Cancer is a very frightening disease to talk about, let alone having it.
Any cancer patient will tell you this. The fear is real and it can kill.
Thus, any lifestyle or diet change that could help to improve the survival rate of cancer patients is welcomed.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) is very popular spice used in Asian, Indian and Japanese cooking.
It is traditionally used to treat various health problems such as motion sickness, arthritis, fever, colds and flu and stomach complaints.
Indeed, scientific studies have revealed that ginger possesses active chemicals that results in beneficial properties including antioxidant protection, anti-inflammatory and anti-nauseant effects.
What is really interesting about ginger is that it seems to show anti-cancer effects that could make it helpful for preventing and treating various types of cancer.
Let's look at some of these studies to see if there is good evidence that it would indeed benefit people suffering from cancer...
Although researchers are not exactly sure how the extracts of ginger work to stop the growth of cancer cells, scientists have suggested the following mechanism:
The ability to inactivate oxygen free radicals to prevent them from damaging cellular structures. In essence, it works as an antioxidant.
Changes the way genetic codes are expressed and hence modify or interfere with cancer cell growth.
Causes the cancer cells to "self-destruct", a process known as apoptosis. (This is a natural process our cells use to protect us should some cells go "crazy".)
These methods and perhaps others that have not been discovered yet, is how experts believe ginger could be effective for both the prevention and the possible treatment of various types of cancer.
These benefits came from the summary of this research paper:
Let's see what type of cancer ginger could theoretical treat or prevent based on lab studies done on cancer tissues.
One study showed that young ginger of the Bangladshi type grown under high carbon dioxide environment showed especially good antioxidant and anti-cancer effects.
The extract of the ginger was able to inhibit human breast cancer cells growth at a low concentration.
The reference is listed below should you wish to review the original research paper.
Moreover, others lab studies show that it inhibits the growth of lung cancer cells as well.
So, with these positive findings, it was only a matter of time before someone test the anti-cancer benefits in animal models...
Prostate cancer is a devastating diagnosis for any men. One study done in rats show that ginger may hold the potential to stop growth of prostate cancer cells.
Here's the reference to this particular study for those looking for the original research paper:
The research team gave mice 100 mg/kg of ginger extract. Upon analyzing the prostate cancer tissue draft, it reduced its growth by 56%. Moreover, the prostate cancer cells showed that they were less likely to spread and had a higher rate of self-induced cellular death (apoptosis).
As an added benefit of ginger, there were not toxic effects on normal cells that divided rapidly (as as those found in the bone marrow or in the intestine).
So, let us all jump with joy and start a diet high in ginger for cancer treatment!
Not so fast. It is very important to realize that positive results in animal studies do not always translate to benefits in human prostate cancer cases.
Positive results in mice is good news but are there any studies in human subjects to suggest that ginger may work against cancer cells?
There is one small study that looked at using ginger to prevent colon cancer in high risk patients.
Thirty patients were given 2 grams of ginger on a daily basis or a matching placebo (sugar pill) for about a month.
They looked at the amount of inflammation in the gut tissue both before and after the experiment.
The amount of inflammation is related to the risk of the development of colon cancer.
They discovered that ginger reduced the production of inflammatory chemicals (eicosanoids) that mark the potential beginning of colon cancer.
Blocking the inflammatory process is an important first step.
Here's the reference to this study:
Keep in mind that the result indirectly suggests that ginger could be beneficial but it does not directly show that it works against colorectal cancer.
With these promising results from small human trials and animal studies, it would definitely entice researchers to conduct more extensive clinical trials on a larger scale to get to the truth.
Thinking of taking ginger for cancer prevention or treatment?
There is good evidence both from lab cancer cell cultures and animal studies that ginger may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer (such as prostate cancer).
Unfortunately, there are no clinical trials to date to directly verify this benefit.
One study is suggestive that taking 2 grams of ginger daily might be helpful in protection against colon cancer by cutting down on inflammation in the gut.
This is a good start.
If you are at risk of cancer and you currently do have some ginger in your diet, feel good that it could help (and perhaps eat a bit more?).
If you don't like ginger or never give it any thought, don't bother. It's still far too early to say if it will offer significant benefits.
You are much better off if you...
...focus on a healthy anti-cancer diet as certain food choices have been shown to reduce the risk of all types of cancer.
Remember, ginger is not the only herb to consider! Need we mention that there are many other cancer prevention supplements that are also worthy of your consideration beside ginger?