Health benefits of ginger

Root of Relief

You may already know that ginger can treat an upset stomach and calm nausea. But a secret about ginger that is less well known is that in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine this aromatic root has been used as an anti-inflammatory agent for thousands of years.

Now a new study in the journal Osteoarthritis Cartilage confirms what many HSI members have been aware of for sometime: Ginger extract may effectively relieve some types of arthritis pain.

Easy as 1, 2, 3

Researchers at Israel’s Tel Aviv University enrolled 29 patients who suffered from osteoarthritis of the knees. The six men and 23 women (aged 42 to 85 years) were divided into two groups. One group received a 250 mg dose of ginger extract four times each day for 12 weeks, while the other group received a placebo.

At the end of this first phase of the study, those subjects who had been receiving ginger extract began receiving placebo, and the former placebo group began receiving the extract. After another 12 weeks, all of the subjects began using the ginger extract for a final phase of 24 weeks.

At the outset of the study, and once each month throughout the study phases, researchers used a visual analog scale (VAS) to measure patients’ pain and their response to treatment. Patients rated their pain on a line; one end of the line represented feeling in the best condition, while the other end of the line represented the worst possible pain. Researchers also assessed knee swelling and mobility.

Results for the three phases showed:

  • Knee pain was reduced and mobility increased significantly in the group that first used placebo and then switched to ginger extract.
  • Placebo group subjects also reported less pain and greater mobility after the first phase, but by the end of the second phase there was a significant difference between overall data collected while subjects were using placebo compared with when they were using ginger extract.
  • Subjects who used ginger extract during the second phase continued to improve mobility during the third phase as pain decreased.
  • Subjects using placebo during the second phase experienced significant improvements throughout the third phase.

Noting that, overall, the “ginger extract group showed a significant superiority over the placebo group,” researchers concluded that 24 weeks of treatment with ginger extract may be optimal for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knees.
Relief in Miami

The Tel Aviv results are impressive, but as I mentioned above, the effectiveness of ginger extract on osteoarthritis is not new to HSI members.

In the e-Alert “Another Option for Treating Arthritis Pain Without Side Effects” (12/28/01), I told you about a University of Miami study that enrolled 247 patients with mild to severe osteoarthritis of the knee. Subjects in this study were randomly assigned to take either a 255 mg ginger extract or a placebo each day for six weeks. As in the Tel Aviv study, pain was measured with VAS, as well as the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities osteoarthritis (WOMAC) index; a questionnaire that assesses stiffness, function and total impact of arthritis pain.

After six weeks of treatment, both groups showed improvement. But in every assessment category, the ginger extract group showed greater results. Sixty-three percent of patients in the ginger group improved their VAS score by 15 or more (on a scale of 100), while half of the control group reported such gains. That may seem like a substantial placebo effect, but subjects in the ginger group showed nearly twice as much improvement in pain after walking 50 feet, and also showed significant gains in the WOMAC index.

The greatest impact was seen in stiffness, where ginger produced nearly a 20-point improvement over baseline measures.


Ginger access

Ginger is generally regarded as safe, but it can cause some minor side effects. In the Miami study, patients in the ginger group reported mostly mild gastrointestinal effects like belching, stomach upset, heartburn, and a bad taste in the mouth.

The ginger therapy used in this study was a patented formula called EV.EXT 77, which is extracted from dried ginger root and the root of dried galanga (a plant similar to ginger, which is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties). Laboratory tests have shown that one capsule of EV.EXT 77 contains close to one mg of salicylate, the same anti-inflammatory agent found in aspirin. Research has also shown that the extract can inhibit both cyclooxgenase (COX) and lipooxygenase, enzymes that trigger inflammation.

There are two formulations I’ve found that include EV.EXT 77. Zinaxin delivers the same dose of ginger extract used in the Miami study. And Zincosamine combines 170 mg of the ginger extract with 50 mg of methyl-sulfonyl-methane (MSM) and 350 mg of glucosamine. Both of these products can be found in health food stores and through various Internet sites.

If you suffer with arthritis pain and stiffness and haven’t found much relief with painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, consider giving ginger extract a try.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

Sources:
“The Effects of Zintona EC (a Ginger Extract) on Symptomatic Gonarthritis” Osteoarthritis Cartilage, Vol. 11, No. 11, Novermber 2003, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
“Alternative Approach: Ginger May Help Reduce Arthritis- Related Knee Pain” Patrick B. Massey, M.D., Chicago Daily Herald, 3/15/04, healthy.net
“Effects of a Ginger Extract on Knee Pain in Patients with Osteoarthritis” Arthritis & Rheumatism, Vol. 44, No. 11, November 2001, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
“Why the Cholesterol-Heart Disease Theory is Wrong” Malcolm Kendrick MbChB, MRCGP, Red Flags Daily, 12/19/02, redflagsdaily.com