Ginger — It’s not just for cooking anymore. This ancient spice, commonly used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, and a delicious addition to Chinese and Indian cuisine, is now recognized as a potential weapon in the fight against chronic disease in the West. Ginger has long been known to soothe motion sickness, nausea / vomiting, and chemo-induced nausea. Recent studies have shown that ginger may have a place in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
What’s So Special About Ginger?
- It’s anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases, including RA. Ginger may be able to suppress pro-inflammatory molecule synthesis (prostaglandins) by inhibiting COX-1 and COX-2, much like NSAIDS. It may also decrease leukotriene production which too is involved in the inflammatory response. Regular use of ginger may impair the expression of inflammatory molecules, ultimately, decreasing the chronic inflammation associated with RA.
- It’s an antioxidant. Increased production of free radicals leads to more oxidative stress, which may result in DNA damage, ultimately, leading to autoimmune diseases such as RA. Studies have shown that ginger may increase antioxidant enzyme production along with serum glutathione levels. Its’ component, 6-Shogoal, appears to exert the most potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory punch of all the gingerol compounds.
- It’s a pain reliever. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties may make it an excellent pain reliever. By blocking the calcium channel involved with pain generation, ginger may be an effective alternative to conventional pain killers.
Ginger comes in many forms — capsules, tinctures, teas, powders, oils, or creams; however, don’t forget whole foods are a great way to add a bit of ginger to your diet. Try a little freshly, grated in soups or add 1-2 tsp. in a pot of hot water, then simmer for 5 minutes to make a warming tea. The recommended therapeutic dosage is 2-4 gm per day given in 3 divided doses not to exceed 4 gm total.
Always check with your doctor if you are on any medications before taking any oral supplement. Be sure to avoid taking ginger if you’re on blood thinners, as it may potentially interact with these drugs.
Common side effects are gas, heartburn, bloating, and nausea.
Given the promise it has shown in recent studies, ginger may be worth considering adding to you RA treatment regimen. If you’ve used ginger as a supplement or in your diet, leave a comment below about your experience with it.