Ginger is one of the most widely used and loved ingredients in culinary dishes worldwide.
Its unmistakable zing gives everything from beverages and deserts to veggie and meat dishes a fresh and exciting taste.
But ginger is much more than a spice to liven up your recipes. This root plant has been used medicinally for over 2000 years for its broad-spectrum antiviral, antibacterial, anti-parasitic and antioxidant properties. In fact, ginger has more than 40 powerful pharmacological actions. (1)
What is even more exciting is that studies now also confirm this spicy root has potent anti-cancer properties that can be up to 10,000 times more effective than conventional chemotherapy for targeting cancer stem cells, preventing new tumors from forming, and even keeping healthy cells alive, something chemotherapy cannot do. (2)
Ginger’s Anti-Cancer Compounds
The most commonly used part of the ginger plant is the rhizome—the root-like stem that grows underground similar to a carrot.
The rhizome contains a variety of trace minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. It also contains numerous vitamins, including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin B6, folate, as well as vitamin C and E.
Apart from these valuable vitamins and minerals, the rhizome is also a significant source of antioxidants including gingerols, shogaols, zingerones and paradols, all of which give ginger its potency and unmatched anti-cancer properties.
To date, studies show that ginger is effective as both a cancer preventative and a therapeutic agent. One 2012 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition clearly revealed that whole ginger extract (GE) exerts significant “growth-inhibitory and death-inductory” effects in a wide range of prostate cancer cells. In fact, the study suggests that GE can inhibit the growth and progression of prostate cancer cells by as much as 56 percent. (3,4)
In the case of ovarian cancer, this type of cancer is often deadly because symptoms typically don’t appear until late in the disease. So, by the time ovarian cancer is diagnosed, it may have already spread well beyond the ovaries. In fact, in over 75 percent of women that develop ovarian cancer, they are not diagnosed until they are already in the advanced stages of the disease. (13)
These numbers are not only scary, but unacceptable in a day and age when known preventatives are available. In a 2007 study published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, ginger was shown to not only inhibit the growth of ovarian cancer cells but to also modulate the secretion of angiogenic factors in these cells. What this means is that ginger can stop cancer tumors cells from stimulating nearby normal cells from creating new blood vessels that “feed” growing tumors with oxygen and nutrients, which allows these cells to invade nearby tissue, and to move throughout the body to form new colonies of cancer cells—metastases. (14)
Other studies show that a daily dose of ginger may reduce inflammation in the colon and ultimately help reduce the risk of colon cancer. One study in particular showed that people who took ginger supplements had a 28 percent decrease in colorectal inflammation, a key risk factor for developing this type of cancer. (15) Ginger inhibits growth and modulates secretion of angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells. The use of dietary agents such as ginger may have potential in the treatment and prevention of ovarian cancer.
One of the primary reasons that ginger is so effective against these hard-to-treat cancers is that while cancer stem cells only constitute up .2 to 1 percent of the entire cellular makeup of any tumor, these cells can be extremely difficult to kill. This fact is significant because unless the stem cells are completely destroyed, they can and will eventually create more cancer cells that can travel throughout the body (metastasize). Ginger is able to target the root cause of cancer—the cancerous stem cells.
What researchers also found is that ginger can help prevent a number of toxic effects caused by other substances, including cancer drugs. As such, according to researchers, ginger is not only a useful treatment option on its own, but it may also be useful in conjunction with conventional cancer treatments.
One of the other issues with conventional chemotherapy drugs is that apart from suppressing the inflammatory markers of the cancerous cells, these harsh treatments can also cause cancer cells to become resistant to the effects of the very therapeutic drugs needed to kill these cells. But a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan revealed that ginger may be especially beneficial because the cancer cells that were exposed to ginger in this study did not in fact, become resistant to ginger’s cancer-destroying effects. (16)
Some might even say that ginger is the Holy Grail of anti-cancer agents. It not only prevents and treats the hard to kill cancers but it assures it will continue to work without the often deadly side effects of traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy.
Forms of Ginger
Ginger is available in several forms—whole fresh root, crystallized ginger, honey-based ginger syrups, supplements such as capsules containing powdered ginger extracts, ginger teas and water or alcohol-based extracts.
You can buy whole fresh ginger at your local market. You can use it immediately or freeze it and simply grate what you need.
You can also buy crystalized ginger at your local market or health food store. This type of ginger is great for upset tummies or nausea.
Ginger syrups are also available in most health food stores and are a good option for colds or other viruses.
When looking for an herbal extract, you can buy one with either a water or alcohol base. Water-based extracts are typically okay with most herbs but studies show that an alcohol-based ginger extract is more effective.
You can also buy a variety of ginger supplements, however, as with any supplement, always make sure it is a quality brand that ensures the efficacy and potency of its therapeutic ingredients.
If you prefer a tea, you can buy a commercially made brand or you can make your own using whole fresh ginger. If you decide to make you own, simply cut about a cubic inch of ginger from the root and then gate it or slice it thinly. Boil it in about 1½ cups of water for about 10 minutes. You can also add some honey or stevia to sweeten it.
When using ginger, it is recommended that you do not take more than 4 grams per day. You should also be aware that ginger is a known blood thinner, so if you currently use any type of anticoagulant, speak to a medical professional before adding ginger to your daily health regime.