Arthritis is among the most common diseases around the world. It is a type of disorder of the joints caused by inflammation. This disease is mostly seen in elderly patients in the form of osteoarthritis .
Arthritis is known to cause severe swelling in the joints which can be painful during movement. Arthritis can be of different types based on the type of tissue affected in between the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common forms in which the inflammation occurs in the joints due to overactive immune system.
There can be many causes for the incidence of this disease like metabolic abnormalities, injury, infection, problems in the immune system, etc.
What is Ginger?
Ginger belongs to the Zingiberaceae family and is the rhizome obtained from the plant of Zingiber officinale. It is considered on of the most important spices in the Asian countries and is widely used in their cuisines.
It is also a major part of the Indian Ayurveda medicines where it has been used for numerous medicinal purposes. Ginger is used in diverse forms in variety of food and drinks in India including tea, curries, pickles, etc. Ginger also possesses numerous medicinal properties like anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-fungal and many more such properties.
Ginger has been used for a long time by the people as a home remedy for treating sore-throat, cough, intestinal problems and arthritis.
Ginger is a flowering plant that originated in China and has been used for many years by Chinese and Indians to treat illnesses. It belongs to the same family as turmeric and cardamom. It is considered to be one of the healthiest spices.
It is very nutritious and contains many powerful compounds that are beneficial for the mind and body.
It is useful against a variety of illness like indigestion, nausea, vomiting, colorectal and ovarian cancer, flu, and arthritis.
Ginger contains many essential oils which give it its aromatic and medicinal properties. The two most essential oils are gingerols and shogaols are very good in treating nausea. It raises the flow of saliva and digestive juices which improves digestion and treats stomach problems.
4 Benefits of Ginger In Arthritis
Ginger’s stem contains herbal properties which have the ability to act against chemical substances necessary for joint inflammation. It also considered to be safe and is beneficial in reducing pain and ailments.
1. Ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory agent
Arthritis can be described as the inflammation of the joint tissues which causes stiffness and pain in the bones and joints. Ginger can be useful in treating this swelling as it has anti-inflammatory properties.
The oils present in the ginger act on the inflammatory biochemical pathways and suppress active proteins and enzymes hence inhibiting the synthesis of compounds, prostaglandin and leukotriene, necessary for inflammation.
They also inhibit the synthesis of other small proteins like IL-1, TNF-α, and IL-8 which lead to inflammation.
In animal model of arthritis, ginger is found to reduce the activity of NFκB. NFκB is a protein complex that leads to inflammatory responses in arthritis.
Another study was conducted which saw the effectiveness of ginger extract in treating arthritis. Ginger was found to have a significant effect in reducing pain and swelling of the knee in arthritis.
What does this mean?
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties because of which it can act against the biochemical pathways that produce pro-inflammatory effects. Hence it can reduce joint pain and stiffness in arthritis.
2. It is a powerful antioxidant
The cells in our body go through many complex reactions to generate energy. Sometimes harmful molecules are produced as a result of those reactions which cause oxidative stress (imbalance between the production of harmful molecules and anti-oxidants).
This oxidative stress then causes damage in the DNA and results in cell death and inflammation.
Several experiments were conducted in animal models to see the anti-oxidative effects of ginger. It was found to have a significant effect in reducing the degradation of lipids preventing cell damage and inflammation and increasing the level of anti-oxidant enzymes.
Out of all the essential oils present in ginger, shogaol was found to be the most effective in reducing oxidative stress levels because of the presence of α, β-unsaturated ketone.
What does this mean?
Ginger has anti-oxidative properties because of which it can reduce the oxidative stress levels and reduce cell death and inflammation.
3. Ginger supplementation helps in reducing pain and swelling in arthritis
A study was conducted in which the patients with arthritis and moderate to severe pain were given ginger twice daily for 6 weeks. At the end of the study, a significant reduction in the knee pain was observed.
Patients with arthritis are mostly treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids as they reduce inflammation by inhibiting pro-inflammatory enzymes. However these drugs have adverse long-term effects.
