Ginger is a natural ingredient used in cooking, but also found in various cosmetic products. Indeed, it contains several active compounds with interesting properties. Discover here what active molecules are present in ginger.
Ginger: What active ingredients does it contain?
Ginger is a plant originating from India and China. Scientifically known as Zingiber officinale, it is primarily recognized for its characteristic spicy flavor. Beyond its taste qualities, ginger also possesses beneficial properties for the body and skin, derived from its interesting biochemical composition.
Ginger contains gingerol.
Gingerol is one of the main bioactive ingredients found in the composition of ginger. It is responsible for the root's spicy taste, but also for some of its therapeutic properties.
Gingerol is primarily an anti-inflammatory. It works by reducing the activity of several pro-inflammatory cytokines, as well as the COX (cyclooxygenase) enzyme, which is responsible for the production of prostaglandins, the chemical mediators of inflammation. In cosmetic use, this property of ginger helps to reduce redness, itching, and irritation of the skin and scalp.
It is also an excellent antioxidant, helping to counteract the damage of oxidative stress on the skin (hyperpigmentation, premature aging...) but also on the hair. From a mechanistic point of view, gingerol acts at several levels by inhibiting lipid peroxidation and stimulating the activity of the superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx), antioxidant enzymes.
Ginger contains shogaol.
Shogaol is another active ingredient found in ginger. It shares similar properties with gingerol, including its antioxidant nature. As such, shogaol works by inhibiting the action of free radicals, thereby reducing oxidative stress in skin cells. Studies have also shown that shogaol can modulate the activity of Nrf2, a transcription factor capable of regulating the level of antioxidant enzymes in cells.
Just like gingerol, shogaol also acts as a anti-inflammatory. Indeed, this active ingredient inhibits the activation of the NF-κB protein by lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which consequently prevents the induction of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), enzymes involved in the processes of inflammation.
Ginger contains citral.
The two isomers of citral, geranial and neral, are also found in ginger rhizomes. These compounds possess anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for soothing skin and scalp irritations. Indeed, it has been demonstrated that geranial is capable of inhibiting the activity of NLRP3, an inflammasome complex that triggers an inflammatory signaling pathway and the synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines (interleukin-1β and interleukin-4).
Another study conducted on mice demonstrated that citral is a antioxidant compound. Over a period of 24 weeks, a cream containing 1% citral was applied daily to shaved mice that had previously been exposed to UVB rays for 5 minutes. At the end of the experiment, researchers observed that the mice on which the cream had been applied had significantly fewer tumors.
From a mechanistic perspective, citral has activated the transcription factor Nrf2 by dissociating it from its inhibitor KEAP1. This has allowed for an increase in the production of glutathione, a tripeptide involved in the conversion of the oxidized form of ascorbic acid into vitamin C. Glutathione is also capable of neutralizing free radicals through an electron donation, which prevents them from damaging the tissues and cells of the body.
Ginger contains some terpenes.
Ginger also contains various terpenes, such as curcumene, bisabolene, zingiberene... In addition to contributing to the spicy character of ginger, the compounds mentioned above have a antioxidant activity. The mechanisms involved are diverse and notably include the neutralization of free radicals and the stimulation of antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD).
Furthermore, bisabolene and zingiberene possess soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, ideal for calming sensitive skin or skin prone to redness. Sunburns, insect bites, or irritations... Ginger helps to alleviate these discomforts.
Various vitamins can be found in ginger.
Ginger contains traces of vitamins such as vitamins C, A, E, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B9. While their concentration is too low to induce real benefits when ginger is used in cosmetics, they nevertheless contribute to making this ingredient a health ally in the culinary field. Indeed, in dried form or incorporated into a herbal tea, ginger helps fight against winter fatigue and contributes to good digestion.
Trace elements are present in ginger.
Finally, ginger contains several trace elements such as magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc. Their content is not strong enough to provide real benefits when applied topically, but they contribute to the nutritional value of ginger when taken orally.
KRASTANOV A. & al. Composition and Comprehensive Antioxidant Activity of Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Essential Oil from Ecuador. Natural product communication (2015).
CHUNG H. Y. & al. Antioxidant activities of ginger extract and its constituents toward lipids. Food chemistry (2018).
LUIZ R. & al. Citral prevents UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis in hairless mice. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology (2019).
WAHYUDI S. T. & al. Compounds in Indonesian Ginger Rhizome Extracts and Their Potential for Anti-Skin Aging Based on Molecular Docking. Cosmetics (2022).