Ginger: Nootropic Benefits, Uses, Dosage, & Side Effects

An artistic interpretation of neural connections being enhanced by the nootropic compound ginger. The neural connections are depicted as intricate

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a medicinal spice commonly used as a flavoring in cooking and is also prized for its health benefits, including cognitive enhancement.

Some research suggests ginger has neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties that could benefit memory, attention, and overall cognitive performance.

This article looks into the science behind this natural nootropic and how it supports overall mental health and well-being.

What Is Ginger?

 A photorealistic image of fresh ginger roots on a wooden surface.

Ginger is a spice that comes from the rhizome (underground stem) of the Zingiber officinale plant, which is part of the Zingiberaceae family along with turmeric and cardamom.

The ginger plant is native to Southeast Asia but is now cultivated in many tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.

The rhizome is the part used for culinary and medicinal purposes.

It has a pungent, slightly spicy taste and aroma due to its essential oils and pungent compounds like gingerols and shogaols.

Ginger is used fresh, dried, powdered, or as an oil or juice.

What Are the Different Varieties and Types of Ginger?

There are several varieties and types of ginger, including:

Common ginger (Zingiber officinale)The most widely used type, known for its pungent aroma and spicy flavor. It’s usually pale yellow.
Baby gingerYoung, immature ginger that is milder in taste and doesn’t require peeling. Often pink at the tips.
Thai ginger (Alpinia galanga)Also called galangal, it has a sharp, citrusy flavor and is used in Southeast Asian cuisine. The skin is smoother and paler than common ginger.
Chinese gingerRefers to mature ginger with a tough, brown skin that needs to be peeled before use.
Japanese ginger (Zingiber mioga)Produces edible flower buds and shoots rather than rhizomes. Buds have a mild, sweet ginger flavor.
Black ginger (Kaempferia parviflora)Has a dark brown or black skin and bluish-grey flesh. Used more for medicinal purposes in traditional medicine.
Red ginger (Alpinia purpurata)Prized more for its showy red flower bracts than its mildly spicy rhizomes.

What Are the Key Nutritional Values and Compounds Found in Ginger?

Fresh ginger root is composed of 79% water, 18% carbohydrates, 2% protein, 1% fat, 2% fiber, and 1% ash.

It also contains various vitamins and minerals in small amounts, including:

  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese

However, ginger is most notable for its bioactive compounds, such as:

  • Gingerols: The main pungent compounds, with 6-gingerol being the most abundant. Have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
  • Shogaols: Formed when gingerols are dried or cooked. Even more potent than gingerols.
  • Paradols: Also formed by heat, similar to shogaols.
  • Zingerone: Provides ginger’s aroma and has antioxidant properties.
  • Terpenoids: Contribute to ginger’s scent.
A photorealistic image of fresh ginger roots on a wooden surface, alongside a depiction of its molecular structure.

What Are the Potential Cognitive Health Benefits of Ginger?

Ginger may offer several cognitive health benefits, including:

  1. Neuroprotection
  2. Memory enhancement
  3. Mood and stress
  4. Increased brain blood flow
  5. Acetylcholinesterase inhibition

How Does Ginger Contribute to Neuroprotection?

Ginger’s bioactive compounds, especially 6-shogaol, appear to have neuroprotective properties.

In animal studies, ginger extract reduced inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain, which are associated with age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.(1)

How Does Ginger Contribute to Memory Enhancement?

Some research suggests ginger may improve memory and learning by reducing brain inflammation and stimulating optimal neurotransmission.

A study in healthy middle-aged women found that taking 400-800 mg of ginger extract daily for 2 months significantly improved working memory and attention compared to a placebo.(2)

How Does Ginger Contribute to Mood Enhancement?

Ginger may have beneficial effects on mood and stress by modulating the prostaglandins system.

In a study of 70 female students, taking 500 mg of ginger twice daily reduced anxiety and improved cognitive function during the menstrual cycle.(3)

How Does Ginger Contribute to Neurotransmitter Regulation?

Ginger extract has been shown to mildly inhibit acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

By preserving acetylcholine, ginger may support memory and learning.

Prescription AChE inhibitors are used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

How Does Ginger Contribute to Overall Brain Health?

Ginger may increase cerebral blood flow, which is important for optimal brain function. In a small study, a single dose of dried ginger powder enhanced blood flow to the brain in healthy volunteers.

How to Use Ginger as A Nootropic?

Ginger can be consumed in various forms for its potential nootropic benefits:

  1. Fresh ginger root: Grate or finely chop 1-2 inches of fresh ginger and steep in hot water for 5-10 minutes to make ginger tea. You can also add it to smoothies, juices, or meals.
  2. Dried ginger powder: Mix into water, tea, or smoothies. Or use it in cooking.
  3. Ginger extract supplements: Look for standardized ginger extracts providing 20-30% gingerols.
  4. Ginger essential oil: Inhale a few drops of diluted ginger essential oil for an energizing aroma that may boost focus and mental clarity. Avoid applying undiluted essential oils to the skin.

The optimal dosage of ginger for cognitive enhancement is not definitively established, as research is limited.

However, studies suggest the following doses may be effective:

Ginger Extract500-2000 mg per day
6-Gingerol-Enriched Ginger Extract400-800 mg per day
Ginger Powder1-2 grams per day

Higher doses up to 5 grams per day have been used safely in some studies, but may increase the risk of side effects like heartburn and diarrhea.

It’s best to start low and increase gradually.

Standardized ginger supplements often provide 100-300 mg of ginger extract per capsule, taken 2-3 times daily with meals.

Look for products standardized to contain at least 20% gingerols.

Are There Any Side Effects and Risks Associated with Ginger?

