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Fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang) in Chinese Medicine

Fresh ginger

Chinese: 生姜

Pinyin: Shēng Jiāng

Parts used: Fresh root

TCM category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Spleen Stomach Lung

Scientific name: Zingiber officinale

Use of fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Wash and use fresh

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which fresh ginger may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Common cold Nasal congestion Coughing Food poisoning from seafood Loss of appetite Morning sickness Vomiting Phlegm

Contraindications*: Do not use for symptoms of Exterior Deficiency with sweating or for Damp Heat conditions. May enhance risk of bleeding when ginger is used together with the blood thinning drug Warfarin

Common TCM formulas in which fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang) are used*

Xiao Ban Xia Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 2 herbs

Formula key actions: Alleviates and removes thin mucus. Directs rebellious Qi downward. Stops vomiting. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Conditions targeted*: Travel sickness and others

Sheng Jiang is a deputy ingredient in Xiao Ban Xia Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Xiao Ban Xia Tang, Sheng Jiang disperses the accumulation of thin mucus in the epigastrium that causes the Qi to rebel upward.

Read more about Xiao Ban Xia Tang

Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang

Source date: Essentials from the Golden Cabinet

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Directs rebellious Qi downward. Stops hiccup. Augments Qi. Clears heat.

Conditions targeted*: Morning sicknessIncomplete pyloric obstruction and others

Sheng Jiang is a deputy ingredient in Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang, Sheng Jiang is very effective in harmonizing the functions of the Stomach and stopping vomiting

Read more about Ju Pi Zhu Ru Tang

Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang

Source date: 1706 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Formula key actions: Augments the Qi. Warms the Middle Burner. Directs Rebellious Qi downward. Stops hiccup.

Conditions targeted*: Morning sicknessNeurological hiccup and others

Sheng Jiang is a deputy ingredient in Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang, Sheng Jiang is extremely effective at warming the Stomach and directing Rebellious Qi downward. As such it is perfect against vomiting and nausea.

Read more about Ding Xiang Shi Di Tang

Zhen Wu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and tonifies the Yang and Qi of the Spleen and Kidneys. Eliminates Dampness.

Conditions targeted*: Congestive heart failureChronic glomerulonephritis and others

Sheng Jiang is an assistant ingredient in Zhen Wu Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Zhen Wu Tang, Sheng Jiang warms and dispels the pathogenic water and thereby strengthens the actions of the deputy herbs.

It disseminates the Lung Qi, warms the Stomach, and assists Prepared aconite (Zhi Fu Zi), the key herb in this formula, by dispelling the Dampness that has overflowed into the flesh and skin.

Read more about Zhen Wu Tang

Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Treats the Lesser Yang Channels (Gallbladder and Triple Warmer). Regulates the Liver and Spleen functions. Addresses combined Yin-Yang symptoms of External and Internal, Excess and Deficiency, and Hot and Cold.

Conditions targeted*: HepatitisChronic cholecystitis and others

Sheng Jiang is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Chai Hu Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Xiao Chai Hu Tang

Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Regulates the downward flow of Stomach Qi. Expectorant, treats hiccups.

Conditions targeted*: HiccupsChronic gastritis and others

Sheng Jiang is an assistant ingredient in Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Xuan Fu Dai Zhe Tang

Da Qing Long Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Promotes sweating. Releases the Exterior. Clears Interior Heat.

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsInfluenza and others

Sheng Jiang is an assistant ingredient in Da Qing Long Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

Read more about Da Qing Long Tang

Xiao Jian Zhong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and tonifies the Middle Burner (Spleen and Stomach). Tonifies Qi. Relieves spasmodic pain.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic gastritisPeptic ulcers and others

Sheng Jiang is an assistant ingredient in Xiao Jian Zhong Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Xiao Jian Zhong Tang, Sheng Jiang tonifies the protective Qi and strengthen the Middle Burner.

Read more about Xiao Jian Zhong Tang

Ge Gen Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior and muscle layer. Forms Body Fluids.

Conditions targeted*: Common coldCervical spine disease and others

Sheng Jiang is an assistant ingredient in Ge Gen Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ge Gen Tang, Sheng Jiang regulates the Protective (Wei Qi) and Nutritive Qi (Rong Qi) and protects the Stomach from injury. 

Read more about Ge Gen Tang

Ren Shen Bai Du San

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior. Dispels Wind and Dampness. Augments Qi.

Conditions targeted*: Common coldInfluenza and others

Sheng Jiang is an assistant ingredient in Ren Shen Bai Du San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ren Shen Bai Du San, Sheng Jiang helps releasing the Exterior.

Read more about Ren Shen Bai Du San

Jing Fang Bai Du San

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 13 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior. Dispels Wind and Dampness. Augments Qi.

Conditions targeted*: Common coldInfluenza and others

Sheng Jiang is an assistant ingredient in Jing Fang Bai Du San. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Jing Fang Bai Du San, Sheng Jiang helps releasing the Exterior.

Read more about Jing Fang Bai Du San

Gui Zhi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases pathogens from the muscle layer. Regulates the Nutritive and Protective Qi.

