Ginger has got so many health benefits. It is widely used as a spice and medicine. The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes ginger (Zingiber officinale) “as a herbaceous perennial plant of the family Zingiberaceae, probably native to south-eastern Asia, or its aromatic, pungent rhizome (underground stem) used as a spice, flavoring, food, and medicine.”
Ginger contains 2% essential oils which are extracted and distilled from the roots for use in the food and perfume industries. Zingiberene is the predominant constituent of the oil of ginger. Zingerone gives ginger its pungent smell and gives it a sweet flavor when cooked.
Ginger can treat nausea and vomiting:
Ginger may treat many forms of nausea and vomiting. Collins Dictionary describes nausea as “the condition of feeling sick and the feeling that you are going to vomit.” Common causes of nausea are heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); bacterial or viral infection; certain medications, for example, chemotherapy; motion sickness and seasickness; diet; pain; ulcer; food poisoning; and pregnancy.
Treatments for nausea include meclizine, scopolamine, metoclopramide, prochlorperazine, chlorpromazine, ondansetron, pyridoxine and doxylamine, dimenhydrinate, and ginger. The treatment used depends on the type and cause of nausea and vomiting.
Nausea and vomiting can be prevented by eating small amounts of food during each mealtime throughout the day, eating slowly, avoiding hard-to-digest foods, and avoiding spicy foods.
E Ernst and M H Pittler, 2000, performed a systematic review of randomized clinical trials in search of evidence for or against the efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting. Some of the studies they reviewed suggested that ginger was more effective in treating seasickness, morning sickness, and chemotherapy-induced nausea than a placebo. They concluded that all the studies they reviewed collectively favored ginger over placebo.
In addition to this, R Schmid and colleagues, 1994, compared the efficacy and tolerability of seven drugs frequently used for the prevention of seasickness. The drugs were cinnarizine, cinnarizine with domperidone, cyclizine, dimenhydrinate with caffeine, ginger root, meclizine with caffeine, and scopolamine. They performed a randomized double-blind study with two arms. They found out that out of the seven drugs, scopolamine TTS was the least effective. Their conclusion was that six of the seven medications including ginger root may be recommended for the prevention of seasickness.
Nathorn Chaiyakunapruk and colleagues, 2006, specifically determined the impact of a fixed dose of ginger administration compared with placebo on the 24-hour postoperative nausea and vomiting. The study was a systematic review and meta-analysis of trials revealed in searches. They concluded that the meta-analysis demonstrated that a fixed dose of at least 1g of ginger was more effective than placebo for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting. Furthermore, using ginger to reduce postoperative nausea and vomiting was found to be effective.
Anu Kochanujan Pillai and colleagues, 2010, investigated the anti-Emeric effect of ginger powder versus placebo as add-on therapy in children and young adults receiving high emetogenic chemotherapy. They found out that ginger root powder was effective in reducing the severity of acute and delayed chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting as additional therapy to ondansetron and dexamethasone in patients receiving high emetogenic chemotherapy.
Estelle Viljoen and colleagues, 2014, conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting. They found out that twelve randomized controlled trials involving 1278 pregnant women had proved that ginger significantly improved the symptoms of nausea when compared to placebo. They concluded that ginger was harmless and effective in reducing nausea symptoms in pregnancy.
Ginger reduces after exercise pain:
Ginger has been scientifically proven to reduce after exercise muscle pain or soreness. There are many different types and causes of muscle pain. The medical term for muscle pain is myalgia. Myalgia is a pain in a muscle or group of muscles that can involve ligaments, tendons, and fascia.
Common causes of muscle pain or muscle aches are injuries, trauma, overuse, tension, certain drugs, and illnesses, for example, chronic exertional compartment syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, claudication, dermatomyositis, dystonia, fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, influenza (flu), lupus, Lyme disease, muscle cramp, myofascial pain syndrome, polymyalgia rheumatic, polymyositis, rheumatoid arthritis, rocky mountain spotted fever and sprains.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the pain and stiffness you feel in your muscles many hours to days after unaccustomed or strenuous exercise.
