The benefits of ginger root
Did you know that the multi-billion-dollar drug category known as “acid blockers,” despite being used by millions around the world daily, may not work as well as the humble ginger plant in relieving symptoms of indigestion and heartburn?
Ginger is both a spice and a food, and has been used as a medicine safely for millennia by a wide range of world cultures. Research on the health benefits of ginger is simply staggering in its depth and breadth. In fact, ginger’s benefits to human health have been studied extensively for the symptoms of over 100 health conditions, making it one of the world’s most versatile, evidence-based remedies.
The biomedical literature on acid blockers, on the other hand, is rife with examples of the many adverse health effects that come with blocking stomach acid production with xenobiotic, patented drugs, i.e., proton pump inhibitors and H2 antagonists. What started out as “heartburn”—which in its chronic form is now called “acid reflux” or “gastroesophageal reflux disorder”—soon becomes stomach acid barrier dysfunction when these drugs remove the acid which protects us from infection, helps to break down food, and facilitates the absorption of minerals and nutrients.
The list of 30+ harmful effects of acid blockers is extensive, but here are a few of the most well-established adverse effects you may not be aware of:
gastric lesions and cancer
Back to our friend—our “plant ally”—ginger. What happens when Pharma meets Farm in a biomedical face-off where acid-blocking drugs are compared in efficacy to our little spicy ginger root? Well, this is what the journal Molecular Research and Food Nutrition found back in 2007 . . .
Titled, “Inhibition of gastric H+, K+-ATPase and Helicobacter pylori growth by phenolic antioxidants of Zingiber officinale,” the study set out to determine the anti-ulcer and anti-Helicobacter pylori (a bacteria commonly implicated in ulcer formation) capacity of ginger extracts versus conventional acid-blocking agents, such as lansoprazole (trade name Prevacid). Researchers found that one fraction of ginger exhibited sixfold to eightfold better potency over lansoprazole at inhibiting acid production (specifically, gastric cell proton potassium ATPase activity).
But this was not all. Ginger was also found to have potent antioxidant properties, protecting lipids from both peroxidation (rancidity) and DNA damage, leading the researchers to conclude that specific fractions within ginger have “potential in-expensive multistep blockers against ulcer.”
Also, whereas drugs which interfere with and/or remove the stomach acid barrier also deactivate acid-dependent protein-digesting (proteolytic) enzymes such as pancreatic protease, and increase the risk of infection as a result of the loss of the anti-infective effects of the stomach’s acid, ginger actually has an exactly opposite set of benefits: it contains a proteolytic enzyme several hundred times more potent than the one found in papaya (papain) and has broad-spectrum antibacterial, antiviral and antiparasitic properties, to name but only a few of its 40+ distinct pharmacological actions.
While this study focused on specific isolates of the whole ginger plant, it must be remembered that whole plants are not drugs, nor should they be reduced to “nutraceutical” magic bullets in order to become new palliative drug alternatives, or merely symptom-repressors, leaving the real healing job of changing the underlying nutritional, environmental, emotional context that led to the problem in the first place unchanged.
While taking a ginger pill is usually a better choice than a chemical one, for most folks ginger should be consumed in whole forms, in moderate and balanced quantities, along with a nourishing, organic, whole-food, and traditional foods diet, in order to move beyond the paradigm of popping pills or proprietary fractions of herbs in order to balance out the pendulum of extremes.