Pharmacological Basis for the Medicinal Use of Ginger in Gastrointestinal Disorders


Ginger (rhizome of Zingiber officinale) has been widely used for centuries in gastrointestinal disorders, particularly dyspepsia, but its precise mode of action has yet to be elucidated. This study was undertaken to study the prokinetic action of ginger and its possible mechanism of action. Prokinetic activity of ginger extract (Zo.Cr) was confirmed in an in vivo test when it enhanced the intestinal travel of charcoal meal in mice. This propulsive effect of the extract, similar to that of carbachol, was blocked in atropine-pretreated mice, a standard cholinergic antagonist. Likewise, Zo.Cr showed an atropine-sensitive dose-dependent spasmogenic effect in vitro as well as in isolated rat and mouse stomach fundus tissues. In atropinized tissue, it showed spasmolytic activity as shown by the inhibition of 5-HT- and K+-induced contractions. A spasmolytic effect was also observed in other gut preparations either as noncompetitive inhibition of agonist dose–response curves, inhibition of high K+(80 mM)-induced contractions, or displacement of Ca2+ dose–response curves to the right, indicating a calcium antagonist effect. Phytochemical analysis revealed the presence of saponins, flavonoids, and alkaloids in the crude extract. These data indicate that Zo.Cr contains a cholinergic, spasmogenic component evident in stomach fundus preparations which provides a sound mechanistic insight for the prokinetic action of ginger. In addition, the presence of a spasmolytic constituent(s) of the calcium antagonist type may explain its use in hyperactive states of gut like colic and diarrhea.

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Correspondence to Anwarul Hassan Gilani PhD.

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Ghayur, M.N., Gilani, A.H. Pharmacological Basis for the Medicinal Use of Ginger in Gastrointestinal Disorders. Dig Dis Sci 50, 1889–1897 (2005).

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Key Words

  • Zingiber officinale
  • ginger
  • prokinetic
  • cholinergic
  • calcium antagonist