A few months ago, I was asked to appear with Nigel Slater on a radio programme to discuss the virtues of juices and smoothies. Nigel whipped up a concoction of his own, and added ginger to this. He described it as the wake-up spice. I had been a fan of vegetable juicing myself, and but was open to a bit of reformulation. I don’t know whether it was some overblown placebo response, but I did find that adding a good nugget of ginger to my usual juice not only added some welcome zing to my taste-buds, but some of my other bodily organs too.
Whilst conventional drugs undoubtedly have their place in medicine, I tend to use gentler, more natural remedies whenever possible. One of the main types of weapon found in the natural armoury are medicinal herbs. One of the reasons I like to use these in my work is that, unlikely conventional medications, they contain a cocktail of substances. As a result, one single herb may have a range of beneficial actions on the body, and may therefore be used to treat a variety of potential ills. One good example of this is the herb ginger.
One of the ingredients in ginger is a substance called gingerol. Gingerol inhibits the clumping together or clotting components called platelets. This blood thinning effect (similar to that of aspirin) is good news for the body, in that it inhibits the formation of tiny blood clots which can plug arteries and precipitate heart attacks and strokes. Ginger is also believed to have a beneficial effect on the cholesterol levels in the body too. Animal experiments have revealed that ginger has the ability to reduce levels of blood fats known as triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, both of which are generally taken to play some part in the furring up of arteries that increases our susceptibility to heart attacks and strokes. Animal studies have also found that the administration of ginger protects against the furring-up process on the inside of the arteries known as atherosclerosis. This, along with its blood-thinning effect, mean that ginger is likely to offer very real protection from the circulatory shut-down that triggers heart attacks and strokes.
Another of ginger’s actions in the body is to quell nausea and vomiting. It is reputed that the ancient Chinese mariners would slip a slice of ginger between their lip and gum to ward off seasickness. More latterly, scientific studies have shown that ginger does indeed ward off this major downside to taking to the high seas. In one study, taking 250 mg of ginger 2 hrs to setting sail was found to be very effective in preventing seasickness. Ginger also seems to be useful for the treatment of other forms of travel sickness, and for morning sickness too. 250 mg, given about four times a day, appears to be the effective dose in practice.
Ginger also has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. They inhibit more than one biochemical pathway in the body responsible for the production of inflammatory substances implicated in arthritic conditions (PGE2 and LTB4). In one study, about three-quarters of individuals with joint or muscular pain obtained relief from pain or swelling through taking a ginger preparation.