Christopher D Black and colleagues, 2010, examined the effects of eleven days of raw and heat-treated ginger supplementation on muscle pain. The study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized experiment. They found out that ginger reduced muscle pain caused by strenuous exercise if consumed daily. However, heat-treating the ginger did not enhance its effect.
They concluded that a daily intake of raw and heat-treated ginger resulted in moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain after exercise-induced muscle injury. Their findings agreed with studies showing hypoalgesic effects of ginger in osteoarthritis patients and showed that ginger is an effective pain reliever.
In addition to this, Christopher D Black and Patrick J O’Connor, 2010, examined the acute effects of ginger on muscle pain, inflammation, and dysfunction induced by eccentric exercise. They found out that in a subset of participants who consumed ginger 24 hours after exercise arm pain was reduced by 13% the following day, 48 hours after exercise, and no change in pain in the placebo group. They concluded that ginger may reduce the day-to-day progression of muscle pain.
Ginger can reduce pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis patients:
Ginger has been shown to reduce pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis patients. Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down over time causing joints to become painful and stiff. As time goes on, the cartilage will wear down completely and bone will rub against bone. It is the most common type of arthritis.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis develop slowly and become worse as time goes on. Some of the signs and symptoms are pain, stiffness, tenderness, loss of flexibility, grating sensation, bone spurs, and swelling.
Certain factors can increase your risk of osteoarthritis. They include old age, sex, obesity, joint injuries, repeated stress on the joint, genetics, bone deformities, and certain metabolic diseases, for example, diabetes, and hemochromatosis (a disease in which your body has too much iron).
As of now, there is no cure for osteoarthritis. However, there are some medicines that can help relieve the symptoms. They include paracetamol, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, capsaicin cream, and steroid injections. In addition to taking these medicines, it is recommended that you change your lifestyle to lose weight if you are overweight.
R D Altman and K C Marcussen, 2001, evaluated the efficacy and safety of a standardized and highly concentrated extract of two ginger species, Zingiber officinale and Alpinia galangal in patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee. They found out that patients who took the ginger extract had reduced knee pain than the patients who did not. Their conclusion was that a highly purified standardized ginger extract was amazingly effective in reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee.
Mohsen Zahmatkash and Mohammad Reza Vafaeenasab, 2011, studied the analgesic effects of a herbal ointment containing cinnamon, ginger, mastic, and sesame oil compared with Salicylate ointment in patients suffering from knee arthritis. They conducted a double-blind randomized controlled trial. They found out that the herbal combination was clinically effective in reducing pain, morning stiffness, and limited motion in patients suffering from osteoarthritis. They concluded that the herbal combination was comparable with Salicylate ointment.
Ginger may have powerful anti-diabetic properties:
Recent studies have proven that daily consumption of ginger can lower fasting blood glucose levels and drastically improve Haemoglobin A1c.
Nafiseh Khandouzi and colleagues, 2015, investigated the effects of ginger on fasting blood sugar, Haemoglobin A1c, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein A-1, and malondialdehyde in type 2 diabetic patients. They found out that ginger supplementation significantly reduced fasting blood glucose, Haemoglobin A1c, apolipoprotein B, and malondialdehyde levels in comparison to the baseline and control group. They concluded that oral administration of ginger powder supplement may reduce fasting blood glucose levels and may have a role in improving type 2 diabetes. However, more work with larger studies needs to be done in this area before making any recommendations.
Ginger can treat indigestion:
Ginger has been shown to help treat chronic indigestion. Indigestion is difficulty in breaking food down resulting in pain and discomfort in the stomach. The pain or discomfort can be in your upper abdomen (dyspepsia) or burning pain behind the breastbone (heartburn).
The symptoms of indigestion include early fulness during a meal, uncomfortable fulness after a meal, discomfort in the upper abdomen, burning in the upper abdomen, bloating in the upper abdomen, and nausea. Indigestion may be triggered by food, drinks, or medication.
