Ginger Spices Up Health
Ginger does more than just add a snap of flavor to foods and beverages. For centuries, the root of the plant has been used as a remedy for a variety of illnesses ranging from the common cold to cancer.
The spice has long been prized for its potent anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, but scientific evidence to support these properties was scarce. In a recent study at the University of Georgia, researchers confirmed that daily ginger consumption significantly reduces muscle pain caused by exercise.
For the study, volunteers were given ginger or a placebo capsule for 11 consecutive days. On the eighth day of the study, the volunteers performed strenuous arm exercises with heavy weights to induce moderate muscle injury.
The volunteers’ muscle function, inflammation and pain were measured before and after they performed the arm exercises. Based on their findings, the scientists determined that daily ginger supplementation reduced exercise induced muscle pain by 25 percent, while treatment with the placebo had virtually no effect.
Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties also work wonders in the gastrointestinal tract. Long before commercially produced ginger ale became a popular remedy for stomach upset, ancient healers prescribed ginger tea to soothe a variety of digestive symptoms, especially nausea and vomiting.
In a study that included 80 inexperienced sailors, scientists tested the ability of ginger to reduce symptoms of motion sickness associated with travel at sea. The sailors who received powdered ginger experienced a significant reduction in nausea and vomiting compared to those who were given placebo powder.
Research suggests that taking up to one gram of ginger daily is a safe and effective remedy for nausea associated with morning sickness during pregnancy. Most experts recommend using ginger only as needed to alleviate nausea during pregnancy, rather than taking it on a regular basis.
Ginger is so effective at alleviating nausea that it is often used by individuals undergoing chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer.
Approximately 70 percent of patients treated with chemotherapy drugs experience nausea and vomiting as side effects. Although a number of prescription drugs can reduce treatment-related vomiting to a significant degree, the lingering nausea is far more difficult to treat.
In a government funded study of 644 cancer patients at the University of Rochester Medical Center, researchers found that chemotherapy-induced nausea was reduced by 40 percent among those patients who took ginger supplements along with prescription drugs designed to reduce vomiting. Based on their findings, the scientists concluded that supplemental ginger is most effective in controlling nausea when it is taken at least three days prior to receiving chemotherapy, in doses of a half-gram to one gram daily.
For cancer patients, supplemental ginger may do more than just ease nausea. Recent research at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center suggests that the spice may have potent anti-cancer properties, as well.
In laboratory studies, the scientists found that application of ginger to ovarian cancer cells caused the cells to die. In a number of different ovarian cancer cell lines, ginger appeared to induce cell death at a similar or better rate than a platinum-based chemotherapy drug commonly used to treat ovarian cancer.
Although the study results are preliminary, the scientists are hopeful that ginger will have similar anti-cancer effects in human trials. The medicinal use of the spice is particularly appealing because it is inexpensive, easy to take and well tolerated by most people.
Ginger has an excellent safety profile and is associated with few unwelcome side effects. Still, it’s wise to consult your physician before using it on a regular basis, especially if you’re taking other medications or if you have any problems with your health.
For most healthy folks, ginger is a safe and effective remedy for nausea, stomachaches and muscle pain. The medicinal plant is available in most health food stores in a variety of forms, including capsules, teas and powders.
If you buy commercially prepared ginger ale, ginger tea or ginger snap cookies, be sure to read the label. Many products contain only artificial flavors rather than real ginger.
If you want to prepare your own, you can buy fresh or dried ginger root at many supermarkets or health food stores. After washing, chopping or grinding the root, you can add it to foods or use it to make a tasty tea.
Even if you don’t need to use ginger for its medicinal properties, you can still enjoy its distinctive, delicious flavor.