Conditions targeted*: Common coldInfluenza and others

Sheng Jiang is an assistant ingredient in Gui Zhi Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Gui Zhi Tang, Sheng Jiang helps Gui Zhi release the Exterior while also treating the nausea and vomiting by warming the Middle and directing Qi downward.

Read more about Gui Zhi Tang

Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms and tonifies the Middle Burner (Spleen and Stomach). Tonifies Qi. Relieves spasmodic pain.

Conditions targeted*: Gastric ulcerGastralgia and others

Sheng Jiang is an assistant ingredient in Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang, Sheng Jiang tonifies the protective Qi and strengthen the Middle Burner.

Read more about Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang

Xing Su San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Dry-Cold. Disseminates the Lung Qi and relieves cough. Transforms thin mucus.

Conditions targeted*: Common coldBronchitis and others

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Xing Su San. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Xing Su San, Sheng Jiang , together with the two other envoys in this formula (Jujube dates and Liquorice), harmonizes the actions of the other herbs and regulate the nutritive and protective Qi.

Read more about Xing Su San

Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Formula key actions: Diuretic, clears Excess fluid and removes edema. Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Calms External Wind.

Conditions targeted*: AscitesEdema and others

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang, Sheng Jiang , together with Jujube dates (Da Zao, the other envoy in this formula), regulate the nutritive and protective Qi to assist in the stabilization of the Exterior and the strengthening of the Qi and Blood

Read more about Fang Ji Huang Qi Tang

Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm. Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen).

Conditions targeted*: Upper respiratory tract infectionsChronic bronchitis and others

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Er Chen Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Er Chen Tang, Sheng Jiang reinforces the actions of the key herbs in moving the Qi and eliminating the Phlegm, harmonizing the Stomach, and controlling the nausea.

Read more about Er Chen Tang

Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang

Source date: 1732 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Dries and dissolves Phlegm. Strengthens the Spleen. Smoothes the Liver and calms Liver Wind (antispasmodic).

Conditions targeted*: Meniere's diseaseHypertension and others

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang, Sheng Jiang , together with Jujube dates (Da Zao), harmonizes the Stomach and Spleen.

Read more about Ban Xia Bai Zhu Tian Ma Tang

Wen Dan Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Hot-Phlegm. Clears Gallbladder heat. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Stomach.

Conditions targeted*: HypertensionAngina and others

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Wen Dan Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Wen Dan Tang, Sheng Jiang regulate the relationship between the Gallbladder and stand assists the other herbs in stopping the vomiting.

Read more about Wen Dan Tang

Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Heat and inflammations. Unblocks the flow of Yang Qi and promotes movement (in areas with painful obstruction). Clears Wind and Damp. Relieves pain.

Conditions targeted*: Rheumatoid arthritisConnective tissue disorders and others

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang, Sheng Jiang strengthens the spreading and mobilizing actions of the other herbs.

Read more about Gui Zhi Shao Yao Zhi Mu Tang

Juan Bi Tang

Source date: 1178 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies and harmonizes the Protective and Nutritive Qi. Dispels Wind. Eliminates Dampness.

Conditions targeted*: Periarthritis of the shoulderRheumatoid arthritis and others

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Juan Bi Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

Read more about Juan Bi Tang

Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm. Clears Phlegm.

Conditions targeted*: Globus hystericusNeurosis and others

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, Sheng Jiang helps the key herbs in the formula harmonize the Stomach and thereby stops the vomiting, should it occur.

Read more about Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Gui Pi Tang

Source date: 1529 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies and nourish Qi and Blood. Tonifies Heart and Spleen.

Conditions targeted*: Nervous exhaustionMyasthenia gravis and others

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Gui Pi Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Gui Pi Tang, Sheng Jiang works together with Jujube dates (Da Zao), the other envoy in this formula, to improve the appetite and regulate the nutritive and protective Qi, thereby facilitating the actions of the other ingredients.

They also assist the four key herbs of this formula in strengthening the Spleen

Read more about Gui Pi Tang

Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1575 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Formula key actions: Resolves Damp-Phlegm. Nourishes Blood.

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang, Sheng Jiang is added as an envoy to reinforce the actions of the chief herbs in Qi movement and eliminate the Phlegm. It also harmonizes the Stomach and controls the nausea.

Read more about Xiong Gui Er Chen Tang

Ba Zhen Tang

Source date: 1326 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies and augments Qi. Tonifies and augments Blood.

Conditions targeted*: AnemiaHepatitis and others

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Ba Zhen Tang. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Ba Zhen Tang, Sheng Jiang regulates Stomach and Spleen's absorptive function. This is important because it helps the other herbs in the formula to be absorbed. It also regulates the relationship between the Protective (Wei Qi 卫气) and Nutritive Qi (Rong Qi 荣气), which helps patients suffering from Blood and Qi Deficiency to recover without developing other issues.

Read more about Ba Zhen Tang

Nuan Gan Jian

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Liver and Kidneys. Promotes the movement of Qi. Alleviates pain.

