Ginger is something you’ve probably walked past a thousand times in the grocery store and probably passed up. It has incredible medicinal benefits and offers people a natural approach to many ailments. Many women use it for morning sickness during pregnancy. Sometimes you see it crystallized with sugar to improve flavor. But today I’m not talking about the candied version, I’m referring to fresh ginger root, or powdered form, which you can buy in any supermarket.
Known officially as Zingiber officinale, it contains many therapeutic compounds, all of which have well-documented medicinal actions in the body. One example is how the antibiotic tetracycline works better in the presence of it. The spice potentiates the actions of some calcium channel blockers (CCB) too, like nifedipine, making the hypotensive benefit even more pronounced. In studies with people who took the dried ginger spice, 75 percent experienced relief from arthritic pain and swelling.
It contains dozens of compounds that have pharmacological activity. Some of them include gingerol, zingerone, shogaol, and paradol. Sometimes you have to heat it to extract a specific medicinal compound. For example, zingerone is negligible in fresh ginger, however, cooking it transforms the gingerol in ginger into zingerone! In case you’re wondering about powdered ginger… yes, zingerone is present in that.
We think of it (either fresh or powdered) as a flavoring agent, but it is powerful medicine. It is an antioxidant and analgesic. It will thin the blood so you have to avoid it (or minimize it) if you take anticoagulant medications. That said, if you’ve been including it in your meals routinely prior to beginning your blood thinning medication then your doctor will have no problem with the dosage of your drugs. The real concern is starting to eat a lot of ginger while you’re on a medication, which could be problematic and lead to a mucosal bleed.
Zingerone is well researched and it’s truly incredible. Studies have determined that it reduces inflammation, improves blood sugar, eases muscle pain and spasms, helps with arthritis, speeds fat breakdown, and ramps immune function.
In an animal study, ginger compounds protected rodents from brain damage and memory loss! Scientists are researching ginger compounds to see if they can make a drug out of it and treat Alzheimer’s and atherosclerosis. Why don’t we just include some in our recipes for now? It’s totally natural and there are no side effects. There’s so much more too so when you’re at the grocery store, grab some ginger and bring it home to try it! Here’s a recipe for Ginger Orange Carrots.
If you want to add it to your brownies (because kids will get ginger down this way) try my recipe for Gingerbread Chocolate Brownies with Hazelnut.
If it has benefits for patients with Alzheimer’s, what about Parkinson’s?
Yes, it could be helpful due to the antioxidant properties and ability to quell ROS. And this is fascinating, animal studies suggest that it can influence serotonin synthesis, reducing anxiety almost as well as benzodiazepine medications.
It has many other different mechanisms of action, but one of them is how it can block xanthine oxidase. Blocking your enzyme xanthine oxidase is a good thing because it reduces free radicals (termed ROS for reactive oxygen species). The fact that it can degrade free radicals protects your DNA and mitochondria. In fact, it promotes mitochondrial health and regeneration in your cells. Your mito as you know stores energy for you in the form of ATP.
Here’s a fun fact. It might have some heavy metal binding abilities, as it is known to reduce cadmium levels in animal studies. It can reduce the body’s burden on organophosphate pesticides! If you have a PON1 gene, make it your friend! It cannot bind gadolinium (from MRI contrast), but it may chelate mercury and arsenic while simultaneously reducing inflammation in the body. Not a bad combination.
It is a delicious, safe, and affordable way to improve health while adding a warming spice to your meals. You don’t need much ginger, just cut off about a half inch, peel it, and grate it into your soup or make a tea out of it. The recipe to make ginger tea is included in my article, 9 Amazing Natural Cough Suppressants to Shut You Up.
If you have liver disease, or hepatic injury (for example, alcohol-related, or hepatitis), consider ginger in all of your recipes because studies show that zingerone has a hepatoprotective effect, not the liver, and can suppress cytokines associated with liver injury and inflammation.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.