Ginger and iron deficiency anaemia

Anaemia is a condition where the blood lacks enough healthy blood cells containing haemoglobin to carry oxygen. One feels weak and tired quickly with anaemia due to the reduced oxygen circulating capability. Anaemia is very common, affecting close to a third of the world population, especially among young children and women [1]. Anaemia is most caused by a deficiency in iron, an essential nutrient to health.

Unhealthy red blood cells under the microscope.

The body needs iron to carry oxygen and generate energy but cannot synthesise this mineral independently. Hence, a constant supply of iron from food is essential. I have discussed iron metabolism and iron supplement in a previous post (See “Should I take iron supplements?”). I have also explained how to enhance iron absorption through good dietary habits in the post “Iron deficiency anaemia and vegetarian diet”. This post will introduce a familiar yet highly versatile superfood that can help improve iron absorption and blood production to prevent anaemia: Ginger.

Ginger is great in food and good for health.

Ginger in TCM formulae

Ginger has been used as a spice and herb in China for thousands of years for the treatment of numerous illnesses, including colds, nausea, arthritis, migraines, and hypertension [2]. Ginger is also a common ingredient in herbal formulae of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to replenish the blood (补血). For example, ginger is one of the key components in the Jian-pi-bu-xue-formula (建脾补血方) together with astragalus (黄芪), dang shen (党参), red dates (红枣), and dang qui (当归). This formula has been shown in a scientific study to increase red and white blood cells in mice that were depressed of blood cells production [3]. Similarly, ginger is often combined with red dates in many TCM formulae, which nourish the blood and have been shown to improve the production of red blood cells [4].

Ginger is commonly combined with other herbs to retore qi and blood in TCM.

Improving iron absorption

No doubt, ginger is a valuable herb. How can it help to improve anaemia? A group of researchers in India conducted a study to answer this question [5]. They recruited 62 adult patients with iron deficiency anaemia. The patients were divided into two groups. The first group (30 patients) was given 250g of ginger extract and iron supplement to take for 30 days. The second group (32 patients) was prescribed only iron supplement only. Blood tests were conducted at the beginning of the study and at the end of the 30 days. The study found that the first group had much better improvement in anaemia, as shown in the blood tests. The first group’s haemoglobin count increased by 8.23% on average compared to only 2.3% in the second group. The first group’s blood iron content improved by 19.63% compared to 5.54% in the second group [5]. Thus, taking ginger extract together with iron supplement enhances iron absorption and restore the deficiency more effectively.

Add ginger to your vegetables to improve iron absoption.

Stimulating red blood cells production

Another study comparing the effects of ginger supplementation on smokers and non-smokers. The study found that taking ginger can improve the low red blood cells and haemoglobin counts in smokers [6]. In an experimental study with Zebrafish [7], researchers incubated genetically modified Zebrafish embryos with anaemia in a ginger extract. They found positive results that ginger stimulated red blood cells differentiation and reverted the anaemic state. The effects were especially pronounced with 10-gingerol, an active compound in ginger. Further investigations by the same group of researchers also found that ginger and 10-gingerol could help repair the defective blood vessels introduced by the genetic mutation in these Zebrafish. These studies confirm that ginger and its active compound can stimulate red blood cell production and potentially improve anaemia.

Ginger can improve red blood cells production.


Ginger is a common spice. Taking ginger can help to improve iron deficiency anaemia in two ways. First, ginger can help the absorption of iron. Second, ginger stimulates the production of red blood cells and increase the haemoglobin count. Together the anaemic condition can be reversed. Not surprisingly, ginger has been used in TCM to replenish the blood for thousands of years.


[1]         N.J. Kassebaum, R. Jasrasaria, M. Naghavi, S.K. Wulf, N. Johns, R. Lozano, M. Regan, D. Weatherall, D.P. Chou, T.P. Eisele, S.R. Flaxman, R.L. Pullan, S.J. Brooker, C.J.L. Murray, A systematic analysis of global anemia burden from 1990 to 2010, blood. 123 (2014) 615–624. doi:10.1182/blood-2013-06-508325.

[2]         A.M. Bode, D. Z, The amazing and mighty ginger, in: 2nd (Ed.), Herb. Med. Biomol. Clin. Asp., CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, Boca Raton, FL, 2011.

[3]         Q. Huang, L. Feng, H. Li, L. Zheng, X. Qi, Y. Wang, Q. Feng, Z. Liu, X. Liu, L. Lu, Jian-Pi-Bu-Xue-Formula alleviates cyclophosphamide-induced myelosuppression via up-regulating NRF2/HO1/NQO1 signaling, Front. Pharmacol. 11 (2020) 1302.

[4]         C.T.W. Lam, P.H. Chan, P.S.C. Lee, K.M. Lau, A.Y.Y. Kong, A.G.W. Gong, M.L. Xu, K.Y.C. Lam, T.T.X. Dong, H. Lin, K.W.K. Tsim, Chemical and biological assessment of Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba)-containing herbal  decoctions: Induction of erythropoietin expression in cultures., J. Chromatogr. B, Anal. Technol. Biomed. Life  Sci. 1026 (2016) 254–262. doi:10.1016/j.jchromb.2015.09.021.

[5]         R. Kulkarni, A. Deshpande, K. Saxena, M. Varma, A.R.S. Sinha, Ginger supplementary therapy for iron absorption in iron deficiency anemia, Indian J. Tradit. Knowl. 11 (2012) 78–80.

[6]         S.H. Mahassni, O.A. Bukhari, Beneficial effects of an aqueous ginger extract on the immune system cells and antibodies, hematology, and thyroid hormones in male smokers and non-smokers, J. Nutr. Intermed. Metab. 15 (2019) 10–17. doi:10.1016/j.jnim.2018.10.001.

[7]         K.F. Ferri-Lagneau, K.S. Moshal, M. Grimes, B. Zahora, L. Lv, S. Sang, T. Leung, Ginger stimulates hematopoiesis via Bmp pathway in Zebrafish, PLoS One. 7 (2012) e39327.

[8]         K.F. Ferri-Lagneau, J. Haider, S. Sang, T. Leung, Rescue of hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells formation in plcg1 zebrafish mutant, Sci. Rep. 9 (2019) 244. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-36338-8.

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