It is commonly caused by overeating or eating too quickly; fatty, spicy, or greasy foods; too much caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, or carbonated drinks; smoking; anxiety; certain antibiotics, pain relievers, and iron supplements; other digestive diseases such as inflammation of the stomach (gastritis), peptic ulcers, celiac disease, gall stones, constipation, pancreas inflammation (pancreatitis), stomach cancer, intestinal blockage, and reduced blood flow in the intestine (intestinal ischemia).
Indigestion can be treated using anti-acids (calcium carbonate, loperamide, simethicone, and sodium bicarbonate); antibiotics (amoxicillin, clarithromycin, metronidazole, tetracycline, and tinidazole); H2 blockers (cimetidine, famotidine, nizatidine, and ranitidine); proton pump inhibitors (esomeprazole, lansoprazole, pantoprazole, and rabeprazole); and prokinetics (bethanechol, and metoclopramide).
Ming-Luen Hu and colleagues, 2011, evaluated the effects of ginger on gastric motility and emptying, abdominal symptoms, and hormones that influence motility in dyspepsia. They found out that ginger made gastric emptying more rapid than a placebo. They concluded that ginger caused rapid gastric emptying and antral contractions in patients with functional dyspepsia.
Keng-Liang Wu and colleagues, 2008, investigated the effects of ginger on gastric emptying, antral motility, proximal gastric dimensions, and postprandial symptoms in healthy humans. They found out that ginger caused more rapid gastric emptying than a placebo. Their conclusion was that ginger causes rapid gastric emptying and stimulates antral contractions in healthy volunteers and could potentially be helpful in symptomatic patients.
Ginger may help prevent cancer:
Ginger has got a substance known as 6-gingerol which may help prevent cancer. 6-gingerol is a beta-hydroxy ketone. It is available in fresh ginger and is an antineoplastic agent (medication that can treat cancer) and a plant metabolite.
Cancer is a disease whereby cells in an organ of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The most common types of cancer are breast cancer, lung cancer (including bronchus), prostate cancer, colon and rectal cancer, melanoma (skin cancer), bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, kidney (renal cell and renal pelvis cancer), endometrial cancer, thyroid cancer, and liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancer
Currently available types of cancer treatment are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy, and stem cell transplant. To reduce your risk of getting cancer, you should (a) quit smoking, (b) eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, (c) maintain a healthy weight and be physically active, (d) protect yourself from the sun, (e ) get vaccinated, (f) avoid risky behaviors, and (g) get regular medical care.
E K Radhakrishnan and colleagues, 2014, evaluated 6-gingerol in two human colon cancer cell lines for its cytotoxic effect. The most sensitive cell line, SW-480, was selected for the mechanistic evaluation of the anticancer and chemopreventive efficacy of 6-gingerol. They found out that 6-gingerol stopped cell growth and reproduction of cancer cells and killed them without affecting the normal cells. They concluded that the inhibition of the ERK1/2/JNK/AP-1 pathway was a possible mechanism behind the anticancer as well as the chemopreventive efficacy of -gingerol against colon cancer.
Suzanna M. Zick and colleagues, 2011, investigated if 2.0 g/day of ginger could decrease the levels of PGE2, 13-hydroxy-octadecadienoic acids (13-HODE), and 5-, 12-, & 15-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (5-, 12-, & 15-HETE), in the colon mucosa of healthy volunteers. They found out that ginger decreased eicosanoid, PGE2 , 5-HETE and 12-HETE levels. However, they recommended that further studies should be done in people at high risk for colorectal cancer.
Side effects of eating ginger:
Consumption of ginger has got some side effects. It can cause heartburn, diarrhea, and general stomach discomfort. It may cause extra menstrual bleeding in some women. Furthermore, it might cause irritation to the skin. Intake of ginger might increase the risk of bleeding. It also interacts with some medications, for example, phenprocoumon, warfarin, anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs, antidiabetic drugs, and calcium channel blockers.
Ginger has got so many other health benefits not mentioned in this article. More work needs to be done to scientifically prove some of the health benefits.
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