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Ginger is traditionally used as a spice for culinary purposes; however, the essential oil of ginger has been used extensively for centuries for its aromatic properties.

Ancient Use of Ginger

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is an ancient oil used by many ancient civilizations for both culinary and medicinal purposes; the ancient Greeks were known to use ginger extensively in their pharmacopoeia.    The Chinese used ginger for tooth ache, malaria, rheumatism, diarrhea and excess mucus.  Traditionally, ginger has been used for its aphrodisiac properties.

Ginger was one of the first spices to be traded from Asia to Europe in the Middle Ages and has since been used in the Western world principally as a digestive aid.  African women in the region of Senegal reportedly weaved belts from the ginger root to revive the flagging sexual potency of a man.
Distribution of Ginger

Ginger is a native of Southern Asia, found in both India and China; Ginger was introduced to Southern America by the Spaniards after it reached Europe via the spice trade routes.  Ginger is now cultivated throughout the tropics, primarily in China, the West Indies, Nigeria, Japan and Jamaica.  Ginger essential oil is now distilled in the UK, India and China.

Botanical Profile of Ginger

Ginger is a member of the Zingiberaceae plant family; it is a perennial herb growing up to three feet high and it has a spreading rhizome root.  Ginger has yellow or white flowers which grow on a spike direct from the root.  A green reed-like stalk appears each year with narrow leaves. 

Distillation of Ginger Essential Oil

Ginger essential oil is steam distilled from the dried ground root, also known as the rhizome root.  The main chemical components of the essential oil of ginger are zingiberine, gingerone, gingerin and gingenol.  The aroma of ginger essential oil is warm and spicy.  An absolute or oleo resin of ginger are produced for perfumery use.

The Use of Ginger Oil in Aromatherapy

Ginger is analgesic, an expectorant, digestive, a stimulant, anti-catarrhal and invigorating.  For medicinal purposes, ginger oil can be used to treat insomnia, impotence, angina, indigestion, constipation, flatulence, rheumatism, tooth ache and fatigue.  Ginger is useful for travel sickness, pregnancy morning sickness, hangovers and to stimulate the appetite of children; it can be used in relieving the symptoms of colds and in the treatment of bronchitis.

As an oleo resin, ginger is used in preparations for laxative and digestive purposes.  In the cosmetic and fragrance industry, ginger is used as a fragrance component in oriental perfumes and in men's fragrances; it is known to have moisture balancing properties.  Ginger is also to be found in food, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.

Types of Ginger Oil

There are several varieties of ginger essential oil.  The chemical components of a particular ginger oil are dependent on its production location and may vary slightly; for example, ginger oil of Africa is generally darker in color.  Ginger (Zingiber officinale) should not be confused with galangal (Alpina officinarum). Galangal is a member of the same botanical family as ginger and sometimes referred to as ginger root or Chinese ginger; however, galangal does not possess the same  properties as that of ginger essential oil.


- Caddy, Rosemary 1997 Essential Oils in Color UK: Amberwood Publishing Ltd
- Davis, Patrica 2005 Aromatherapy An A-Z London, UK: Vermilion
- Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils London, UK:Element

This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Ginger Essential Oil

It is expressively prohibited to copy or use this article in any way unless written permission is given by the author Sharon Falsetto.  If it is discovered that copyright laws have not been complied with, legal action will be pursued by the author Sharon Falsetto.

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