A study in which 7 patients suffering from arthritis were administered ginger, a reduction in joint pain and inflammation was observed.
This shows that ginger is an effective alternative and also reduces the dependence on these pain-killers.
Another trial was conducted in which 56 patients with arthritis were given a 3g of raw ginger every day for periods between 3 months and 2 years. It was concluded that more than 75% patients observed a reduction in pain and swelling.
Ginger has the capacity to reduce pain and swelling by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis (compound necessary for inflammation), inhibiting lipooxygenase (it is a pro-inflammatory enzyme), and inhibiting TNFα (a protein involved in inflammation).
A study was conducted in 1994 in which the rats were fed with 33mg/kg of ginger oil for 26 days. Those rats were suffering from chronic arthritis and after the study period, it was observed that the paw and joint swelling had significantly decreased.
In another study conducted in an animal model of arthritis, anti-inflammatory properties of crude-ginger extract were compared with those of gingerols. Both the extracts were successful in preventing inflammation of the joints.
However, the crude-ginger extract was more successful in preventing inflammation of the joints.
A review by Tjendraputra et al. in 2001 reported that gingerol in ginger inhibits cyclooxygenase enzymes (pro-inflammatory enzymes).
In inflammation, the expression of these enzymes is increased which induces the production of prostaglandins (pro-inflammatory compound).
The effectiveness of ginger in reducing the production of pro-inflammatory compounds was tested in cells. It was observed that the ginger extract significantly reduced the production of these compounds.
Especially, Gingerols have been reported to be the active component present in ginger which is responsible for the anti-inflammatory activity of ginger. A study had compared the effect of ginger extract to that of the drug called indomethacin.
They stated that ginger extract was as effective as the drug in relieving the knee pain caused due to arthritis. The authors positively suggested that ginger can be given to patients who are unable to tolerate the standard therapy and have adverse side-effects from the conventional drugs.
A research study observed the effect of ginger rich in gingerols and shogaols on the adjuvant-induced arthritis in rat models. They reported that the herb extract was able to increase the production of the anti-inflammatory components in the system and they also compared the effect of ginger to that of indomethacin. They also suggested that ginger had beneficial effects against the rheumatoid arthritis both during the onset and the progression of the disease in the animal models .
What does this mean?
This means that ginger supplementation can reduce pain, swelling and use of painkillers in arthritis.
4. Ginger supplementation can help reduce DNA damage and oxidative stress
Nitric oxide is a chemical compound that sends molecular signals from the exterior of the cells to the interior and hence damages the DNA. The DNA damage leads to the progression of many diseases by inducing oxidative stress.
Nitric oxide synthase is an enzyme that catalyzes the production of nitric oxide and increase oxidative stress.
A study was conducted in which the oil gingerol in ginger was found to have the ability to inhibit the production of nitric oxide and reduce the activity of nitric oxide synthase in mouse models. It also reduced the oxidative stress caused by peroxynitrite which is a strong unstable oxidant.
100mg/kg ginger extract was orally given to patients with liver toxicity and it was found to reduce the level of nitric oxide and also decrease the level of degradation of lipids. The drugs commonly used to treat arthritis lead to liver toxicity. Ginger is proven to be a safe option to be used by patients with arthritis.
Another study carried out experiment on the effect of ginger on the collagen-induced arthritis. It was observed that ginger could decrease the temperature of the joint swelling, clinical scores, and incidence of the disease and destruction of the cartilage. It was also noticed that in addition to suppressing the pro-inflammatory cytokines, ginger was also able to production of arthritogenic antibodies in the serum.
These antibodies are usually secreted by the B cells in the collagen-induced arthritis, most common being the IgG group of antibodies. Ginger was able to have a deteriorating effect on the auto production of these antibodies.
The production of the IgG antibodies is further controlled by the cytokines which are T helper cells and numerous other inflammatory cells. Ginger is also known to suppress the activity of these cytokines like IL-1β, IL-2, IL-6 and TNF- α. So, it can be speculated that suppression of the above components can inhibit the production of the autoantibodies by the B cells.
