- Nirusha Pahladi ANutr
GINGER and Its Nutritional Health Benefits
Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) is a well-known herbaceous plant, that has been used widely as a flavouring agent and herbal medicine for centuries; the ginger rhizome has been consumed traditional as a typical remedy to relieve common cold and other minor health issues including nausea and vomiting.
Ginger is a member of a plant family that includes cardamom and turmeric; it is used in numerous forms, including fresh, dried, pickled, preserved, crystallized, candied, and powdered or ground. It flavour is somewhat peppery and slightly sweet, with a strong and spicy aroma. Although ginger is one of the most widely consumed spices in the world, not a great deal is known regarding its metabolism or metabolites. Evaluating the bioactivity of ginger is necessary to completely understand its mechanism of action to support one's body health and potential therapeutic effects. The most well-studied bioactive components of ginger are probably gingerols.
Gingerols are phenol phytochemical compounds found in fresh ginger that activate spice receptors on the tongue. Gingerols are the most abundant pungent compound in fresh ginger roots; they have a wide array of pharmacological effects. These compounds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.
Because ginger and its metabolites appear to accumulate in the gastrointestinal tract, the consistent observations of ginger exerting many of its effects in this area are not surprising. Ginger has been purported to exert a variety of powerful therapeutic and preventive effects and has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of hundreds of ailments from colds to cancer.
-Gingerol, a major component of ginger, exhibits antitumorigenic activities. Despite such potential efficacy in cancer, the mechanism by which -gingerol shows such effects is still not clear. Jeong et al. used a reverse-docking approach that suggested LTA4H as a potential target (Figure 21.22). However, it was demonstrated that -gingerol suppresses anchorage-independent cancer cell growth by inhibiting LTA4H activity in HCT116 colorectal cancer cells. LTA4H (leukotriene A4 hydrolase) is a protein considered an important target for cancer therapy.
The variety of protective effects wielded by ginger.
Picture adapted from Bode and Dong (2011).
Other health benefits of ginger from a variety of studies reviewed for this article.
1. Studies have investigated ginger’s effects on the gasses that form in the intestinal tract during digestion. This research indicates that enzymes in ginger can help break up and expel this gas, providing relief from any discomfort.
In addition, the research showed that ginger may help increase movement through the digestive tract, suggesting that it may relieve or prevent constipation.
Ginger also appears to have beneficial effects on the enzyme pancreatic lipase, which aids digestion in the small intestine.
2. Another research indicates that ginger can help alleviate morning sickness and relieve nausea following cancer treatment.
Further studies suggested that the odour-producing principles gingerols and shogaols are effective in preventing nausea and vomiting. However, the amounts of those compounds can vary, depending on the form of ginger. The researchers determined that dried ginger, followed by fresh ginger and powdered ginger tea had the highest concentrations of gingerols.
3. Ginger may ease pain through anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects of its gingerol compounds.
Research concluded that ginger may specifically help reduce dysmenorrhea— pain right before or during a period. However, the authors acknowledged that such effects have not been extensively studied clinically.
4. There is some evidence that ginger extract may help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Ginger appears to reduce cholesterol and improve lipid metabolism, thereby helping to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. A study of 4,628 people found that daily ginger consumption may protect against coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, cerebrovascular disease, and fatty liver disease, among other chronic conditions. The authors concluded that ginger contains bioactive compounds that act as a preventive therapy.
5. Ginger does not provide protein or other macronutrients, but it is an excellent source of antioxidants. Ginger root contains a very high level (3.85 mmol/100 g) of total antioxidants, surpassed only by pomegranate and some types of berries. For this reason, ginger can reduce various types of oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress can happen when too many free radicals build up in the body. Free radicals are toxic substances produced by metabolism and other factors. When they build up in the body, free radicals can cause cellular damage, which can lead to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, heart attack, chronic inflammation, and cancer. Dietary antioxidants can help the body get rid of free radicals.
A review suggested that ginger may be effective against certain cancers of the gastrointestinal system, including colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, pancreatic cancer, and liver cancer.
Ginger is well tolerated when used in typical doses. At higher doses, side effects may include heartburn, abdominal discomfort, or diarrhea. Ginger may have antiplatelet effects and therefore may increase the risk of bleeding in some people.
Before adding more ginger to the diet or taking a ginger supplement, consult a healthcare professional. Some supplements can interact with medications or cause other health complications.