Shēngjiāng – Zingiber officinale


  • 生薑, translates to “fresh jiang/ginger”
  • Fresh ginger root

Same plant & plant part, different forms & actions

Shēngjiāng is the fresh ginger root that most of us are familiar with at the grocery store often used in Southeast Asian and South Asian cuisine. It is more moving, particularly adept at taking fluids from the interior and pushing them to the skin surface. It is by far the most widely used form of ginger in Chinese herbalism.

However, there are two other types of ginger that are commonly used. The first, called Gānjiāng (Dried ginger) comes from the “mother bulb” of the ginger – the rhizome portion closest to the base of the growing plant. It is spicer, warmer, more drying, and less moving. The second, called Páojiāng (Roasted ginger) is very similar to Shēngjiāng but has been roasted until blackened. This gives it a bitter, astringent quality and it is most commonly used to treat bleeding conditions.

This shows part of the beauty of Chinese herbalism – the same plant, but different parts of the plant, or the same parts used in new ways – can yield entirely different medical results!

Botanical Information

  • Zingiber officinale
  • We use the rhizome, and while this form is called “fresh” ginger, if it is used in granules it has obviously been pre-cooked. That said, it is as close to the fresh form as possible, minimally processed, unless it is one of the different forms (like Páojiāng) discussed above
  • Member of the Zingiberaceae family which consists of many different species of ginger, some edible, some medicinal, some neither
  • Note that we use the RHIZOME, not the ROOT, despite popular use of the term “ginger root.” Rhizomes are actually stems that grow horizontally just under the soil surface, sometimes emerging on top of the soil. They act as nutrient storage and help with reproduction. Roots on the other hand grow mostly vertically into the soil and are used to anchor the plant and absorb nutrients and water.

Chinese herb theory information

  • Warm, acrid/spicy herb that releases the exterior
  • Associated with the Lung, Spleen & Stomach organ systems
  • Acrid or spicy in flavor
  • Warm in nature/temperature, so has a warming impact on the body
  • Non-toxic, and in fact is often used to detoxify other herbs!

Uses & Notes

Shēngjiāng is an extremely common component in many Chinese herbal formulas, used in some of the most commonly referenced herbal formulas. The standard medical textbook lists this herb as being an herb that “releases the exterior,” which means that it can be used to help provoke surface opening & sweating in the case of febrile illnesses. However, it’s actual use in practice is much broader than that.

Along with Gānjiāng, discussed above, this herb is chiefly known for its positive impacts on the digestive system. In many formulas, it is combined with licorice and a type of Chinese date to help protect and strengthen the digestive system, either to resist the strong energy of the rest of the formula, or simply to help with the primary pathology. It is a very well known herb for the treatment of nausea and vomiting, and its dosage is sometimes increased when that symptom is significant in a given patient’s situation.

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