Conditions targeted*: VaricoceleHydrocele and others

Sheng Jiang is an envoy ingredient in Nuan Gan Jian. This means that it directs the formula towards certain area of the body and/or harmonizes the actions of other ingredients.

In Nuan Gan Jian, Sheng Jiang scatters Cold and harmonizes the Stomach. It also helps treat nausea and loss of appetite.

Read more about Nuan Gan Jian

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Source date: 1247

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi of the Spleen and Stomach (Middle Burner). Raises the Yang. Detoxifies. Lifts what has sunken.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic hepatitisArrhythmia and others

Read more about Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang

Jia Wei Xiao Yao San

Source date: Ming dynasty

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Liver and Spleen Qi Stagnation. Tonifies Spleen. Clears Deficient Heat. Nourishes the blood.

Conditions targeted*: InfertilityMenorrhagia and others

Read more about Jia Wei Xiao Yao San

Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan

Source date: 1817 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Resolves Dampness and Phlegm.

In Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan, Sheng Jiang helps digestion and dissolves food accumulation in the Stomach, which will help to resolve Phlegm

Read more about Cang Fu Dao Tan Wan

Wen Jing Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Formula key actions: Warms the Uterus and vessels. Nourishes Blood. Dispels Cold. Dispels Blood Stagnation.

Conditions targeted*: Dysfunctional uterine bleedingUterine hypoplasia and others

In Wen Jing Tang, Sheng Jiang tonifies Qi and harmonizes the Spleen and Stomach to strengthen the source of production and transformation so that Yang can produce Yin and the Blood may not be Deficient.

Read more about Wen Jing Tang

Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang

Source date: 1174 AD

Number of ingredients: 14 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Qi and Blood. Nourishes the Heart. Calms the spirit.

Conditions targeted*: AnemiaNonhealing ulcers and others

In Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang, Sheng Jiang regulates the nutritive and protective Qi and harmonizes the Spleen and Stomach. It ensures that this complex formula is properly assimilated, and blend its many ingredients into a harmonious whole.

Read more about Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang

Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1675 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Tonifies Spleen and Stomach Qi. Removes Dampness. Moves Qi. Alleviates pain.

Read more about Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang

Key TCM concepts behind fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), fresh ginger are plants that belong to the 'Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior' category. Herbs that release the Exterior aim to to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the throat or the skin. TCM believes that External diseases such as colds or allergies can only invade the body if the External environment overwhelms our Wei Qi (the TCM version of the immune system). In order to counteract this invasion Warm/Acrid herbs aim to induce sweating by increasing the flow of sweat to our capillary pores. The belief is that this will expel the disease from the body and stop it from invading further.

As suggested by its category fresh ginger are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that fresh ginger tend to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess(because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition fresh ginger can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Fresh ginger also taste Pungent. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like fresh ginger tend to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such fresh ginger are thought to target the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung. In TCM the Spleen assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body. The Stomach on the other hand is responsible for receiving and ripening ingested food and fluids. It is also tasked with descending the digested elements downwards to the Small Intestine. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body.

Research on fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang)

3 months supplementation of ginger improved glycemic indices and total antioxidant capacity in patients with type 2 diabetes.1

Treatment of primary dysmenorrhea in students with ginger for 5 days had a statistically significant effect on relieving intensity and duration of pain.2

Ginger powder has add-on effect on reducing the symptoms of osteoarthritis of knee with acceptable safety profile.3

Ginger supplementation at a daily dose of 0.5 g-1.0 g significantly aids in reduction of the severity of acute chemotherapy-induced nausea in adult cancer patients.4

Ginger can be considered as a useful treatment option for women suffering from morning sickness.5

Sources:

1. Shidfar F, Rajab A, Rahideh T, Khandouzi N, Hosseini S, Shidfar S. ( 2015). The effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on glycemic markers in patients with type 2 diabetes. J Complement Integr Med. , 12(2):165-70. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2014-0021.

2. Rahnama P, Montazeri A, Huseini HF, Kianbakht S, Naseri M. ( 2012 ). Effect of Zingiber officinale R. rhizomes (ginger) on pain relief in primary dysmenorrhea: a placebo randomized trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. , 12:92. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-12-92.

3. Paramdeep G. (2013). Efficacy and tolerability of ginger (Zingiber officinale) in patients of osteoarthritis of knee. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. , 57(2):177-83.

4. Ryan JL, Heckler CE, Roscoe JA, Dakhil SR, Kirshner J, Flynn PJ, Hickok JT, Morrow GR. (2012). Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces acute chemotherapy-induced nausea: a URCC CCOP study of 576 patients. Support Care Cancer. , 20(7):1479-89. doi: 10.1007/s00520-011-1236-3. Epub 2011 Aug 5.

5. Willetts KE, Ekangaki A, Eden JA. (2003). Effect of a ginger extract on pregnancy-induced nausea: a randomised controlled trial. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 43(2):139-44.

Use of fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang) as food

Fresh ginger are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Candied ginger or Gingerbread.