Today, many people are involved in alternative medicine that is usually based on the use of natural supplements. Herbs and non-pharmacological approaches have already gained popularity around the whole world. However, not many people are actually aware of the origins and the mechanisms of action of the chosen product. Being a famous cooking ingredient and condiment, ginger is also known for its effectiveness in dealing with stomach problems and associated pain (Zadeh & Kor, 2014). Oil possession and antimicrobial properties make ginger one of the leading plants in alternative medicine (Sharma, 2017). This paper aims to discuss ginger as one of the most frequently used herbal supplements in medicine, its culture and mechanism of action, as well as regulations and risk factors identification and provide ordinary people with a helpful guide on how to use ginger in healthcare improvement purposes.
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Ginger is well-known for its South Asian roots. Zadeh and Kor (2014) admit that this plant has been one of the main supplements of Chinese and Indian roots for more than 25 centuries. It was brought to Mexico and American several centuries ago and became an effective alternative medication for many people in a short period of time. Ginger or Zingiber officinale came from Latin, meaning “shaped like a horn” with its roots being compared to deer’s antlers (Sharma, 2017, p. 22). As a rule, people use their roots for cooking and managing pain. This herb may be produced everywhere. The best period for digging is autumn. Due to its healing and antibacterial properties, it was one of the oriental species introduced to Europe as the one with medicinal powers (Sharma, 2017). Ginger was recognized in Greece, Spain, and Rome, and its culture became a topic for research and global discussions.
Plants consist of a number of natural chemicals and nutrients that determine the culture and effects of those who use them. Rashmi and Tiwari (2016) pay attention to the role of phytonutrients in plants. Though they are not the essential nutrients, their active principles cannot be ignored. Ginger is a plant that is used as a renowned source of phytonutrients due to such phenolic compounds as gingerol and shogaol, sesquiterpene hydrocarbons, and oleoresins (Rashmi & Tiwari, 2016). These chemicals may be used for therapeutic purposes. The composition of ginger usually depends on the region where the species was originated. The main active ingredients of ginger are volatile oils (about 1-2%), shogaol (formed by the loss of water form), gingerol (5-8% of the yellow pigment), lipids (about 1-2%), proteins, vitamins, bisabolene, and starch (about 50%) (Sharma, 2017; Zadeh & Kor, 2014). Still, the number of compounds defined with the help of a microscope may vary.
Mechanism of Action
The pharmacology of ginger remains unclear. However, some researchers connect its mechanism of action to the inhibition of serotonin receptors because of its antiserotonergic and antiemetic effects (Rashmi & Tiwari, 2016; Sharma, 2017). Ginger influences the work of the gastrointestinal and central nervous systems due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger can inhibit the synthesis of inflammatory agents by acting on such enzymes as cyclooxygenase 1 and 2 or 5-lipoxygenase (Rashmi & Tiwari, 2016). Such compounds of ginger as 6 dehydroshogaol and 1-dihydro-6-gingerdione perform the function of potent antioxidants due to unsaturated ketone moiety (Rashmi & Tiwari, 2016). Some chemical compounds of the herb help to control the growth of tumors in the body as a part of anticancer activities.
Condition/Disease It Is Used for
There are numerous applications of ginger in herbal therapy and a list of pharmacological effects that make this herbal supplement as one of the most frequently used. Ginger is well-known for its antiemetic effect. People use it against nausea and vomiting that are the main characteristics of motion sickness and seasickness (Zadeh & Kor, 2014). However, vomiting and nausea may also be defined as the side effects of cytotoxic compounds, a postoperative complication, or a part of morning sickness among pregnant women (Sharma, 2017; Zadeh & Kor, 2014). Oxidative stress can be reduced with the help of ginger.
In addition to the effects on the gastrointestinal tract, ginger is characterized by its antimicrobial effects and the effects on the work of the cardiovascular system, including the blood flow. It may cause cold and flu relief in case a person adds this herb to his/her tea to promote warmth in the body. Diabetes and cancer prevention can be improved with the help of ginger being used as a part of therapy. Therefore, some people find it rational to maintain special ginger-based diets or just use this supplement in cooking. Finally, ginger is frequently used in dentistry to deal with oral candidiasis, recurrent aphthous stomatitis, and dental caries (Rashmi & Tiwari, 2016). Still, the role of ginger in dental disease control is poorly studied, and much attention should be paid to its antifungal and antibacterial properties.
The consideration of risk factors of ginger is important to those people who want to use this herb regularly. Sometimes, it might cause diarrhea, heartburn, and irritation (Rashmi & Tiwari, 2016). Physicians focus on the health characteristics of each patient and define their normal ratio status. High doses of ginger can influence the inhibition of platelet aggregation (Rashmi & Tiwari, 2016). The risks of bleeding are possible. However, regarding its chemical compounds and the mechanism of action, ginger is defined as a safe and helpful food additive that can be used by people without prescription for prophylactic or cooking purposes.
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To avoid possible risks associated with taking ginger, people have to follow prescriptions and consider an appropriate dosage. Not much information can be found about how much ginger is dangerous for people. Still, it is possible to extract some helpful pieces of information from past studies. For example, 250 mg of ginger powder can be an effective antiemetic before surgery, and 20mg/mL concentration of ginger may have its high antibacterial effect (Rashmi & Tiwari, 2016). 1 g of ginger is allowed to cause the desired gastrointestinal tract effect (Zadeh & Kor, 2014). Certain regulations should be followed to store ginger: 22-25oC, and 70% humidity (Sharma, 2017). Still, all these regulations are not final, and new investigations can be developed to make other conclusions and give improved recommendations.
In general, the discussion of ginger and its effects on human health underlines the necessity to continue investigating its properties. Narrative reviews, the synthesis of the results of qualitative studies, and personal observations are the evidence that proves the reliability and credibility of the chosen information. Peer-reviewed articles that contain references to the past studies and experiments help to create a clear and interesting evaluation of the chosen herbal supplement and explain its role in medicine, healthcare, nutrition, and disease prevention activities.
Rashmi, K. J., & Tiwari, R. (2016). Pharmacotherapeutic properties of ginger and its use in diseases of the oral cavity: A narrative review. Journal of Advanced Oral Research, 7(2), 1-6.
Sharma, Y. (2017). Ginger (Zingiber officinale) – An elixir of life a review. The Pharma Innovation, 6(10), 22-27.
Zadeh, J. B., & Kor, N. M. (2014). Physiological and pharmaceutical effects of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) as valuable medicinal plant. European Journal of Experimental Biology, 4(1), 87-90.