Ginger heals inflammatory bowel disease
Researchers have developed ‘edible ginger-derived nanoparticles’ that they believe may be good medicine for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease. The particles may also help fight cancer linked to colitis, according to experiments in mice.
A recent study by researchers at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center took them to a not-so-likely destination: local farmers markets. They went in search of fresh ginger root.
Back at the lab, the scientists turned the ginger into what they are calling GDNPs, or ginger-derived nanoparticles. The process started simply enough, with your basic kitchen blender. But then it involved super-high-speed centrifuging and ultrasonic dispersion of the ginger juice, to break it up into single pellets.
The research team, led by Dr. Didier Merlin with VA and the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University, believes the particles may be good medicine for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The particles may also help fight cancer linked to colitis, the scientists believe.
They report their findings, based on experiments with cells and mice, in the September 2016 issue of Biomaterials.
Going back more than 2,000 years in China, the herb has been used to treat nausea, upset stomach and help with digestion and diarrhoea.
Used in stir-fries and Asian cooking, the spicy, pungent underground rhizome of the ginger plant is firm with a striated texture. It may be yellow, white or red, depending on the variety, and is covered with a thin or thick brownish skin, depending on whether the plant was harvested mature or young.
A 2009 study found ginger supplements when taken alongside anti-vomiting medicine reduced chemotherapy-induced nausea in patients by 40 per cent.
“Therapeutically, it’s also used for poor circulation and lower back pain. On an emotional level, it can act as a catalyst if you are procrastinating and lack the drive to take action,” says Laurie Steelsmith, a licensed naturopathic doctor said.
Studies have shown it can also ease muscle pain, eliminate inflammation, help with painful menstruation and migraines, and may even slow or kill ovarian and colon cancer cells.
Nausea and motion sickness: Ginger is well known for its ability to ease nausea, and it’s helpful for motion and seasickness. Women suffering from morning sickness were given beverages with ginger during the first trimester of pregnancy, and when compared with women given a placebo, ginger alleviated the nausea in a large majority of the cases.
Diabetes complications: Studies show ginger may reduce urine protein levels, decrease water intake and urine output, and reverse proteinuria, which is kidney damage caused by too much protein in the urine. Ginger may also protect nerves in diabetics and lower blood fat levels. “Ginger can help increase circulation, thin blood, and lower both blood pressure and cholesterol,” says author Steelsmith.
Arthritis: A placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study published in the journal Osteoarthritis Cartilage found patients with painful arthritis in the knee who were given ginger vs. a placebo experienced significantly less pain and loss of movement compared to those taking the placebo.
Cold and flu: Chinese medicine practitioners commonly prescribe ginger to treat symptoms of colds and flu. The root acts as an antihistamine and decongestant, two cold-easing effects that can help with symptoms.
Meanwhile, according to the latest study, each ginger-based nanoparticle was about 230 nanometers in diameter. More than 300 of them could fit across the width of a human hair.
Fed to lab mice, the particles appeared to be nontoxic and had significant therapeutic effects:
*Importantly, they efficiently targeted the colon. They were absorbed mainly by cells in the lining of the intestines, where IBD inflammation occurs.
*The particles reduced acute colitis and prevented chronic colitis and colitis-associated cancer.
*They enhanced intestinal repair. Specifically, they boosted the survival and proliferation of the cells that make up the lining of the colon. They also lowered the production of proteins that promote inflammation, and raised the levels of proteins that fight inflammation.
Part of the therapeutic effect, say the researchers, comes from the high levels of lipids — fatty molecules — in the particles, a result of the natural lipids in the ginger plant. One of the lipids is phosphatidic acid, an important building block of cell membranes.
The particles also retained key active constituents found naturally in ginger, such as 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol. Past lab studies have shown the compounds to be active against oxidation, inflammation, and cancer. They are what make standard ginger an effective remedy for nausea and other digestion problems. Traditional cultures have used ginger medicinally for centuries, and health food stores carry ginger-based supplements — such as chews, or the herb mixed with honey in a syrup — as digestive aids.
Delivering these compounds in a nanoparticle, says Merlin’s team, may be a more effective way to target colon tissue than simply providing the herb as a food or supplement.
The idea of fighting IBD with nanoparticles is not new. In recent years, Merlin’s lab and others have explored how to deliver conventional drugs via nanotechnology. Some of this research is promising. The approach may allow low doses of drugs to be delivered only where they are needed — inflamed tissue in the colon — and thus avoid unwanted systemic effects.
The advantage of ginger, say the researchers, is that it’s nontoxic, and could represent a very cost-effective source of medicine.