Health Benefits of Ginger
The commonly used spice, ginger, comes from the rhizome of Zingiber officinale. Ginger has numerous health benefits and has been reported to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anticarcinogenic, antifungal, and anti-emetic properties.
The major constituents of fresh, organically grown ginger include volatile oils, oleoresin (gingerol), linoleic acid, and trace elements such as magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium (Jolad et al., 2004). A later study found that the concentrations of gingerols normally found in fresh ginger were slightly reduced in dry ginger (Jolad et al. 2005), but still present. This indicates that fresh ginger may have more health benefits than the dried spice.
Ginger As A Treatment For Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Ginger has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic and traditional Sino-Japanese medicine for the treatment of inflammatory and rheumatic diseases(Ahmed et al., 2005).
Several recent studies have also shown that ginger extract is helpful in reducing the pain and inflammation of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (Ahmed et al., 2005).
However, this does not mean that dried ginger has no health benefits. In one study Srivastava and Mustafa (1992) found that 75% or more of people suffering from either rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or muscular discomfort reported less pain and swelling after using powdered ginger. In this study ginger was consumed from 3 months to 2.5 years. During that time no adverse side effects were found from ginger consumption. Ginger is thought to help with arthritis due in part to its ability to inhibit prostaglandin and leukotriene production (Srivastava and Mustafa, 1992).
Ginger As A Treatment Or Preventative For Cancer
Research has shown that ginger may be effective in the prevention or treatment of certain types of cancers. For example, Rhode et al. (2007) found that ginger inhibited the growth of cultured ovarian cancer cells. This result suggests that dietary intake of ginger may help in the prevention and treatment of ovarian and potentially other types of cancers. Ginger (gingerol) has also been shown to inhibit the growth of cultured colon cancer cells (Lee et al., 2007).
Ginger As A Treatment For Cardiovascular Disease And Obesity
There is also evidence that ginger may help in the treatment of cardiovascular disease due its anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet,and hypolipidemic effects (Nicoll and Henein, 2007).
In addition, research has found that ginger extract may inhibit the absorption of dietary fat by the intestine. In one study, Han et al. (2005) fed a high fat diet to mice for 8 weeks, with half of the mice also getting a daily dose of ginger extract during this time. Han et al. found that mice that were also given the ginger extract weighed less at the end of the study than those mice that were not given ginger extract. This indicates that ginger may be effective in the prevention and treatment of obesity.
Ginger May Increase Testosterone Levels
We have all heard of phytoestrogens, but rarely do you hear of plants that raise testosterone levels. Until now. There is evidence that ginger may have androgenic activity. In one study male rats given ginger extract were found to have increased serum testosterone levels and increased testicular weight (Kamtchouing et al., 2002). It is possible that ginger could have the same effect on human testosterone levels.
Safety of Ginger Consumption
Because ginger has been around and used for centuries in Asian folk medicine any side effects due to ginger consumption are already known. The consumption of ginger is known to be relatively safe. However, more research needs to be conducted to determine the effects of long-term use and especially high doses of ginger.
Ahmed, S., J. Anuntiyo, C.J. Malemud, and T.M. Haqqi (2005). Biological Basis for the use of botanicals in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis: A review. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2:301-308.
Han L.K., Gong X.J., Kawano S., Saito M., Kimura Y., and Okuda H.(2005). Antiobesity actions of Zingiber officinale Roscoe. Yakugaku Zasshi: Journal of the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan, 125:213-217.
Jolad S.D., Lantz R.C., Solyom A.M., Chen G.J., Bates R.B., and Timmermann B.N. (2004). Fresh organically grown ginger (Zingiber officinale): Composition and effects on LPS-induced PGE2 production. Phytochemistry, 65:1937-1954.
Jolad S.D., Lantz R.C., Chen G.J., Bates R.B., and Timmermann B.N. (2005). Commercially processed dry ginger (Zingiber officinale): Composition and effects on LPS-stimulated PGE2 production. Phytochemistry, 66:1614-1635.
Kamtchouing P., Mbongue Fandio G.Y., Dimo T., and Jatsa H.B. (2002).Evaluation of androgenic activity of Zingiber officinale and Pentadiplandra brazzeana in male rats. Asian Journal of Andrology, 4:299-301.
Lee S.H., Cekanova M., Baek S.J. (2007). Multiple mechanisms are involved in 6-gingerol-induced cell growth arrest and apoptosis in human colorectal cancer cells. Molecular Carcinogenesis (Epub ahead of print).
Nicoll R. and Henein M.Y. (2007). Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe): A hot remedy for cardiovascular disease? International Journal of Cardiology (Epub ahead of print).
Rhode J., Fogoros S., Zick S., Wahl H., Griffith K.A., Huang J., and Liu J.R. (2007). Ginger inhibits cell growth and modulates angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 7:44.
Srivastava K.C. and Mustafa T. (1992). Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders. Medical Hypotheses, 39:342-348.