Turmeric, Ginger and Inflammation
Continued from: Healing Spices part 1
Turmeric, Ginger, and Inflammation
Spice Medicine - Part 2
In my experience, turmeric and ginger are the safest and most potent anti-inflammatory spices. Both spices are also quite inexpensive if purchased properly (cost comparisons are included in this article) . In the first part of this series, I mentioned that in my clinical work with patients with the common cold, I find turmeric — one-half teaspoon taken with vegetable or grapefruit juice three times a day — more effective than other spice remedies. Turmeric, as well as ginger, are my highest priorities in the care of people with anti-inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.
My interest in turmeric was aroused some decades ago when one day I absent-mindedly asked my wife why she uses turmeric when cooking her curries. “Because they last longer with it than without it,” she had replied in a matter-of-fact way. Intrigued by that comment, I conducted some experiments with very weak solutions of turmeric. I found out that extremely weak solutions of that spice added to freshly prepared smears of blood of chronically ill patients can break up plasma and blood clots. Comparative experiments conducted with a weak solution of ginger yielded similar results. In earlier published studies, I had reported similar observations made with weak solutions of vitamins C and E, as well as taurine, an antioxidant.
Both turmeric and ginger are highly regarded by hakims (naturopathic physicians) in Pakistan. Of course, both spices have been used for the treatment of cancer (and many inflammatory and degenerative disorders) in Ayurveda and in traditional Chinese medicine since antiquity. My colleagues at the Institute and I have validated the empirical findings of the ancients concerning the effectiveness of those two remedies in many clinical disorders. In November 2005, I came across a paper written by the distinguished professor Bharat B. Aggarwal and his colleagues at the Cytokine Research Laboratory of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. They reported that curcumin — an active ingredient of turmeric — exerts its beneficial effects by changing the activities of a broad range of biologic mediators of inflammatory and healing responses.* The important bioactive substances in turmeric and ginger include those involved with:
1. Oxygen homeostasis;
2. The death of cancer cells by a process called apoptosis;
3. Enzymes of crucial importance in the immune system;
4. The metabolism of essential fatty acids; and
5. Various other healing responses.
During an interview with Professor Aggarwal on my program entitled “Science, Health, and Healing” on WBAI radio, New York (heard on-line at noon on Mondays and Tuesdays at http://www.wbai.org) on January 2006, I learned that turmeric is now being used in clinical trials at the M.D. Anderson Center for multiple myeloma and cancer of various organs, including those of the breast, lung, and colon. I present some salient aspects of the clotting and unclotting factors of interest in the treatment of cancer in detail in my book The Crab, Oxygen, and Cancer and in an article entitled “Cancerization/De-Cancerization Conflicts.”
Fresh ginger is sold in grocery stores is recognized as the beige-colored and knotted underground stem (rhizome) of the plant Zingiber officinale. It is a native plant in Asia where it has been used as a culinary spice for nearly 5,000 years. Like turmeric, ginger has a long history of medicinal uses in the ancient Asian medical traditions for treating a host of disorders, including gastrointestinal disorders (nausea, digestive-absorptive disorders, diarrhea, motion sickness, nausea of pregnancy, and others), arthritis, heart disease, headache, and chronic infections. All those disorders are now recognized as inflammatory in nature (See my book Integrative Immunology, the fourth volume of The Principles and Practice of Integrative Medicine.) In practice, ginger remedies are used as extracts, tinctures, and oils (and now in capsules). At present ginger is found in a variety of beverages and foods, including ginger water, ginger ale, ginger bread, ginger snaps, and ginger sticks. Gingerol is a well-characterized bioactive ingredient of ginger.
It pays to be aware of the cost of packaging. I did not realize the enormous differences in the cost of various packaged spices. That changed when I checked the prices of the turmeric and ginger bought at grocery stores against those purchased in capsule form from health food stores. Below, I present what I discovered:
Turmeric powder 200-grams box for $1.50
400-grams bottle for $2.50
Turmeric caps $24 for 120 caps (450 mg in a capsule)
For the suggested daily dose of 1/2 tsp twice daily (total dose 4,000 mg) , the powder cost me 6 cents, whereas an equivalent amount of the spice purchased as capsules from a health food store cost $2.40.
Ginger root $2.85 per pound from a grocery store
Ginger caps $ 8.00 for 100 caps (500 mg) from a health food store
For the suggested daily dose of 1/2 tsp twice daily, ginger root cost me 2 cents, whereas an equivalent amount of the spice purchased as capsules from a health food store cost 64 cents.
I might point out here that not all valuable nutrient factors can be used in their raw form. Let us take for example of the intake of vitamin C via oranges. A 100-gram orange contains 53 mg of vitamin C but it also contains 10.6 grams of sugar. Thus, taking 530 mg of vitamin C by eating oranges will also bring in 106 grams of sugar. That amount of sugar is a totally unacceptable load of sugar regardless of any clinical benefits of 530 mg of vitamin C might have for any given person.
I close this article by re-stating what I said in the first article of these series: Spices should not be taken in therapeutic doses daily for extended periods of time. Thus, a weekly rotation of turmeric and ginger in the recommended doses is appropriate as a general guideline. Both spices, of course, can be taken concurrently for up to four weeks for acute inflammatory and infectious processes.
*Including transcription factors (e.g., NF-kappaB, AP-1, Egr-1, beta-catenin, and PPAR-gamma), enzymes (e.g., COX2, 5-LOX, iNOS, and hemeoxygenase-1), cell cycle proteins (e.g., cyclin D1 and p21), cytokines (e.g., TNF, IL-1, IL-6, and chemokines), receptors (e.g., EGFR and HER2), and cell surface adhesion molecules.
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