Fresh vs. dried ginger? That is the question. In general, plants are at their most nutritious and medicinal the moment they are harvested, but also, it kind of depends. When it comes to ginger, is fresh better than dried? Does drying ginger affect its biologically important (ie. medicinal) chemical compounds?
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We know that the nutrient composition of many foods changes as they are processed, whether by exposure to heat, boiling, freezing, or dehydrating.
And we know that some beneficial phytochemicals are only made bioavailable to us after being exposed to heat through cooking, like the lycopene in tomatoes. Although, while we get more lycopene when cooking tomatoes, the heat does destroy some of the other nutrients like vitamin C and beta carotene.
So what about ginger?
The Medicinal Differences: Fresh vs Dried Ginger
It has been used for centuries to treat nausea and more recent research has shown its efficacy in treating inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, asthma and allergies, cancer, high cholesterol, and migraines.
And the list goes on. Accordingly, ginger has been referred to by many an herbalist as a truly universal medicine.
Much of its medicinal content is due to its specific make-up of phytochemicals that make ginger incredibly therapeutic. It’s considered to have the following herbal actions (or medicinal properties):
- and more!
In looking at fresh vs. dried ginger and how its medicinal capacity may be affected, I looked at three of ginger’s prominent medicinal actions:
- antioxidant activity
- antimicrobial activity
- anti-nausea (antiemetic) activity
Ginger’s Antioxidant Activity
You’d probably assume that fresh ginger root had the higher antioxidant activity when compared to dried; I did.
But actually, several studies have found that dried ginger actually shows greater antioxidant activity due to its higher content of polyphenols (antioxidant compounds). As the water content is removed from ginger in the drying process, the concentration of polyphenols, and thus its antioxidant activity, increases.
Although, in heating or cooking ginger, it loses some of its antioxidant potency as the biochemical composition changes with exposure to heat.
In short, dried ginger shows greater antioxidant activity than fresh. But that’s not to say that fresh ginger isn’t antioxidant at all. Fresh ginger is still antioxidant, however cooking it decreases its antioxidant activity.
Ginger’s Antimicrobial Activity
Ginger’s essential oils can be given a lot of credit for their antimicrobial actions, however, the specific make-up of essential oils does change from fresh to dried root.
While several studies have found that the antimicrobial activity of ginger is greater in fresh roots, one study found that it’s just different, not necessarily better. So, in asking if fresh ginger is a better antimicrobial than dried ginger, the answer is:
In general, yes, but also, it might depend.
Fresh ginger root has shown greater antimicrobial activity against Aspergillis sp., a mold that can trigger respiratory distress, but dried ginger root has shown greater efficacy against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacteria that can lead to pneumonia and infections in the blood.
Both fresh and dried ginger showed efficacy against Candida albicans, the most common culprit of fungal infections in humans all over the world.
Ginger’s Anti-Nausea Activity
Two groups of polyphenols known as gingerols and shogaols, both of which are responsible for ginger’s pungent taste, also show great antioxidant and anti-nausea activity. But the specific physiological mechanism of how they work their anti-nausea magic is a little fuzzy.
So far, research has shown that gingerols and shogaols may be effective against nausea because they:
- stimulate digestion,
- increase stomach muscle tone,
- and work to block certain neurotransmitters that can cause us to feel nauseous.
Several studies have found that fresh ginger contains a higher amount of gingerols, while dried ginger contains a higher amount of shogaols. Even so, I wasn’t able to find any research done on whether or not fresh or dried ginger is more effective in treating nausea, suggesting that taking ginger in any form may help.
The Verdict: Is Fresh or Dry Ginger Better for You?
In conclusion, in asking whether fresh vs. dried ginger is better for you, I think it’s apropos to recommend consuming both! Just eat ginger, in any form you’d like!
While ginger does undergo some nutrient and phytochemical changes as it’s dried, it still offers plenty of medicinal benefits in both forms. (However, I do think fresh ginger is far superior in taste.)
Try these recipes using ginger!
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Resources & Further Reading
- Ozola, B., Augspole, I., Duma, M., and Kreicbergs, V. (2019) Bioactive compounds in fresh and dried ginger root (Zingiber officinale). Food Balt, 050:265-268. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ingrida_Augspole/
- Ghafoor, K., Al Juhaimi, F., et al. (2020) Total phenolics, total carotenoids, individual phenolics and antioxidant activity of ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome as affected by drying methods. LWT – Food & Science Technology, 126. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lwt.2020.109354
- Sasidharan, I. & Nirmala Menon, A. (2010) Comparative chemical composition and antimicrobial activity fresh and dry ginger oils (Zingiber officinale Roscoe). International Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, 2:4. Retrieved from http://naturalingredient.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/235.pdf
- Sharma, PK., Singh, V., & Ali, M. (2016) Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of fresh rhizome essential oil of Zingiber officinale Roscoe. Journal of Pharmacognosy, 8:3, 185-190. Retrieved from https://phcogj.com/sites/default/files/10.5530pj.2016.3.3.pdf
- Mao, Q. Q., Xu, X. Y., Cao, S. Y., Gan, R. Y., Corke, H., Beta, T., & Li, H. B. (2019). Bioactive compounds and bioactivities of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe). Foods, 8(6), 185. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8060185
DISCLAIMER: The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications.