Ginger Root PowerJune 1, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
It’s part of human nature to overlook the potential of very “ordinary” things and instead seek out more exotic solutions to problems in our lives. This is very often the case in the field of natural medicine. We’re far more likely to hear about a new “superfruit” from a remote location than to read about similarly impressive features found in items available at the local supermarket. I can think of no better example of this than in the case of Zingiber Officinale, otherwise known as ginger root.
The amount of research conducted on this humble rhizome is really quite astonishing. Many us are aware of the role that ginger plays in promoting digestive health and combating nausea. (1,2) But there are a whole host of other physiological and psychological benefits of ginger that aren’t widely known. Here’s an overview of the some of the hidden promise of this magnificent tuber.
- Allergies – A substance found in ginger, called gingerol, was recently tested in a mouse model of allergic asthma. The study utilized an “aqueous extract”, which is basically a concentrated ginger tea preparation. All the mice in the study presented symptoms of allergic asthma and were administered the ginger-water decoction. The ginger extract helped to reduce “airway inflammation” and the related immune response in this group of mice. (3) A separate study demonstrated a compounding effect when ginger extract was added to a green tea product known to possess anti-allergic properties. In that research, the combined effects of green tea and ginger were tested on volunteers who suffered from seasonal allergies to pollen. (4)
- Dysmenorrhea – Women all over the world suffer from painful menstruation. There are a number of medications that can be used to manage these symptoms. A study in the February 2009 issue of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine indicates that ginger may be a viable alternative to these synthetic drugs. In that trial, 150 women with dysmenorrhea were divided into 3 groups and given one of three medicines: a) ginger extract; b) ibuprofen; or c) mefenamic acid. All three of the groups were asked to take their respective treatments at a dosage of 250 mg 4 times a day for three days prior to the commencement of their menstrual cycle. All three groups experienced an equal amount of pain relief. But the mechanism behind the pain reduction found with ginger may be different and possibly safer. (5) A study from way back in 1991 hints that ginger’s pain relieving action may be due to increased endorphin production, the “feel good” chemicals associated with a “runner’s high”. (6)
- Heart Health – An April 2009 study in the journal Life Sciences reported on ginger’s effects on certain genes that control the production of cholesterol and fat accumulation in the liver. This preliminary research led the authors of the study to conclude that ginger reduces unhealthy gene expression in the liver which can lead to visceral fat build-up (fatty liver) and “hyperlipidemia” (high cholesterol and triglycerides). (7) A May 2009 review of several population studies also suggests that ginger may play a constructive role in regulating high blood pressure. (8)
- Kidney and Liver Health – The kidneys and liver are vital players in the detoxification process. New evidence promotes the idea that ginger (along with thyme) may help protect against alcohol-induced liver damage. The concluding remarks from the study state that, “water extracts of thyme and ginger has detoxifying and antioxidant effects. Therefore, it is recommended to use them to avoid alcohol toxicity.” (9) Two other trials also demonstrate the power of ginger. The first experiment showed an improvement in the health of the kidneys and livers of mice that had suffered damage to those organs. The positive changes occurred within a 30 day period. (10) The second study found equally impressive results in shielding rats from kidney damage. The researchers suggest that a potent antioxidant effect provoked by ginger consumption may be the reason for the noted kidney protection. (11)
- Mood Disorders – Even the brain appears to be receptive to ginger. A study that will be published in June of 2009 describes a synergistic effect between ginger and magnolia bark extracts in a mouse model of depression. Positive changes were observed when these two natural substances were provided together. (12) A related 2005 study found a dopamine-sparing effect when zingerone (a phytochemical found in ginger) was tested. (13) A lack of dopamine is associated with several key characteristics of depression such as, “learned helplessness” and lethargy (lack of energy). The November 2002 issue of Phytotherapy Research, also points to a possible anti-anxiety effect of a specific ginger root extract. (14)
How is it possible that ginger can affect all these disparate functions and symptoms in the body? Part of the answer may be explained by a study released at the end of 2008. In it, a group of Chinese researchers examined the absorption, distribution and retention of ginger after oral ingestion. They tested to see whether ginger components could be found in the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, lung, small intestine, spleen and stomach at various points after its consumption. The scientists discovered that ginger was absorbed very quickly and reached its peak concentration just 10 minutes after it was ingested. Ginger was found in all the organs tested, but the highest concentration was discovered in the gastrointestinal tract. (15) These findings support all the benefits that are commonly associated with ginger and the lesser known attributes that I reported on today.
I try to drink ginger tea on a regular basis because I find its flavor quite appealing. In fact, I often recommend adding a bag of ginger tea to other teas that may not have such an appealing taste. The aromatic properties in ginger root tend to mask unpleasant flavors that other herbs may impart. I hope you’ll give it a try and find some of the benefits noted above.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
Tags: Allergies, Ginger, Liver
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Nutritional Supplements, Women's Health