One of the most popular spices comes from a plant root that’s been used medicinally for thousands of years.
Now, modern scientific analysis of the natural compounds within this plant reveal proof that it’s a boon to your health, especially when it comes to fighting inflammation or autoimmune illness.
Let’s take a closer look at ginger root…
Ginger is a spicy edible root that’s been used in medicinal tonics since at least 2000 BC, when it first appeared in ancient Chinese medical texts.
In India, ginger was being referred to by its Sanskrit name (srngaveram, meaning horn root) by the year 1000 BC.
Today we use the name “ginger” which derives from its Middle English moniker gingivere that was first used a thousand years ago.
Traditionally, ginger was used to treat arthritis, nausea, headaches, high blood pressure and the common cold. It was also sometimes used as an aphrodisiac. One reason for ginger’s many uses is its ability to fight inflammation.
Natural Inflammation Fighter
According to researchers, ginger “exert(s) a variety of remarkable pharmacological and physiological activities,” especially when it comes to inflammation. The source of many of these benefits can be connected to the fact that compounds in ginger – such as its most well-researched component gingerol – can limit damaging inflammation.
Tests at the University of Michigan have focused on how gingerol’s anti-inflammatory power could be effective in fending off autoimmune diseases. These conditions cause the immune system to go into overdrive and start attacking the body.
In the Michigan lab tests, the scientists paid particular attention to gingerol’s potential for calming lupus, an autoimmune disorder that can impact the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, brain, and lungs.
Lupus frequently leads to widespread blood clots and organ damage when white blood cells called neutrophils form sticky structures like spider webs that damage blood vessels and set off high levels of inflammation.
But the Michigan study shows that gingerol can interrupt this harmful process, reduce the danger of blood clots, and restrain neutrophil misbehavior. One way it does this is to inhibit the action of enzymes called phosphodiesterases – and that slows down the over-activation of neutrophils.
Cooling off the Inflammation of Colitis
Another study, this one in Japan, shows how a compound found in tropical ginger called 1′-acetoxychavicol acetate (ACA) is especially effective at helping the body fight off inflammation while preventing or treating inflammatory conditions.
These tests demonstrate that ACA protects mitochondria (energy-producing structures in cells) from damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS).
When ACA defends mitochondria, it also blocks the action of a group of proteins that form a “complex” called NLRP3 inflammasome. When this complex is unrestrained, it can kill cells in a manner that sets off the release of substances that inflame the body the way gasoline thrown into a fire sets off an explosion of flames.
Japanese researchers note that this function of ACA may help keep inflammatory bowel diseases like colitis from causing widespread damage and pain within the body.
Ginger can also help people suffering with diabetes.
Avoiding Complications of Diabetes
Studies also indicate that ginger can be used to help improve the health of people with diabetes. For instance, in one study, diabetics who were given 1600 mg a day of a ginger extract improved their insulin sensitivity, lowered their triglycerides, and lowered their levels of inflammation.
After the study, researchers concluded that, “Ginger can be considered as an effective treatment for prevention of diabetes complications.”
And when researchers in Asia gave ginger to people undergoing chemotherapy, they found it improved their antioxidant levels and decreased their markers of oxidative stress with no unwelcome side effects. These investigators note that ginger beneficially “increases antioxidant enzyme blood levels and decreases oxidative stress blood levels.”
There’s even research that suggests ginger itself can help fight cancer.
Gingerol Tackles Cancer
Multiple studies have been conducted on the anti-cancer activities of the different forms of ginger, from extracts to isolated components such as gingerol.
Those studies have looked at the ability of ginger to prevent or suppress cancer growth in various cancers, including lymphoma, hepatoma, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, liver cancer, and bladder cancer.
The most likely mechanisms behind ginger’s effects against cancer include its antioxidant activity, ability to induce apoptosis and decrease cancer spread, tendency to cause cell-cycle arrest, and knack for suppressing proteins and signaling pathways that allow cancer to grow. More specifically, ginger extract appears to be effective in slowing cancer’s growth and development.
In a handful of studies, it effectively slowed the growth of colon tumors, human lung cancer cells, and human breast cancer cells. The extract also killed the cells in a dose-responsive manner by inducing apoptosis and limiting the expression of genes that are involved in cancer’s growth and spread.
Something similar happened with ovarian cells. While normal ovarian cells are not affected by ginger extract, tumor cell lines meet their death at the hands of this potent remedy. Ginger did the same thing to endometrial cancer cells. And when it came to pancreatic cancer cells, ginger extract effectively suppressed cell cycle progression and prompted cell death. The extract even stopped the tumor growth of human pancreatic cancer in a host animal.
One last note – ginger is well-known for relieving nausea. Now researchers in Germany have evidence that it may be useful as part of a hangover treatment.
The German study showed folks who had imbibed too much alcohol got some relief from a concoction that combined ginger with Barbados cherry (Acerola), prickly pear, ginkgo biloba, willow and ginger root along with supplements of magnesium, potassium, sodium bicarbonate, zinc, riboflavin, thiamine and folic acid.
The study indicated that this combination reduced nausea by 42 percent, restlessness by 41 percent, and headache intensity by 34 percent.
Other research has shown ginger’s effectiveness in reducing nausea and discomfort after surgery or conventional treatment for cancer.
It’s clear that the ancient healers were onto something with their tonics of ginger root. While modern medical research is just getting started in its analysis of the health benefits of the ginger plant, it appears this is one spice you can and should enjoy as often as you want.
In addition to using ginger to flavor your food, you can also reap its many health benefits by consuming ginger teas and ginger extract supplements.