You’re probably fairly familiar with the warm, spicy and downright delicious flavor that fresh ginger root imparts to food, but it turns out this rhizome can do a lot outside the kitchen, too. Indeed, there has been some buzz surrounding ginger oil lately, and for good reason—emerging evidence suggests that this extract boasts an impressive list of health benefits and may be useful in treating everything from wrinkles to autoimmune diseases. Bottom line: Research on ginger oil is still relatively new, but there’s enough to make us want to give the stuff a whirl. We took a deep dive into ginger oil uses and benefits—so read on for the full scoop and decide for yourself whether this multi-use extract deserves a place in your wellness routine.
What Is Ginger Oil?
Before we examine the potential benefits of ginger oil (hint: there are several), you might be wondering what this stuff actually is. Simply put, ginger oil is an essential oil extracted from the rhizome (i.e., edible portion) of the ginger plant. Per Jenna Levine, the botanist and herbalist behind LINNÉ Botanicals, ginger oil can be made with a few different methods: by “macerating ginger root in oil, via distillation to produce an essential oil or with CO2 extraction.” The first technique—distillation—can be done at home, but Levine recommends CO2 extracts instead because they boast a richer and more complex aroma that she describes as “more true to that of the freshly harvested root.” In other words, if you’re curious about ginger oil feel free to DIY—just keep in mind that a store-bought CO2 extract will probably pack more of a punch.
What Are the Benefits of Ginger Oil?
Fights inflammation. In case you missed it, inflammation is a fairly common immune system malfunction that can result in a whole host of health-related woes, so the fight against inflammation is critical when it comes to relieving symptoms associated with, well, seemingly everything. So, what does this have to do with ginger oil? According to numerous research studies (like this 2013 review and this 2018 study), ginger extract contains multiple compounds—namely gingerol (not to be confused with ginger ale) and its secondary metabolites—that reduce the biomarkers of inflammation and act as immune system modulators. In other words, ginger extract contains anti-inflammatory benefits—a trait that carries far-reaching implications. (Hint: The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger oil are basically a big umbrella that covers almost all the other benefits on this list.)
Alleviates aches and pains. Aside from having some serious potential as a treatment for conditions related to chronic inflammation, ginger oil has also shown promise when it comes to relieving symptoms associated with acute inflammation. (You know, like the kind that makes you hurt all over when you decide to hit the gym for the first time in six months.) In fact, one 2016 review from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that oral treatment with ginger could be every bit as effective as ibuprofen when it comes to managing pesky menstrual pain, thanks to its analgesic qualities. Although oral ingestion of ginger oil is not recommended, another study on ginger oil for menstrual pain management—which looked at its potential as an aromatherapy treatment—came to a similarly favorable conclusion.
Settles the stomach. Ginger is widely used to alleviate nausea and indigestion, but it may surprise you to learn that ginger essential oil, while not edible, does a bang-up job of this, too. A recent study from South Korea found that aromatherapy using ginger essential oil can be an effective treatment for nausea, so next time you’re suffering from an upset stomach a bottle of this potent extract and a diffuser may be the only medicine you need.
Improves skin. It turns out ginger oil might just be a boon to your beauty routine, too. Per board certified dermatologist Dr. Gonzalez, ginger oil “has over 40 antioxidant properties, which can help protect the skin against free radicals” (i.e., the unstable, nasty little molecules known to cause premature aging among other things). In addition, the astringent, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties of ginger oil mean that “it can help to repair the outermost layer of the skin...and [can] also be good for acne-prone skin.” Levine agrees that ginger oil shows a lot of potential when applied topically to the skin—noting that it is, “said to help even skin tone, improve elasticity, increase circulation and fade scars.” Sounds pretty good, right?
Promotes hair and scalp health. The case for ginger oil is already pretty compelling—but the icing on the cake is that this extract might also give you luxurious locks. Both experts we spoke with agree that—when applied to the hair and scalp—ginger oil can strengthen the strands, soothe itchiness and diminish dandruff. Why? Dr. Gonzalez says this potent elixir boasts high mineral content that can help the overall health of your hair, while its “antiseptic, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties” go a long way towards “[contributing] to the hygienic aspects” of hair care. When it comes to promoting hair growth, Dr. Gonzalez cautions that the jury is still out; still, the ability to banish split-ends and unsightly flakes definitely scores ginger oil some serious bonus points.
How Do You Use Ginger Oil?
As tempting as it may be, don’t start slathering yourself in ginger oil just yet. There are a few things you should know regarding proper use before you start testing the benefits of this essential oil.
As previously mentioned, pure ginger essential oil is not intended for oral consumption. (However, if you want to use ginger oil to flavor foods, Levine says there is a workaround: “Simply dilute ginger essential oil into a mild carrier oil like sunflower, or almond...starting at 1 percent of essential oil to fruit, seed or nut oil.”) That said, you can take advantage of most of the health benefits this essential oil has to offer via aromatherapy and topical use. The former application is pretty straightforward—just add a few drops to your diffuser and call it a day. To reap the rewards of ginger oil as a skin and hair care treatment, you should know that it is ill-advised to apply the essential oil directly to the skin, since undiluted ginger oil is more likely to give you a rash than a healthy glow. Instead, Levine suggests you follow the cooking oil method described above and dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil—one you know your skin tolerates well—before massaging it onto the scalp and skin (for beauty benefits or pain relief).
As for the safety of using ginger essential oil, Dr. Gonzalez says that “ginger oil is generally recognized as safe according to the FDA…[and] few adverse effects have been reported.” Still, it’s always a good idea to do a patch test before you go whole hog with a new product, especially one as potent as ginger oil.
Is Ginger Oil Good for Arthritis?
As you already know, ginger oil has shown quite a lot of promise as a pain reliever, thanks to its natural anti-inflammatory properties. For this reason, it has also piqued the curiosity of the medical community as a potential arthritis treatment. Although more research needs to be conducted regarding ginger oil as a treatment for arthritis, a recent study published in PharmaNutrition journal suggests that ginger oil has pain-relieving, anti-arthritic properties and may even play an important role in protecting the joints as well.