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Can Ginger Help With Coronavirus & COVID-19?

Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:

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This article is for informational purposes only. The current coronavirus outbreak is an ongoing event and certain details may change as new information comes to light. No effective or FDA-approved products are currently available for the treatment of the new coronavirus (also known as SARS-CoV-2 or 2019-nCoV), although research is still ongoing.

Ginger is a healthy spice that has anti-microbial and anti-viral activity against a range of viruses in test tubes and a few animal studies. But clinical evidence is non-existent in infections, and certainly coronavirus infections.

Ginger seems to have some limited clinical evidence for ARDS and asthma, but more research is needed.

ARDS & Lung Failure

The most serious complication of COVID-19 is acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and lung failure.

In 32 critically ill patients with ARDS and dependent on mechanical ventilation, a diet supplemented with ginger (given through a feeding tube) improved blood oxygen levels, reduced the duration of mechanical ventilation, and prevented pneumonia [1, 2].

Ginger, therefore, seems like a promising approach to reduce inflammation of the lungs.

Anti Infection Activity

Unfortunately, there are no human studies on ginger and it ability to help with any infections.

In one cell-based study, only fresh ginger prevented the RSV virus from entering human cells [3].

The dried ginger root was active against the virus causing the common cold (rhinovirus) in another study [4].

In a cell-based study, ginger extract didn’t inhibit the flu virus by itself but activated white blood cells (macrophages) to produce cytokines against it [5]. Ginger extract did, however, inhibit avian flu H9N2 in chicken embryos [6].

In mice vaccinated against the flu (H1N1), a mix of carbohydrates from ginger, shiitake mushroom, poria mushroom, and tangerine peel reduced excessive lung inflammation, promoted virus clearance, and stimulated the production of T cells [7].

The essential oils of ginger inhibited the virus that causes oral herpes in one study [8].

Ginger tinctures killed different bacteria in test tubes, including those that may cause pneumonia (Staphylococcus pneumoniae) and upper respiratory tract infections (Haemophilus influenzae) [9].

Immune System

Animal studies hint that ginger may be better for Th2 dominance. Zerumbone, an active ingredient in ginger, enhanced the Th1 and reduced the Th2 response in mice with allergic asthma. It decreased the production of various Th2 immune substances, helping rebalance the immune system and reduce allergies. Ginger-treated mice had fewer asthmatic symptoms, mucus, and lung inflammation [10].

Additional animal studies have attempted to support this traditional ginger use. Ginger helped improve asthma symptoms by suppressing the Th2 immune response and airway inflammation in mice. It could even affect the activity of genes that perpetuate Th2 dominance, possibly with long-term benefits [11, 12].

Asthma

Asthma could be a risk factor for complications in COVID-19.

Ginger relaxed the airways under asthmatic attack in a tissue study [13].

However, a multi-herbal remedy with the extracts of Picrorhiza kurroa (a Nepalese medicinal plant), ginger, and ginkgo failed to improve lung function and quality of life in a clinical trial on 32 asthmatic patients [14].

A cell-based study suggests ginger’s compound6- gingerol may help reduce excessive mucus production in the airways [15].

About the Author

Carlos Tello

Carlos Tello

PhD (Molecular Biology)
Carlos received his PhD and MS from the Universidad de Sevilla.
Carlos spent 9 years in the laboratory investigating mineral transport in plants. He then started working as a freelancer, mainly in science writing, editing, and consulting. Carlos is passionate about learning the mechanisms behind biological processes and communicating science to both academic and non-academic audiences. He strongly believes that scientific literacy is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid falling for scams.

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