How to Use Ginger Oil for Swelling and Inflammation, According to a Dermatologist
Getty ImagesAnatoliy Sizov
Ginger oil is officially trendy. Searches for the essential oil on Pinterest have spiked 659% over the past year, thanks to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. But what exactly are you supposed to do with this spicy-scented substance?
We talked to Raman Madan, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Huntington Hospital, to find out.
What is ginger oil?
“Ginger oil comes from the plant called Zingiber officinale, which is just ginger,” Dr. Madan says. Most essential oils get made with a process called steam distillation, essentially when steam is passed through raw plant material (like ginger or lavender), causing the aromatic compounds in the plants to then vaporize. The oil-soluble components then get separated from the water-soluble ones, making essential oil.
To yield enough of these aromatic oils, you’d need some pretty complex equipment — simply boiling ginger and adding another oil to it wouldn’t have the same effect.
What are the benefits of ginger oil?
“There are certain inflammatory markers in the body such as TNF-alpha, IL-6, and IL-10,” Dr. Madan says. “When the body produces these, that’s what causes inflammation, redness, and pain.”
Some initial studies on ginger have shown that it may alter these anti-inflammatory biomarkers — tiny compounds on a molecular level — and help lower them.
That said, don’t ditch the Advil just yet. Consult with your healthcare provider first if you’re concerned about any pain or swelling. He or she may advise using ginger oil in conjunction with other remedies. “The effect wouldn’t be enough to fix all the pain that someone is having,” Dr. Madan says, “but it’s definitely a good treatment to add because it has been proven to decrease cytokines, the enzymes that cause inflammation.”
How can you use ginger oil?
“You can use ginger oil for anything inflammatory, whether it’s a little bit of knee pain, joint pain, eczema or psoriasis,” Dr. Madan says. “Don’t be afraid to use it, but always make sure your body can tolerate it first.”
Don’t apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin, as it can lead to irritation or other adverse reactions. Instead, mix the ginger oil with vaseline to make a salve.
Start with a one to 10 ratio of ginger oil to vaseline, Dr. Madan advises — that’s about seven or so drops of oil per teaspoon of petroleum jelly. You can later up the amount of ginger oil depending on how your skin tolerates it.
To test it out, first try putting a little on your wrist and waiting a day for any signs of allergic reaction, especially if you have sensitive skin. Then rub it wherever you’re experiencing pain or redness and let the ginger go to work.