Why is Ginger Spicy? What are Gingerols? (Explained)

Many times we wonder why Ginger is so spicy?

Ginger tastes spicy due to the presence of the substance Gingerol. It activates spice receptors embedded in the tongue.

It is closely related to Capsaicin (Chili peppers) and Piperine (Black pepper).

All types of ginger applications like Ginger tea, ginger spice, or fresh minced ginger have a different spice grading. 

Is Ginger Really Spicy? 

Yes, ginger is spicy and bears a distinctly warm flavor. It is not comparable to the spice of chilies. The reason for ginger spiciness is Gingerol, related to Capsaicin (present in Capsicum). This is what brings out the ‘heat’ in ginger. 

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Compounds That Make Ginger Spicy

Ginger contains a flavorful compound called Gingerol. It is the oil present in the ginger rhizome. It can also be in the form of a crystalline substance with a low melting point.

When you cook or dry ginger, this compound is altered. During the lifecycle of ginger, this compound may change into one of two sub-products.


This natural compound is warm and only exists in fresh ginger. Gingerol, famous for its distinct gingery and spicy taste can be altered or watered down to make your preferred ginger flavor. This can be done by drying or cooking fresh ginger.


Shogaol (6-Shogaol) as it is called is a very spicy Gingerol derivative and has the spiciest ginger flavor. This Shogaol is formed when we dry ginger.

Perhaps the evaporation process tends to concentrate the Gingerol by-products. In the process making it more potent!


Zingerone is another ginger derivative that is the least spicy ginger flavor. Applying heat to ginger or cooking ginger gives Zingerone. It is this that you usually see in daily foods giving a gingery aroma and a ginger taste. 

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Why is Ginger Tea Spicy?

Ginger tea contains a spicy ingredient in the form of dehydrated ginger powder. This concentrated powder is very hot and spicy. Luckily you can use sugar or honey to soothe the heat! 

You will agree that this sweetness and the heat make a perfect blend. No wonder why ginger tea is such an addictive beverage worldwide!

Gingerol and Capsaicin: What’s the Relation

Both Gingerol (in ginger) and Capsaicin (in capsicum) are naturally occurring compounds. They are either present in ginger or members of the Capsicum genus.

Although they are both alkaloids, their spice strength varies greatly. Capsaicin possesses a much higher spicy heat compared to ginger.

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Is Ginger Spicier Than Peppers?

According to the Scoville Scale (a scale used to measure the heat of a food substance) ginger heat (Shogaol) is only a small fraction of the heat of Chilli Peppers (Capsaicin).

In fact, Gingerol and Shogaol are closer to Piperine (Black Pepper) in terms of heat. 

Capsaicin is around 1000 times hotter than Shogaol, ginger’s most spicy chemical! Hope this would give you some perspective on the heat in them. 

Raw Ginger vs Cooked Ginger: Spice Comparison

What does raw ginger have that cooked ginger doesn’t?

It is a Spicy flavor. Cooked ginger has next to no fiery taste which makes it very easy to eat! Now imagine eating raw ginger day in and day out. 

Raw ginger has more health benefits than cooked ginger. This is because cooking usually breaks down most of the healthy chemical compounds.

One of them being Gingerol. Cooked Gingerol breaks down to zingerone which has fewer health benefits than Gingerol. 

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How to Reduce Ginger’s Spiciness?

If you want to reduce ginger’s spicy effect, you need to break down the Gingerol into Zingerone.

  1. Applying any form of heat (cooking method) will result in a diminished spicy flavor! This is because it produces Zingerone which is very mellow and not spicy at all! 
  2. But, if you do not want to fully cook the ginger, you would need a counteracting substance. Sugar is a great way to numb spicy ginger regardless of the ginger’s purpose.

How does Age Impact Ginger Spice Level? 

Generally, the older a ginger root is the higher the spice level. As ginger root ages, it becomes fibrous and holds less moisture making the chemicals become concentrated. 

Young immature ginger is relatively lesser spicy as it has higher water content. It is mild, juicy, and crisp. This is the reason why many people prefer young ginger over mature spicy ginger. 

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Gingerol Benefits

Studies linked to Gingerols show that they can possibly be used to inhibit a variety of cancers.

Other Gingerol health benefits include regulation of glucose in diabetic patients. This compound has links to anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. 

Ginger is a very useful spicy root and growing ginger indoors in pots is a good idea for people in the USA.