Side Effects of Ginger Tea
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Maureen Lepin
Posted on: April 8, 2002

I cannot find anything on richters web site re possible side effects of drinking ginger tea (made by boiling slices of ginger root). My husband has been recommended this for gastrointestinal reflux for which he is also on medication.

The tea does seem to help, but he is concerned about side effects.

Do you have any information on side effects of ginger, please.

Dr. Jim Duke in his book, "The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook" (available from Richters), rates ginger to be safer than coffee, the safest rating that he gives herbs in his book. He writes that "[i]f you take an excessively large amount of ginger (say, more than 6 grams) on an empty stomach, it might irritate your gastrointestinal tract. Otherwise, it is supremely safe."

He does go on to say that those taking blood thinning drugs or chemotherapy should exercise caution because ginger can exacerbate the effect drugs on blood-clotting. Also, ginger causes heartburn in some people and should be avoided. And patients with gallstones "probably should talk to an herbal expert before ingesting the root therapeutically."

"Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine" (available from Richters) warns that ginger is contra-indicated in kidney disease. Also, ginger should be taken with food, not on an empty stomach.

Stephen Fulder, in his "The Ginger Book: The Ultimate Home Remedy" (also available from Richters), says that ginger is "very safe indeed." His extensive survey of the world’s medical literature revealed no reports of side effects from taking ginger as a food or medicine. He checked pharmacopoeias and national drug guides that mention ginger. He also notes that the U.S. government has classified ginger as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) which puts it in the safest category of herbs.

In "Herbs, Everyday Reference for Health Professionals," published jointly by the Canadian Pharmacists Association and the Canadian Medical Association, no contraindications are listed, although it repeats Duke’s warning about gallstones. It also warns that ginger in doses greater than 6 grams (termed "excessively large" by Dr. Duke) can cause the epithelial cells on the gastric membranes to exfoliate more than normal. And although this caution doesn’t pertain to your husband, "Everyday Reference" says that ginger’s safety in pregnancy and children is not proven. Apparently there is a controversal suggestion that ginger can cause abortion, which seems hard to understand given ginger’s widespread and apparent safe use in food throughout the world.

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