(NaturalNews) Ginger, that aromatic root that has livened up food for centuries, is a treasure chest of health benefits that keep bodies lively too. Recent research has found ginger to be effective for reducing the nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy, and the pain associated with menstruation. It has also shown ginger to be effective against colon cancer and the devastating effects of liver cancer.
A daily dose of ginger makes pregnant women feel much better
Sixty-seven women receiving prenatal treatment at a clinic were the subjects of a study reported in the March 15 edition of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Each had complained of nausea and vomiting as a result of pregnancy. The women were randomly assigned to either an experimental group or a control group. The experimental group received 250 mg capsules of ginger to be taken four times a day for four days, and the control group received placebos with the same prescriptive form and direction. Effects of treatment for nausea were evaluated twice daily for four days by a before-and-after treatment questionnaire. The ginger users demonstrated a higher rate of improvement compared to the placebo users (85% versus 56%). The decrease in vomiting times among ginger uses was also significantly greater than among the women who received the placebo (50% versus 9%).
Ginger halts menstrual pain as effectively as drugs
Another study compared the effects of ginger, ibuprofen, and mefenamic acid (another NSAID typically used to treat menstrual discomfort) on women with primary menstrual pain. This was a double blind comparative clinical trial conducted over a six month period. Participants were 150 students, aged 18 years and older, who were divided into three equal groups. Students in the ginger group took 250 mg capsules of ginger rhizome powder four times a day for three days from the start of their menstrual periods. Members of the other groups received 250 mg mefenamic acid capsules or 400 mg ibuprofen capsules on the same protocol. A verbal multidimensional scoring system assessed the severity of their menstrual pain.
Severity of disease, pain relief, and satisfaction with treatment were compared between the groups after one menstruation period. At the end of treatment, severity of pain and discomfort decreased in all groups and no differences were found between the groups in degree of pain relief or satisfaction with the treatment. No severe side effects occurred. The scientists concluded that ginger was as effective as the NSAID drugs in relieving menstrual pain. This study can be found in the February 13 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
Ginger has a distinguished career as a spice and a healer
Spicy ginger comes from the underground rhizome of the ginger plant, known botanically as Zingiber officinale. The edible rhizome is usually yellow or white in color and covered with a thin brown skin. After being peeled, the firm textured rhizome can be minced and sprinkled raw on salads, vegetables dishes, and beans and legumes. It adds a tantalizing taste sensation that some refer to as being hot. Ginger has been favorite addition to Asian cuisine for several centuries.
Ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern writing, and had been prized throughout several millennia for its culinary and medicinal properties. It is traditionally used by the Chinese and Mediterraneans when preparing seafood because it acts as a detoxifier to prevent seafood poisoning. Drinking ginger tea has been regularly recommended by Chinese physicians as a way to retain vitality.
Gingerol, the main component of ginger, is responsible for its distinctive taste. It is believed to be the reason why eating ginger confers powerful protection against cancer and why ginger has been a research star against colon cancer. Scientists at the Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii recently measured the bioactivity of 6-gingerol and ginger extract in two key aspects of colon cancer biology: cancer cell proliferation, and the ability of cancer cells to establish and maintain their own blood supplies. They found that these selected bioactive compounds from ginger had a direct effect on cancer cell proliferation, and an indirect effect on endothelial cell function either at the level of endothelial cell proliferation or through inhibition of endothelial cell tube formation. The scientists concluded that 6-gingerol has two types of antitumor effects. It directs colon cancer cell growth suppression, and inhibits the blood supply of the tumor via the angiogenesis process. Their study was published in Phytotherapy Resources, December 31, 2008.
Gingerol can also kill ovarian cancer cells by inducing programmed cell death and self-digestion. In a study reported in The World's Healthiest Foods report on ginger, scientists examined the effect of a whole ginger extract containing 5% gingerol on several different ovarian cancer cell lines. Exposure to the ginger extract caused cell death in all the cancer lines studied. In the presence of ginger, a number of key indicators of inflammation were decreased in the ovarian cancer cells.
Chemotherapy also suppresses these inflammatory markers, but cancer cells frequently become resistant to the drugs. As a result of this, ginger may be of particular benefit to cancer patients. For anyone wishing to prevent cancer, frequent use of ginger may be a good idea.
Ginger has shown anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects with liver cancer cells as well. Researchers evaluating the effect of ginger extract on the expression of cancer promoting NFkappaB and TNF-alpha, found that the ginger extract significantly reduced the elevated expression of these markers in rats with liver cancer. They concluded that ginger may act as an anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agent through these pathways. These finding were reported in the December, 2008 edition of Clinics.
Ginger relieves motion sickness
Ginger is effective at preventing the symptoms of motion sickness and seasickness. Researchers have found it to be superior to the drug Dramamine at reducing all symptoms including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweats.
Ginger relieves arthritis
People with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reduction in their pain levels and improvement in their mobility when they use gingerly regularly. In two clinical studies involving patients who responded to conventional drugs and those who did not, physicians found that 75% of arthritis patients and 100% of patients with muscular discomfort experienced relief of their pain and swelling. Knee pain patients experienced significantly less pain in movement when they consumed ginger regularly.
Ginger's anti-inflammatory magic seems to come from the free radical protection provided by 6-gingerol. In a test tube study, 6-gingerol was found to inhibit the production of nitric oxide, a highly reactive nitrogen molecule that forms dangerous free radicals. Rats exposed to radiation were prevented from having an increase in free radical damage to lipids after they were treated with ginger. It greatly lessened depletion of their stores of glutathione, one of the most important antioxidants naturally produced by the body. Ginger has also been shown to suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines produced in the lining of the joints and cartilage.
Use the freshest ginger you can find
Choose fresh ginger over the dried form whenever possible. It is not only superior in flavor but contains higher levels of gingerol and other compounds that inhibit inflammation. Fresh ginger can be found in the produce department of many grocery stores, or at health food outlets. Unpeeled fresh ginger can be stored in the refrigerator for about three weeks. However, buying a smaller piece each time you shop will yield the freshest ginger.
Ginger is high in potassium, so necessary for heart function, and in manganese, a mineral that builds resistance to disease and protects the lining of the heart and circulatory system. Healthy skin, hair, teeth and nails are promoted by ginger's high silicon content. It contains Vitamins A, C, E, and the B complex, along with magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, iron, zinc, calcium, and beta-carotene.
Ginger makes drab dishes come alive
Add ginger to rice dishes by sprinkling grated ginger on top along with sesame seeds. Use it in salad dressings combined with tamari, extra virgin olive oil and garlic. Sprinkle bits of ginger on sweet potatoes and vegetables. Use it in fresh vegetable or fruit salads. Add it to stir fry dishes and marinades. Sprinkle ginger on fish or chicken before baking.
Drinks can be spiced up with ginger. It makes a great addition to fresh mixed vegetable juices or smoothies, and added to lemonade. Enjoy brewed ginger tea served hot or cold. One third of a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger root added to your food or drink every day will provide optimal benefits.
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.