By:Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.
Many studies have been done on the role of natural foods, nutrients, herbs, and vitamins in strengthening the immune response and counteracting the effects of stress and unhealthy lifestyles such as smoking. Many diseases and conditions, such as inflammation, cancer, arthritis, atherosclerosis, and many others, may be modulated or influenced by different foods and nutrients. Therefore, it is worthwhile to find foods that help decrease the damaging effects of smoking on smokers. Ginger is known to contain many very beneficial components with enhancing effects on respiratory ailments, health in general, and the immune system, thereby leading to a stronger resistance to infections and an enhanced response to diseases.(1)
What is ginger extract?
“An extract of the rhizome of the perennial plant Zingiber officinale with potential antineoplastic activity. Ginger extract contains a number of different phenolic compounds, some of which have displayed antineoplastic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities.” (2)
Health Benefits of Ginger
- Reducing gas and improving digestion
- Relieving nausea
- Easing a cold or the flu
- Relieving pain
- Reducing inflammation
- Supporting cardiovascular health
- Lowering cancer risk(3)
The ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe, Zingiberaceae) rhizome contains many bioactive substances, including minerals, nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants that are responsible for its many health-related effects. Ginger is very widely consumed worldwide as a food condiment and it has been used for thousands of years in folk, alternative, and ayurvedic medicines. Many studies have shown ginger to be safe to consume in both humans and animals with no harmful side effects and no increased mortality, although neither its mode of action nor its safety in the body is fully known. Some uses of ginger and its components are in the treatment or inhibition of many ailments and conditions, such as inflammation, platelet aggregation, vomiting, swelling, pain, hypertension, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular diseases, oxidative damage, diabetes, nausea, colds, asthma, allergies, migraines, arthritis, hypertension, and some cancers. It has also been reported to help with thyroid function and disease, and to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which are linked to many diseases and explain the ability of ginger to treat inflammation and inflammation-related ailments and conditions. (1)
Ginger extract for immune support
The active constituents of ginger function as immune-modulators by increasing the body’s immunity through their antimicrobial and free radical scavenging properties. Ginger extract raises the thymus index, spleen index, and percentage of phagocytosis significantly, thus improving immunologic function (Kathi, 1999, Schitteket al, 2001). Ginger cannot only be warming on a cold day, but can also help promote healthy sweating, which is often helpful during colds and flus. A good sweat may do a lot more than simply assist detoxification. Sweat contains a potent germ-fighting agent that may help fight off infections. Dermicidin is a protein manufactured in the body’s sweat glands, secreted into the sweat,and transported to the skin’s surface where it provides protection against invading microorganisms, including bacteria, such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (a common cause of skin infections),and fungi, including Candida albicans (Alternative Medical Review,2003, Schitteket al,2001).
Anti-microbial and Anti-fungal Properties of Ginger extract
Ginger extract and several of its constituents exhibit antimicrobial activity in vitro and in vivo and antischistosomal activity (Akoachereet al, 2002). Chemical constituents of ginger such assesquiterpenes,diarylheptenones,gingerenones A, B and C, and isogingerenone B, have shown antifungal activity in vitro. It has been proposed that lipophilicity or hydrophobicity and chemical structure of essential oils or their main compounds such as the presence of functional polar groups and aromaticity could play an important role in the antimicrobial activity (Faraget al, 1989b; Dawet al, 1994).This activity enables partitioning between lipids of the bacterial or fungal cell membrane and mitochondria, disturbing the cell structures and rendering them more permeable, which will lead to cell death (Sikkemaet al, 1994). Some of the major components present in ginger oils can penetrate the membrane of the micro-organisms and react with the membrane enzymes and proteins as well as phospholipid bilayer, which causes an impairment of the microbial enzyme system and/or a disturbance of genetic material functionality (Farag et al, 1989, Abd El-Baky and El-Baroty, 2008, Conner, 1993). Fresh ginger oil (FG) showed strong inhibition against Aspergillusniger and Candida and inactivity against Pencilliumsppand Trichoderma spp. At the same time, dry ginger oil (DG) was more active towards Candida and weaker against Aspergillusniger, Pencilliumspp, and Saccharomyces cereviseae (Sasidharan and Menon 2010).
Anti-viral properties of Ginger
Ginger has been found very effective against the flu virus, due to its warm and bitter property. Several sesquiterpenes, but especially beta-sesquiphellandrene, isolated from ginger has also been shown to have antirhinoviral activity in vitro (Denyeret al 1994).(4)
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s My Plate guidelines notes that ginger is considered safe and nutritious when eaten as part of a healthy diet. (5)