Ginger

Ginger is a spice originating from Southeast Asia, which belongs to the Zingiberaceae family.  Ginger is a flowering plant with a root, stem and leaves, but it is the root that we eat, either fresh, pickled or as a dried powder.

As well as being an important ingredient in cooking, ginger has been used in Ayurvedic, Indian and Chinese medicine for thousands of years12 to help treat colds, digestive complaints, nausea and boost circulation. In more recent years, ginger has been investigated as a possible treatment for nausea, arthritis, muscular and rheumatic pain3.

What do we know about ginger and psoriasis?

Ginger has been valued as a medicinal herb for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s that scientists discovered ginger could prevent the release of pro-inflammatory hormones4 (hormones which trigger inflammation), in a similar way to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs3

After confirming these findings in a number of controlled studies 5,6,7, scientists became interested in how ginger could be used to help manage inflammatory diseases.

Because psoriasis is characterised by high levels of inflammation, ginger might be beneficial. For example, some compounds in ginger can reduce the expression of pro-inflammatory genes and enzymes that are found in high levels in psoriatic skin 8,9.

Scientists have also found that the compounds in ginger which produce a hot feel in the mouth (known as gingerols) have potent antioxidant effects1,10. People with psoriasis tend to have insufficient antioxidant defences, so consuming more antioxidant foods like ginger may be helpful.

Compounds in ginger have also been shown to have anti-allergic and antibacterial 11,12 properties that may be helpful in psoriasis, because skin infections are more common due to the irritated and inflamed skin.

What does the science say?

Although ginger has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine, there are very few human studies. Most of the research into the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties has been done in laboratory studies, which are carried out in test tubes or animal models13,14.  

To date, there are no studies that have looked at the effects of ginger on psoriasis. Based on personal experience, some people with psoriasis report improvements when taking ginger capsules, but this has not been tested in any clinical studies.

If we look outside of psoriasis, ginger has been shown to have some positive effects in managing inflammatory pain and arthritic swelling, which shares similar inflammatory pathways with psoriasis. In one report of 46 patients with arthritis, three quarters described some relief from pain and swelling when using powdered ginger15.  

Some controlled studies have also found ginger extracts to be effective in managing joint swelling and pain in patients with osteoarthritis 16,17, but not all studies have been as conclusive, with some researchers finding no effect.

In another study of healthy volunteers, two grams of raw or heat-treated ginger was effective in reducing post-exercise muscle pain, supporting the theory that ginger has pain relieving effects18.

Other research has suggested that ginger supplementation can benefit blood sugar regulation and inflammation in patients with type 2 diabetes21, and exert positive effects on cholesterol levels19. Because people with psoriasis are at increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, these positive effects may be of benefit, although more research is needed.

Side effects

Ginger is considered safe to consume with few side effects 22, and has been used safely for thousands of years in traditional and folk medicine.

In some studies which have used ginger as a therapy, there have been occasional reports of mild adverse effects on the digestive system17,23.

Ginger may interact with diabetes medications, or those that thin the blood.

How much do I need to take?

We don’t know how much, if any, ginger may be beneficial in psoriasis. In studies that have looked at the anti-inflammatory effects in arthritis, various extracts have been used at different doses.

In studies looking at the effects on muscle pain, blood sugar and cholesterol, between 2 and 5 grams of whole ginger per day has been used with positive effects, and without any reported side effects 21,18.

Learning points

  • Ginger is a spice from Southeast Asia traditionally used in herbal medicine to treat colds, digestive and circulatory conditions.
  • Compounds in ginger can block the release of pro-inflammatory hormones that are found in high levels in psoriasis. Ginger has also shown antioxidant effects in laboratory and animal studies.
  • To date there are no studies looking at the effects of ginger in psoriasis. There is limited evidence to show ginger is helpful in reducing muscle pain and joint swelling in arthritis.

Try these practical tips to include more ginger in your diet

  • Blend a small chunk of fresh ginger into a fruit smoothie – it goes well with pineapple and lime – try an almond or coconut milk for the liquid base.
  • Try snacking on a ginger Lassi – a traditional Indian drink.  Blend 200 grams of natural yogurt with a couple of ice-cubes, a thumb piece of fresh grated ginger, a squeeze of honey and a pinch of ground cumin.
  • Pour boiling water over fresh sliced ginger to make tea, adding lemon and a small squeeze of honey if you like.
  • Stir a small amount of powdered ginger, cinnamon and turmeric into hot milk for an anti-inflammatory ‘latte’.
  • Make an anti-inflammatory soup with sweet potato, ginger, lime and coconut milk, or ginger, carrot and orange.
  • Roast sweet potatoes with ground ginger and olive oil.
  • Add grated ginger to stir fries and curries.

