The Science of Turmeric and Ginger
The Science of Turmeric and Ginger
Diabetes mellitus results in neuronal damage caused by increased intracellular glucose leading to oxidative stress. Recent evidence revealed the potential of ginger for reducing diabetes-induced oxidative stress markers. . . This study revealed a protective role of ginger on the diabetic brain via reducing oxidative stress, apoptosis, and inflammation. These results represent a new insight into the beneficial effects of ginger on the structural alterations of diabetic brain and suggest that ginger might be a potential therapeutic strategy for the treatment of diabetic-induced damage in brain.1
Recent research looked at ginger consumption on glycemic status, lipid profile and some inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Ginger improved insulin sensitivity and some fractions of lipid profile, and reduced inflammation in type 2 diabetic patients. Therefore ginger can be considered as an effective treatment for prevention of diabetes complications.2
Ginger has been used worldwide for many centuries in cooking and for treatment of several diseases. The main pharmacological properties of ginger include anti-inflammatory, antihyperglycemic, antiarthritic, antiemetic and neuroprotective actions. Recent studies demonstrated that ginger significantly enhances cognitive function in various cognitive disorders as well as in healthy brain.3
Inflammation and the presence of pro-inflammatory cytokines are associated with numerous chronic diseases such as type-2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. An overwhelming amount of data indicates that curcumin, a polyphenol obtained from the Indian spice turmeric, Curcuma longa, is a potential chemopreventive agent for treating certain cancers and other chronic inflammatory diseases.4
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 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 and diabetes.
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.
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.
1. El-Akabawy G, El-Kholy W. Neuroprotective effect of ginger in the brain of streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Ann Anat. 2014 May;196(2-3):119-28. doi: 10.1016/j.aanat.2014.01.003. Epub 2014 Mar 12.
2. Arablou T, Aryaeian N, Valizadeh M, et al. The effect of ginger consumption on glycemic status, lipid profile and some inflammatory markers in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014 Jun;65(4):515-20. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2014.880671. Epub 2014 Feb 4.
3. Lim S, Moon M, Oh H, Kim HG, Kim SY, Oh MS. Ginger improves cognitive function via NGF-induced ERK/CREB activation in the hippocampus of the mouse. Nutr Biochem. 2014 Oct;25(10):1058-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.05.009. Epub 2014 Jun 18.
4. Nahar PP, Slitt AL, Seeram NP. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Novel Standardized Solid Lipid Curcumin Formulations. J Med Food. 2014 Dec 9. [Epub ahead of print]