Ginger is generally safe and well-tolerated when consumed in amounts commonly found in food. However, some people may experience side effects, especially at higher doses:

  1. Digestive discomfort: The most common side effects are mild gastrointestinal symptoms like heartburn, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort. This is more likely with doses over 5 grams per day.
  2. Mouth irritation: The pungent compounds in ginger, like gingerol, can cause a burning sensation or irritation in the mouth and throat.
  3. Increased bleeding risk: In theory, ginger may increase the risk of bleeding due to its mild blood-thinning effects. This could be a concern for people with bleeding disorders or taking blood-thinning medications.
  4. Lower blood sugar: Ginger may help lower blood sugar levels. While potentially beneficial for people with diabetes, it could cause hypoglycemia if combined with insulin or other diabetes medications.
  5. Allergic reactions: Though rare, some people may be allergic to ginger. Symptoms can include rash, itching, and difficulty breathing.

Note: Stay hydrated and take ginger with food. Discontinue use if you experience persistent or severe side effects.

Who Should Avoid Using Ginger?

Certain people should avoid ginger or use it with caution:

  • Pregnant women: While ginger in small amounts may help relieve morning sickness, high doses could potentially increase the risk of miscarriage. Pregnant women should consult their doctor before taking ginger supplements.
  • People with gallstones: Ginger may increase bile secretion, which could worsen gallbladder problems or gallstones.
  • Those with bleeding disorders: Ginger’s blood-thinning effects may increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders like hemophilia.
  • Individuals undergoing surgery: Ginger may interfere with blood clotting. Stop taking ginger at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
  • People with low blood pressure: High doses of ginger may cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, especially when standing up from a sitting or lying position.
  • Those with heartburn or acid reflux: Ginger can sometimes aggravate symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn.
  • People with arrhythmia: There’s a theoretical concern that ginger may worsen irregular heartbeat in some people.

Always consult a healthcare provider before using ginger supplements, especially if you have a medical condition.

Does Ginger Interact with Any Medications?

Yes, ginger can interact with several types of medications:

  • Blood thinners: Ginger may enhance the blood-thinning effects of anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs like warfarin, clopidogrel, and aspirin, potentially increasing the risk of bleeding.
  • Diabetes medications: Ginger may lower blood sugar and could have an additive effect when combined with insulin or other diabetes drugs, possibly leading to hypoglycemia.
  • High blood pressure medications: Ginger may lower blood pressure, which could cause an excessive drop in BP when taken with antihypertensive drugs like calcium channel blockers or ACE inhibitors.
  • Heartburn medications: Ginger can sometimes worsen acid reflux. Taking it with antacids or other heartburn medications may reduce their effectiveness.
  • Chemotherapy drugs: Some evidence suggests ginger may reduce the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy medications like doxorubicin and methotrexate.
  • Immunosuppressants: Theoretically, ginger’s effects on the immune system could interfere with immunosuppressant medications used to prevent organ rejection after transplant.
  • Psychiatric medications: Ginger may interact with some psychiatric drugs like benzodiazepines and antidepressants, though more research is needed.
 A photorealistic image of fresh ginger roots on a wooden surface next to a cup of ginger tea.

What Are the Different Ways Ginger Is Preserved or Processed?

Ginger can be preserved and processed in several ways:

  1. Fresh ginger root: The rhizome is simply washed and sold whole, unpeeled. It can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks or frozen for longer preservation.
  2. Dried ginger: Fresh ginger is peeled, sliced, and dried in the sun or using commercial dehydrators. Dried ginger has a more intense flavor and can be stored at room temperature.
  3. Powdered ginger: Dried ginger is ground into a fine powder. It has a long shelf life when stored in an airtight container away from light and heat.
  4. Pickled ginger: Young ginger is peeled and pickled in a sweet vinegar solution. Often dyed pink and served as a palate cleanser with sushi.
  5. Crystallized or candied ginger: Peeled ginger is cooked in sugar syrup until tender and coated in granulated sugar. Eaten as a spicy-sweet snack or used in baking.
  6. Ginger juice: Fresh ginger is crushed and pressed to extract the juice, which can be used in cooking or beverages. Bottled ginger juice is sometimes treated to extend shelf life.
  7. Ginger essential oil: Steam distillation is used to extract the volatile oils from ginger rhizomes. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy, perfumery, and flavoring.
  8. Ginger supplements: Ginger extract is concentrated and standardized for its active compounds like gingerols. It’s sold in capsules, tablets, or liquid tinctures.
  9. Ginger tea: Dried ginger pieces or powder are packaged in tea bags for brewing ginger tea. Or fresh ginger can be steeped in hot water.

Sources, Studies, and Scientific Research
  1. Mohd Sahardi, Nur Fatin Nabilah, and Suzana Makpol. “Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) in the Prevention of Ageing and Degenerative Diseases: Review of Current Evidence.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2019 5054395. 20 Aug. 2019, doi:10.1155/2019/5054395
  2. Saenghong, Naritsara et al. “Zingiber officinale Improves Cognitive Function of the Middle-Aged Healthy Women.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2012 (2012): 383062. doi:10.1155/2012/383062
  3. Khayat, Samira et al. “Effect of treatment with ginger on the severity of premenstrual syndrome symptoms.” ISRN obstetrics and gynecology vol. 2014 792708. 4 May. 2014, doi:10.1155/2014/792708

Jacob Kovacs is a cognitive neuroscientist and author at WholisticResearch, specializing in nootropics and neuroactive peptides. His expertise in neuroscience and psychopharmacology bridges cognitive science with drug development. Kovacs’ work focuses on enhancing cognitive functions and brain health through innovative, efficient neuroactive compounds that overcome traditional pharmacokinetic challenges. His contributions are pivotal in advancing the understanding and treatment of neurological diseases.