Turmeric and Ginger: Benefits Beyond Fighting Inflammation?

Turmeric and ginger are both potent anti-inflammatory herbs that have made their way from traditional Asian cuisine to now being a staple in many homes across the world. They have become two of the most extensively studied ingredients in herbal medicine.

Fighting inflammation, here’s were we start

Both turmeric and ginger are related as they originate from the same plant family called “Zingiberaceae”. They are considered “rhizomes” or stems that are later modified into a root.

Although turmeric and ginger are mostly praised for their anti-inflammatory properties, in this article we will be discussing their various benefits beyond fighting inflammation. But first, what’s the deal with inflammation and how do they fight it?

Turmeric, ginger, and inflammation

Although not the only mechanism through which turmeric and ginger’s benefits can be attributed, many of their benefits are due to their anti-inflammatory effect.

Inflammation is a normal physiological response against injury and infection. The goal is not to completely diminish inflammation, but to dampen it when it becomes chronic. When there’s chronic inflammation in the body due to various things like poor diet, sleep, exercise, toxins, etc. it affects every cell in the body.

Chronic inflammation is said to cause and advance many common diseases, so much so that research increasingly suggests that it is also inextricably linked with a broad range of non-infectious diseases, “perhaps even all of them”.

Turmeric and ginger both fight inflammation by regulating the same processes in the body. They both up-regulate Nrf2 and down-regulate NF-kB (these are proteins that regulate gene expression in the body).

NF-kB is said to be the gateway to inflammation as it’s activation promotes the production of a host of inflammatory molecules in the body, while Nrf2 activation promotes the production of antioxidants in the body that help fight inflammation

Ginger for menstrual cramps?

Dysmenorrhea or painful menstruations is a common complaint affecting 16-91% of women of reproductive age. Menstrual cramps can have a major impact on a woman’s quality of life, work productivity, and more.

Many women reach for NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen for symptom relief.

In a double-blind clinical trial published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers compared the efficacy of ginger, mefenamic acid (an NSAID), or ibuprofen on women with dysmenorrhea.

Researchers found that all treatments were equivalent in efficacy, “Ginger was as effective as mefenamic acid and ibuprofen in relieving pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea”.

It goes to say that ginger has a far more benign safety profile compared to NSAIDs as well, which have side effects such as an increase in cardiovascular disease risk, GI bleeding, micronutrient depletion, microbiome disturbances, etc.

Turmeric for mood disorders?

Mood disorders seem to have various pathologies, with the old school thought of serotonin being the only thing at play to the development of depression. Now researchers have discovered that inflammation may play a vital role in depression.

This new theory of depression called, “The Inflammatory Model of Depression” highlights that pro-inflammatory cytokines (immune-signaling molecules) have the potential to cross through our brain’s defensive barrier (the blood-brain barrier) and invoke neuro-inflammation that elicits symptoms of depression.

This theory has been put to the test through various studies, but one impressive meta-analysis looked at curcumin (an active constituent within turmeric) as a novel antidepressant.

This meta-analysis reviewed six clinical trials with a total of 377 patients, comparing the use of curcumin to placebo. Researchers found that “In patients with depression, the pooled standardized mean difference from baseline Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression scores… support the significant clinical efficacy of curcumin in ameliorating depressive symptoms”.

In 3 of the 6 clinical trials, significant anti-anxiety effects were also reported.

Fighting inflammation with turmeric, also helps with mood disorders

Ginger for migraines?

Migraine headaches are considered the most disabling brain disorder and are characterized by the experience of migrainous headaches on at least 15 days per month.

Although pharmaceuticals are commonly prescribed for migraine relief, researchers have taken a look at ginger as a potential intervention for migraines.

In one double-blind, randomized-controlled clinical trial, published in “Phytotherapy Research” researchers compared the efficacy of sumatriptan (migraine-relief pharmaceutical drug) to ginger powder on 100 patients with acute migraines.

The researchers found similar efficacy of ginger powder and sumatriptan for migraine relief, however clinical adverse effects of ginger were significantly lower than that of sumatriptan.

The only reported side effect of ginger was dyspepsia, whereas the sumatriptan elicited sedation, vertigo, heartburn, and dizziness.

Turmeric for type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common metabolic disease characterized by persistent high blood sugar. As of 2015, 30.3 million people in the United States, or 9.4 percent of the population, had diabetes.

A systemic review of the studies on curcumin and diabetes found that curcumin was able to decrease blood sugar levels, as well as other diabetes-related complications such as fatty liver disease, diabetic neuropathy, inflammation, and more.

Another study looking at curcumin and type 2 diabetes found that curcumin positively impacts blood triglyceride levels which are typically elevated in T2D patients and contribute to heart disease.

Curcumin was also shown to activate enzymes/pathways that increase the uptake of blood sugar into muscle cells, which is impaired in diabetes.As well as increase brown fat production which enhances energy expenditure (calories burned)

Turmeric and Ginger: Benefits Beyond Fighting Inflammation?

Learn more about fighting inflammation with foods here

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