil with 10 drops of immortelle oil. Add 3 to 4 drops of this blend to each teaspoon of carrier oil of your choice. Gently massage the oil on the affected area to ease the frozen shoulder.
8. Cures irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common health problems among people, especially in women. It affects the large intestine and is always accompanied by abdominal cramps, bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea.
It is chronic and still needs long-term lifestyle management. Being a carminative and stomachic, ginger essential oil relieves the symptoms of IBS. Massage the diluted ginger oil on the abdomen for this purpose (13, 14).
9. Clears chilblains
Chilblains is a condition that occurs when there is an inflammation in the small blood vessels after being exposed to extremely cold temperatures. It causes bumps or skin sores, and are painful.
Chilblains usually cure within a few days when the climate gets warmer. However, at such times, ginger essential oil can come to rescue.
It helps in soothing the pain, especially when you travel or work in cold conditions for a prolonged time.
The anti-inflammatory property of ginger oil inhibits further inflammation and pain in the affected area when topically applied. Also, being a natural thermogenic, it stimulates heat production in the area and increases blood circulation (15, 16).
10. Treats Lumbago
Lumbago or lower back pain is a complex problem. Sedentary lifestyle, improper body posture, heavy lifting or over-working, and arthritis are a few common causes of lower back pain.
It is difficult to diagnose, and the severity depends on the type of pain and area of pain distribution. The condition is always accompanied by muscle spasms, pain, stiffness, and soreness, but the pain sometimes radiates to legs as well.
For a massage, mix 3 drops of ginger oil with 2 drops of clove bud oil. Dilute this with 1 tablespoon of carrier oil and apply topically in your lower back.
What Blends With Ginger Oil?
Ginger oil blends the best with:
- Bay (West Indian) oil
- Bergamot oil
- Black pepper oil
- Cardamom oil
- Cistus oil
- Clove Bud oil
- Coriander seed oil
- Cypress oil
- Frankincense oil
- Geranium oil
- Grapefruit oil
- Immortelle oil
- Jasmine oil
- Juniper berry oil
- Lemon oil
- Lime oil
- Mandarin oil
- Marjoram (sweet) oil
- Niaouli oil
- Orange (sweet) oil
- Palmarosa oil
- Patchouli oil
- Petitgrain oil
- Plai oil
- Rosalina oil
- Rose macro oil
- Rosemary oil
- Rose Otto oil
- Sandalwood oil
- Spearmint oil
- Turmeric oil or powder
- Vetiver oil
- Ylang Ylang oil
How To Use Ginger Oil?
The FDA (Food & Drug Administration) has given the GRAS status to ginger essential oil, which means that it is recognized to be safe for any intended use.
But you should make sure the ginger essential oil you purchase is solvent free and is of high quality. Also, there are a few precautions to keep in mind before using it.
- Topical Application: The ginger essential oil is highly concentrated. Hence, it should be used in a diluted form. The spicy oil may be a dermal irritant for some people with sensitive skin. Therefore, perform a patch test before you apply the oil to your skin for therapeutic purposes. The Ginger essential oil is Phototoxic. So, avoid exposure to sunlight 12 to 24 hours after the application of the oil on your skin.
- Aromatherapy: Always diffuse the oil using a vaporizer or diffuser for aromatherapy. You can also use the oil in the bath or shower for absorption.
- Ingestion: Since the oil has been given a GRAS status, you can add it in the food. However, it is better to add the oil in less quantity.
Side Effects Of Ginger Oil
Not much adverse side effects have been studied in ginger essential oil. However, there are a few to make a note of:
- The oil might be a skin irritant for sensitive skin and if used for a prolonged time.
- The oil is a potential expectorant, and it stimulates menstrual flow. Hence, pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid using the oil.