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The Wonders of Ginger
The rhizome of ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been used for centuries in Asia as a culinary spice and as a remedy for various ailments. The milder young ginger root, as well as the more pungent mature root, are used to flavor dishes in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. In the Qing Dynasty, it was used to make a ginger-flavored liquor called Canton. In the UK, ginger is used to make an alcoholic drink called Crabbie’s Green Ginger Wine. Both Orientals and Arabs use ginger tincture to flavor coffee and tea, while traditional uses in the West are to flavor cakes and sweets, and to drink ginger ale.
The most unusual use of ginger was in pre-World War I British regiments, when a suppository of purified ginger root was inserted into a horse’s rectum during public ceremonies. The practice, known as scalding (or scalding), caused a burning sensation but left no permanent damage; The horses held their heads and tails high. As you can imagine, this practice is common in the S&M community.
In medicine, ginger root (a misnomer because it is not a root but a horizontal underground stem) is used by TCM doctors for gastrointestinal ailments, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and arthritis. In the United States, it has been used to treat gastrointestinal upset, nausea, motion sickness, pregnancy-induced nausea, and arthritis, mostly in folk and alternative medicine. It may be gradually gaining acceptance in traditional western medicine in this country, with recent scientific studies reporting positive results.
The flavor and characteristic appearance of ginger root is due to a mixture of zingerones, shoagols, and gingerols, which are volatile oils that make up about 3% of the dry weight of fresh ginger. Gingerols are medicinal components that have analgesic, sedative, antipyretic, antiemetic and antibacterial properties, in addition to reducing gastrointestinal motility. gingerol ( -gingerol) is a relative of capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their hot, spicy taste. When gingerol is exposed to heat (such as during cooking), it transforms into zingerone with its more pleasant, less pungent and spicy-sweet flavor.
The mechanism of action of ginger is poorly understood, but its antiemetic properties may be due to inhibition of serotonin receptors, which directly affect the gastrointestinal and central nervous systems. The use of ginger in the treatment of arthritic diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatism may be due to the fact that ginger inhibits the activation of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression, thereby acting. as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Ginger has been used for years as an over-the-counter drug to treat motion sickness without the drowsiness of medications such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamin). It seems to work pretty well, according to some scientific studies conducted on Navy cadets. In a rather entertaining “scientific” investigation on Discovery TV’s hit show, MythBusters investigated [in “Episode 43: Seasickness – Kill or Cure” (premiered: Nov. 16, 2005 )] Some non-pharmaceutical agents with placebo for the treatment of hypersensitive motion sickness. Ginger was one of the most successful “home remedies” on the show to combat this disease. Now back to the double-blind peer-reviewed published studies. In pregnancy-induced nausea, several studies have shown comparable efficacy to vitamin B6 and superiority of ginger over placebo in controlling morning sickness. A Cochrane review found ginger to be a safe (for baby and mother) and effective antiemetic during pregnancy.
There are also studies supporting the use of ginger in post-operative (post-anesthesia) nausea. However, ginger was unable to control chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
How does ginger stack up in the treatment of arthritis pain? While several studies have shown mixed results when ginger has been used to treat osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, several studies have shown statistically significant pain relief and reduction in swelling with the use of ginger. Ginger has also been studied in in vitro and animal models for the treatment of bacterial and fungal infections, cancer, and as an antihypertensive agent. However, not many have been successfully studied in humans.
There does not appear to be any significant toxicity associated with ginger. Although the FDA considers ginger to be quite safe, there is a theoretical risk when using it with the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin). In high doses, ginger may cause an increase in protimum (PT) in those taking this medication. The only other caution that should be observed is the use of this herb in people with gall bladder disease; Gallstones can aggravate their condition because ginger releases bile from the gall bladder.
Clinical trials typically use 250 mg to 1000 mg of standardized powdered ginger root in capsule form. This dose is taken one to four times a day. A successful regimen for pregnancy-related nausea studies is 250 mg four times a day.
Common in my neck of the woods, the drink that people consume today began as a local remedy. The “World Famous” Blenheim Ginger Ale is bottled less than 15 miles from my home in Bennettsville, SC. Blenheim Ginger Ale is named after a natural mineral spring in Blenheim, SC. Dr. CR May advised patients to drink this mineral water in the late 1800s to soothe upset stomachs. When word got out that the drug worked, but many patients didn’t like the strong mineral taste of the water, he added Jamaican ginger to the water, creating the now famous ginger ale. Jamaican ginger has historically been used medicinally. It is classified as a stimulant and tonic for dyspepsia and colic, and a tea brewed from the root was a folk remedy for colds. In 1903, Dr. May joined with a partner to bottle the product under the Blenheim Bottling Company. To this day, it is considered the oldest and smallest bottling company in America. Some people today use “hot” red Blenheim ginger ale as a medicinal rather than a refreshing drink to treat sore throats, colds, flu and upset stomachs. Famous journalist Charles Kuralt featured ginger ale in one of his episodes of his famous “On the Road” TV series, and Penn Jillette (comic-magic duo Penn & Teller) is a big fan of the drink. Penny was featured on the September 1994 cover of Wired magazine, wearing a Blenheim T-shirt and holding a bottle. Cheers!
White, B, “Ginger: An Overview”, AmFmPractice, June, 2007, Vol. 75, no. 11, aafp dot org/afp/20070601/1689.html
Grontved A, Brask T, Kambskard J, Hentzer E. Ginger root against seasickness. A controlled trial in the open sea. Acta Otolaryngol 1988; 105:45-9.
Stewart JJ, Wood MJ, Wood CD, Mims ME. Effects of ginger on motion sickness susceptibility and gastric function. Pharmacology 1991; 42: 111-20.
Borrelli F, Capasso R, Aviello G, Pittler MH, Izzo AA. Efficacy and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting. Obstet Gynecol 2005; 105: 849-56.
Ernst E, Pitler MH. Efficacy of ginger in nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Br J Anaesth 2000; 84: 367-71.
Altman RD, Marcussen KC. Effect of ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis. Arthritis Rheum 2001; 44: 2531-8.
Jiang X, Williams KM, Liauw WS, Ammit AJ, Roufogalis BD, Duke CC, et al. Effects of ginkgo and ginger on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of warfarin in healthy subjects. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2005; 59: 425-32.
Blenheim Shrine, Blenheimshrine
Aliverti, Brent, Blenheim Ginger Ale, theacf dot com/blenheim
Susan Jakes, “The Drink of Champions. Part One: Hot Coke with Ginger, Maybe the Magic Elixir”
MythBusters Episode 43: Seasick – Kill or Cure, dsc.discovery dot com/fansites/mythbusters/episode/00to49/episode_02.html
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