Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Ginger root benefits and side effects

Ginger is a popular "ingredient" in Asian dishes. When you walk into a Japanese restaurant and order a lunch bento (box), you probably will find a side dish of ginger slices. Or when you order steamed fish in a local Chinese restaurant, more or less, you may find slices of green onion and ginger on the fish! The dish is delicious and healthy. Ginger root may have many benefits and its benefits are definitely related to its unique composition. Here is a brief summary of its benefits --

Ginger root extract was found to significantly decrease serum cholesterol, serum triglyceride and blood pressure in diabetic rats. Ginger root extract was also demonstrated to reduce rat paw and skin edema. Ginger root extract may also have benefits on treating osteoarthritis, as researchers found ginger decreased the production of inflammatory mediators in sow osteoarthrotic cartilage explants. 

One important ginger root benefit is its effect on tumors. Adding ginger root extract into drinking water was found to reduce the risk of mammary tumor in study of mice. Dietary ginger constituents, galanals A and B, are found tobe potent apoptosis inducers in Human T lymphoma Jurkat cells In addition, the rhizome of ginger contains pungent vanillyl ketones, including [6]-gingerol and [6]-paradol, and has been reported to possess a strong anti-inflammatory activity. These pungent substances have a vanilloid structure found in other chemopreventive phytochemicals, including curcumin. Topical application of [6]-gingerol or [6]-paradol 30 min prior to 12-O-tetradecanoyl-phorbol-13-acetate (TPA) attenuated the skin papillomagenesis initiated by 7,12 dimethylbenz[a] anthracene in female ICR mice.

Reactive nitrogen species (RNS), such as nitric oxide (NO) and its derivatives, e.g. peroxynitrite
(ONOO-), have been proposed as being able to influence signal transduction and cause DNA
damage, contributing to carcinogenic processes. While, [6]-gingerol is found to be a potent inhibitor of NO synthesis and also an effective protector against peroxynitrite-mediated damage. [10] While, other researchers found that 6-gingerol induced apoptosis in HL-60 cells. However, this activity was not related its anti-oxidative activity. Though most of these studies are in vitro, I expect ginger may have somewhat benefits for people at risk of cancer. Further, it has been shown that Ginger root may benefit people at risk of diabetes gingerol-treated cells increase insulin-sensitive glucose uptake. Thus, ginger may enhance the insulin-sensitivity, and improve chronic disease, such as diabetes.

Ginger root may also benefit people at risk of Alzheimer’s disease An important feature for Alzheimer's disease is neuritic plaque. Neuritic plaques are extracellular deposits of beta-amyloid peptides (Abeta). In the central nervous system neuritic plaques are surrounded by activated microglial cells expressing pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and neurotoxic mediators. Long-term activation of microglial cells is suspected to contribute to the neuron loss in Alzheimer's disease.

What are the ginger root side effects?

Ginger root probably does not have much serious side effects. In general, ginger appears to be safe. Side effects of ginger were not reported in most studies. A study of healthy subjects reports no severe ginger side effects, based on biochemistry data. [24] While studies of treating nausea and vomiting or of cancer patients reported side effects and the side effects are gastrointestinal
disturbance, sleepiness, restless, sedation and heartburn.  Finally, ginger may interact with surgical medications including anesthesia, leading to arrhythmias, poor wound healing, bleeding, photosensitivity reaction, and prolonged sedation. Ginger has may also interact with certain anticoagulants and analgesics to cause bleeding. 

Side effects associated with ginger are rare, but if taken in excessive doses the herb may cause mild heartburn, diarrhea and irritation of the mouth. Some of the mild gastrointestinal side effects, such as belching, heartburn, or stomach upset

When used in reasonable doses, there are few or no side effects, but it may interact with certain medications. Larger doses are more likely to cause side effects. The most common side effects of taking ginger root are mild heartburn, belching or upset stomach. Another less frequent side effect is mouth irritation or a bad taste. Eating ginger may worsen gallstones because it increases bile production.

Some people can have mild side effects including heartburn,  diarrhea, and general stomach discomfort. When ginger is applied to the skin, it may cause irritation.  
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