Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Ginger

Herbs are a vital aspect of my practice. When used properly, they are powerful supplements that can restore normal function quickly. My favorite herb is Ashwaganda, but my most popular herb is ginger.
Traditionally, ginger is used to treat morning sickness, nausea, motion sickness, or any digestive disturbance. It is safe for use (at recommended doses) in both pregnancy and breastfeeding.

I use ginger as an anti-inflammatory compound. Scientific research has established that ginger blocks the enzyme lipooxygenase. This enzyme is required to form leukotrienes and cytokines, common inflammatory compounds arising from the immune system. Clinically, about 40% of my new patients are producing excessive leukotrienes and/or cytokines. For a majority of them, ginger will reduce their inflammation quickly and effectively with no side effects.

Like most herbs, there are quality issues with ginger. I use a 1:2 liquid extract that is manufactured in Australia. All herbal products in Australia are produced to pharmaceutical standards by law. This is the only way I can guarantee my patients are using an effective product.

European herbal companies have similar standards that the industry has voluntarily established. In the US there are no such standards and the FDA considers herbs as food. Government food quality restricts contamination from cockroach parts and rat feces but does not address herbal quality. Therefore, in the US a product listed as ginger does not need to contain any ginger.

Chronic or acute low back pain, sciatica, rotator cuff tendonitis, and torticollis are typical conditions that I treat with ginger. Many autoimmune diseases also respond well to ginger as leukotriene and cytokine inflammation are the result of immune system responses. However, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, MS, and many other autoimmune diseases often to not test well for ginger. In fact, if a new patient tests positive for leukotriene and cytokine inflammation but does not test well for ginger or Boswellia, I begin to suspect some autoimmune factor may be involved.

I have had a couple of patients that have claimed that ginger dramatically improved their blood profiles when no other lifestyle changes were evident. If significant reduction in inflammation is obtained with the use of ginger, it is conceivable that blood chemistries could improve. However, I suspect that once freed of pain and inflammation, these patients have become more active physically and it is the improvement in lifestyle that accounts for their improved blood profiles.

Ginger is one of the most common and effective herbs known to man. There is good scientific evidence to support its’ use. If you are suffering from some form of inflammation, it might be worth a try. Please purchase a European product if at all possible.