Sources

  1. Dugasani S, Pichika MR, Nadarajah VD, Balijepalli MK, Tandra S, Korlakunta JN. Comparative antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of [6]-gingerol, [8]-gingerol, [10]-gingerol and [6]-shogaol. J. Ethnopharmacol. 2010;127(2):515-520. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2009.10.004.
  2. Shukla Y, Singh M. Cancer preventive properties of ginger: A brief review. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2007;45(5):683-690. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2006.11.002.
  3. Srivastava KC, Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and rheumatic disorders. Med. Hypotheses 1989;29(1):25-28. doi:10.1016/0306-9877(89)90162-X.
  4. Grzanna R, Lindmark L, Frondoza CG. Ginger–an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions. J. Med. Food 2005;8(2):125-132. doi:10.1089/jmf.2005.8.125.
  5. Jolad SD, Lantz RC, Solyom AM, Chen GJ, Bates RB, Timmermann BN. Fresh organically grown ginger (Zingiber officinale): Composition and effects on LPS-induced PGE2 production. Phytochemistry 2004;65(13):1937-1954. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2004.06.008.
  6. Young H-Y, Luo Y-L, Cheng H-Y, Hsieh W-C, Liao J-C, Peng W-H. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of [6]-gingerol. J. Ethnopharmacol. 2005;96(1-2):207-10. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2004.09.009.
  7. Lantz RC, Chen GJ, Sarihan M, S??lyom AM, Jolad SD, Timmermann BN. The effect of extracts from ginger rhizome on inflammatory mediator production. Phytomedicine 2007;14(2-3):123-128. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2006.03.003.
  8. Mashhadi NS, Ghiasvand R, Askari G, Hariri M, Darvishi L, Mofid MR. Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of ginger in health and physical activity: review of current evidence. Int. J. Prev. Med. 2013;4(Suppl 1):S36-42. Available at: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=3665023&tool=pmcentrez&rendertype=abstract.
  9. Stark K, Törmä H, Oliw EH. Co-localization of COX-2, CYP4F8, and mPGES-1 in epidermis with prominent expression of CYP4F8 mRNA in psoriatic lesions. Prostaglandins Other Lipid Mediat. 2006;79(1-2):114-125. doi:10.1016/j.prostaglandins.2005.12.003.
  10. El-Ghorab AH, Nauman M, Anjum FM, Hussain S, Nadeem M. A Comparative study on chemical composition and antioxidant activity of ginger (Zingiber officinale) and cumin (Cuminum cyminum). J. Agric. Food Chem. 2010;58(14):8231-8237. doi:10.1021/jf101202x.
  11. Chen BH, Wu PY, Chen KM, Fu TF, Wang HM, Chen CY. Antiallergic potential on RBL-2H3 cells of some phenolic constituents of Zingiber officinale (ginger). J. Nat. Prod. 2009;72(5):950-953. doi:10.1021/np800555y.
  12. Gao D, Zhang Y. Comparative antibacterial activities of extracts of dried ginger and processed ginger. Pharmacogn. J. 2010;2(15):41-44. doi:10.1016/S0975-3575(10)80077-X.
  13. Ahmed RS, Suke SG, Seth V, Chakraborti A, Tripathi AK, Banerjee BD. Protective effects of dietary ginger (Zingiber officinales Rosc.) on lindane-induced oxidative stress in rats. Phytother. Res. 2008;22(7):902-906. doi:10.1002/ptr.2412.
  14. Ramadan G, Al-Kahtani MA, El-Sayed WM. Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties of curcuma longa (turmeric) versus Zingiber officinale (ginger) rhizomes in rat adjuvant-induced arthritis. Inflammation 2011;34(4):291-301. doi:10.1007/s10753-010-9278-0.
  15. Srivastava KC, Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders. Med. Hypotheses 1992;39(4):342-348. doi:10.1016/0306-9877(92)90059-L.
  16. Haghighi M, Khalvat A, Toliat T, Jallaei S. Comparing the effects of ginger (Zingiber officinale) extract and ibuprofen on patients with osteoarthritis. Arch. Iran. Med. 2005;8(4):267-271.
  17. Altman RD, Marcussen KC. Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2001;44(11):2531-2538. doi:10.1002/1529-0131(200111)44:11<2531::AID-ART433>3.0.CO;2-J.
  18. Black CD, Herring MP, Hurley DJ, O’Connor PJ. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces muscle pain caused by eccentric exercise. J. Pain 2010;11(9):894-903. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2009.12.013.
  19. Nicoll R, Henein MY. Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe): a hot remedy for cardiovascular disease? Int J Cardiol 2009;131(3):408-409. doi:10.1016/j.ijcard.2007.07.107.
  20. Imani H, Tabibi H, Najafi I, Atabak S, Hedayati M, Rahmani L. Effects of ginger on serum glucose, advanced glycation end products, and inflammation in peritoneal dialysis patients. Nutrition 2015;31(5):703-7. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2014.11.020.
  21. Arablou T, Aryaeian N, Valizadeh M, Sharifi F, Hosseini A, Djalali M. 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;65(September 2015):515-520. doi:10.3109/09637486.2014.880671.
  22. Ali BH, Blunden G, Tanira MO, Nemmar A. Some phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe): A review of recent research. Food Chem. Toxicol. 2008;46(2):409-420. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2007.09.085.
  23. Leach MJ, Kumar S. The clinical effectiveness of Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in adults with osteoarthritis. Int. J. Evid. Based. Healthc. 2008;6(3):311-320. doi:10.1111/j.1479-6988.2008.00106.x.

 

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