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Ginger, mainly used for culinary purposes, has been used in various forms and combinations since medieval times, with its earliest use going as far as 2,500 years, according to Shukla, Y and Singh, M, (2007).

According to a paper published by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the most widely consumed portion of the ginger plant is its rhizome (White et al), also called the “ginger root”. It is the horizontal stem part of the plant. The ginger plant originated from Asia and is still widely grown there along with some tropical areas. The strong pungent aroma of ginger is due to the presence of strong ketones like ‘gingerol’. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes ginger as a food additive but its uses vary from making food to drinks, and even medicines.

Ginger’s Health Benefits

Ginger is considered to be useful in curing various ailments due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components. The bioactive components found in ginger include vallinoids, gingerol, paradol, shogaols and zingerone. These pungent compounds also exhibit potent anti-cancer activities as they are involved in biochemical mechanisms which promote chemo-preventive effects in the body.

Motion Sickness

A study published in The Lancet (Mowrey et al) found ginger as an effective preventive antidote of motion sickness. It was found to be superior to both dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and placebo in preventing motion sickness.

The effectiveness of ginger in preventing sea sickness was also published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. The studied (Grontved et al) was carried out on in Navy cadets and showed that the group given ginger did not suffer as much from sea sickness as the group on placebo.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting occur due to emeto-genic triggers or responses. A review published in 2012 in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition highlighted the benefits of ginger as a powerful antiemetic — anti-motion sickness. This wonder plant has been used in herbal medicine for the prevention of nausea and vomiting for the last 2,000 years (Palatty et al).

The use of ginger in treating pregnancy induced nausea was also analyzed in a review published in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (Marcus et al). It found the efficiency of ginger in preventing nausea to be equal to that of vitamin B6. Pregnant women using ginger do not pose any risk to their health.

Ginger and Insulin in Diabetes Type 2

This amazing plant is found to be beneficial in reducing the insulin levels in the blood. A research study published in International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition proved that with the use of ginger for two months, there can be a significant decrease in insulin levels. It was also found that ginger can help in containing the complications posed by diabetes type 2.

Immunity

The bioactive components present in ginger have the potential to increase the ratio at which the T-monoclonal antibody cells are produced. The number of T-cell surface molecules, like CD3+, CD4+ and CD8+, increased substantially after the consumption of ginger’s bioactive compounds like oleoresin, gingerol, shogaol and zingeron.

According to a research published in the Malaysian Journal of Nutrition (Tejasari et al), the consumption of ginger has the potential to increase the cellular and humoral immune response.

Antioxidant Activity

According to research published in Free Radical Research, ginger has displayed antioxidant characteristics (Kim et al) in numerous cell culture systems. The plant based phenols present in ginger, especially gingerol, is believed to protect tissues and organs from reactive oxygen species (ROS) which lead to oxidative stress damage. It reduces the expression and activation of COX-2. Similarly, phosphorylation pathways which lead to abnormal cell development are suppressed by gingerol.

Cancer Inhibition

According to research published in Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis, in many cancer cell cultures (Bidinotto et al, 2006) the exposure to ginger extract has led to the inhibition of cancerous cells’ production and their programmed death by apoptosis. In animal studies ginger extracts have exhibited some degree of potential as a tumor suppressor in colon, bladder, lung and skin cancer models.

Angiogenesis Regulation

In both in vitro and in vivo research models, gingerol has shown that it specifically regulates abnormal angiogenic activities. Angiogenesis is a process through which new blood vessels are formed, but in mutated form the process can lead to the development of cancerous cells. In 2005, Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications published (Kim et al, 2005) an experiment that analyzed the effects of gingerol as an anti-tumor agent. It prevented the growth of endothelial cells by causing cell cycle arrest in the G1 phase, induced by growth factors. In mice models, the administration of gingerol also lowered the levels of metastasis in lung tissues and restored normal cellular functions.

Anti-Blood Clotting

Ginger is suspected to be an anti-platelet aggregation agent, meaning it has an effect on the process of blood clotting. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine published that administration of ginger powder has shown (Young et al, 2006) that it has a positive effect in hypertensive patients in terms of their antiplatelet aggregation rate. Another investigation published in journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, (Bordia et al, 1997) showed that ginger powder reduced the rate of platelet aggregation substantially, especially in patients who suffer from coronary heart diseases.

Blood Pressure

Scientific findings published in Vascular Pharmacology, (Ghayur et al, 2005) suggest ginger may have a beneficial role in reducing high blood pressure. It is believed ginger consumption inhibits the flow of calcium channels present in cells, thereby lowering the rate of vessel activity, which leads to hypertension and heart palpitations. Ginger was also found to lower the level of blood glucose and lipids, which indirectly lowers blood pressure.

Anti-Microbial Effect

Inquiries into the benefits of ginger extracts, reported in Molecules (Norajit et al, 2007), indicate that ginger can suppress the proliferation of a number of microbial agents inside the human body. The spread of infectious bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus or Listeria monocytogenes, can be retarded by using ginger extract, according to research published in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease (Gupta et al, 2005). Even ginger paste has shown effective antimicrobial activity against the growth of Escherichia coli O157:H7 which is commonly found in ground beef and is a cause of many fatalities.

Even the phenolic components of ginger have presented (Mahady et al, 2007) the ability to stop the growth of Helicobacter pylori. These compounds in ginger may also have the potential to increase the effectiveness of drugs that target H pylori infections that cause gastrointestinal diseases.

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is caused by increased inflammation and oxidative stress in the liver. In a letter to the editor of the World Journal of Gastroenterology, (Amirhossein Sahebkar, 2011) of the Biotechnology Research Center and School of Pharmacy and the Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Iran, the writer hypothesized that the antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of ginger help in preventing biosynthesis or progression of NAFLD. The bioactive component 6-shagoal found in ginger is a known inhibiter of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors α (PPARα), which are responsible for increased triglyceride accumulation in liver and thus the development of NAFLD.

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