The not-so-gingerly spice that attacks cancer-causing inflammation

Keeping a fresh ginger root on your pantry shelf or a fragrant shaker of the dried spice? If you’re not, you’re missing out on an extremely versatile spice.

Perfect to add a hint of autumn to holiday cooking — think gingerbread — it’s also tantalizingly tangy in Asian-inspired recipes.

Or maybe you’ve used ginger as an antidote for motion sickness. Then you’ll really appreciate this…

Now there may be an even more significant use for ginger — alleviating the pain and suffering of intestinal diseases. Researchers at Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Georgia State University believe nanoparticles from the ginger root may also help diminish symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Researchers expect that nanoparticles from the ginger root could provide supplemental therapy for patients afflicted with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. There’s also evidence to suggest that the nanoparticles may be useful against cancer linked to colitis.

Testing a theory

Their studies started in a non-tech place: local farmers’ markets, where they scoured the bins for an adequate supply of ginger root. Then they headed to the lab and started the process of pulverizing ginger into tiny particles with an ordinary kitchen blender. After adding high-speed centrifugation and ultrasonic dispersion of ginger juice, researchers broke ginger root into single pellets called ginger-derived nanoparticles or GDNPs.

Administered orally, the nanoparticles contain high levels of lipids, a few proteins, large amounts of ginger bioactive constituents, and other substances. The key active constituents found naturally in ginger, which previous studies have shown to be active against oxidation, inflammation, and cancer were retained when the researchers created the nanoparticles. Even better, ginger is absorbed easily and is nontoxic.

So far, research has been conducted using lab mice. But results are promising and warrant further study. Initial studies indicated that these tiny nanoparticles — it would take more than 300 to fit across the width of a human hair — efficiently targeted the colon, where IBD inflammation occurs and were absorbed mainly by cells in the lining of the intestines.

In addition to reducing or preventing chronic colitis by lowering the production of proteins that promote inflammation, the particles encouraged intestinal repair by boosting the survival and proliferation of cells that make up the lining of the colon.

Of course ginger, in its many forms — fresh, dried, preserved, crystallized, candied, or powdered — has been used medicinally for centuries, with ginger-based supplements available in a variety of stores and online. This recent study seems to only validate what Traditional Chinese Medicine and practitioners of alternative health have always known: Ginger is a renowned inflammation fighter — and inflammation increases your risk for colon cancer and chronic disease in general.

Researchers believe delivering ginger-derived compounds orally via these nanoparticles may be a more efficient method of targeting colon tissue. But there’s no reason to wait for a prescription…

Switchel is a popular health tonic that’s experiencing a resurgence in popularity — and it makes excellent use of ginger. It’s a simple 3-ingredient recipe you can make for pennies in a matter of minutes.

You can also add fresh ginger (careful — a little goes a long way) to your favorite smoothie recipe (like this morning zing smoothie) or keep a bottle of delicious pickled ginger in your fridge to enjoy with meals. Sprinkle the dried spice in just about any recipe to enjoy its refreshing taste, knowing it’s just one more thing you’re doing to keep healthy.

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Ginger Nanoparticles Heal Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Beverly Burmeier

By Beverly Burmeier

Beverly Burmeier is a Texas-based writer who writes on health topics for Energy Times and Costco Connection. She stays fit playing tennis and golf as often as possible.