What does this mean?
This means that ginger supplementation has the ability to prevent damage to the DNA caused by harmful molecules and also reduce the level of oxidative stress thereby preventing arthritis.
How to include ginger in your diet
Ginger is easily available in its natural form in the market and is most commonly used in the form of curries. In India most people consume it in this form and other forms include taking it in tea. The fresh form of ginger root is used to make tea.
The products of ginger are also easily available which are made from the roots of the plant. These roots can be used in the dried form or fresh form. Some ginger products are also made from the oil obtained from the roots of the ginger plant when it undergoes steam distillation. Ginger can be taken in the form of oils, tincture, capsules and ginger extracts.
This spice is also used in variety of food and drinks. Some of the foods in which ginger is used include ginger beer, ginger ale, ginger bread, ginger snap and many more such diverse food items. Health advisors do not recommend children under the age of two to consume ginger for medicinal purposes. However, it is considered safe to give for children above the age of two. It can be given to them for treating cramps in the stomach, nausea and headaches.
However, it is preferred that one should consult the doctor for the exact dosage of ginger that should be given for children when used for medicinal purpose.
Dosage of Ginger For Arthritis
Having read about the effective properties of ginger in preventing and treating arthritis, it is understood that ginger could be a great alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for curing arthritis.
It is very important to take that form of ginger which provides the maximum benefit. Ginger is available in many forms like capsules, tinctures, teas, powders, oils, and foods.
It is also essential to buy brands that use super-critical extraction because it will have the purest form of ginger.
No specific dosage has been set for ginger to treat arthritis. It depends on what ginger extract you are taking. If you are taking ginger in its raw form, then it is advisable to take small quantities (100-200mg approximately) each day to see if you are getting an affect.
According to research conducted at the University of Georgia in Athens and Georgia State College & University in Milledgeville investigated the effectiveness of ginger in reducing muscle pain and reported that the muscle pain caused by exercise can be alleviated by having a few tablespoons of grated ginger.
There are many different extracts of ginger available and the dosing for each one is different. Ginger should not be given to children under 2 years of age. In general, maximum 4g of ginger should be taken and maximum 1g for pregnant women. The general dosage for arthritis pain is 250mg for 4 times a day.
Generally ginger does not cause any harm, however it can have a few side effects. It can cause gas, heartburn, upset stomach, and mouth irritation. Ginger should not be used if you are bleeding or have a bleeding disorder as it can increase the risk of bleeding.
Ginger has the ability to interact with some medical conditions. Hence it is essential to consult a doctor or a pharmacist before taking ginger. People with these all problems/conditions should take precautions:
- if you are pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or are breast-feeding avoid taking ginger supplements.
- if you have bleeding disorders. Ginger has salicytes which are pain-relieving chemicals. These chemicals are blood thinners which can cause a problem in people with bleeding disorders.
It is important to consult a doctor or a pharmacist before using ginger supplements for treating arthritis.
Many people are suffering from the disease of the joints-arthritis. It is known to mostly affect the elderly causing a great pain while moving.
Although there are numerous conventional medicines available, these drugs tend to have adverse side-effects on the body which might be harmful in the long run.
These conditions have led scientist to look for alternate medicines which are as effective as these drugs and have very few side-effects. One such herb which meets these requirements is ginger.
Ginger has been used in the households as a natural flavouring agent since ancient times and also as a medicinal herb to treat several diseases. Many experimental studies have been conducted to investigate the useful properties of ginger. It helps in treating arthritis by acting as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.
The components of ginger that are most extensively studied are its oils: gingerol and shogaol. However more trials need to be conducted to get a better understanding of the components and the mechanisms they use to produce pharmacological effects.
Ginger is found to have found to be effective in reducing muscle pain and swelling caused by arthritis. It can also improve the function and prevent the destruction of the joints. Thus it is found to be pharmacologically and therapeutically effective.Ginger will hopefully make its way as an amazing alternative to painkillers in arthritis.