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This Ubiquitous Spice Serves Up Healthy Benefits for Joints

A member of the same plant family as cardamom and turmeric, ginger’s sweet, pungent flavor has been an integral component of cuisines throughout the world for thousands of years.

Though ginger’s precise origins are uncertain, it is believed to originate from Southeast Asia. Ginger contains as many as 14 different active phytochemicals, including shogaols, gingerols, ginger essential oil and others, that provide relief from arthritis symptoms [1].

Unparalleled Anti-Inflammatory Effects

One of the things that makes ginger effective against arthritis is its diverse and powerful range of anti-inflammatory compounds. With so many active constituents, ginger is able to exert a multi-faceted attack that targets numerous components of the inflammation cycle.

  • Gingerol and shogaol strongly inhibit COX-2, an important pro-inflammatory signaling molecule, via three different routes2. Ginger also inhibits COX-2’s inflammatory relative, COX-1, an effect that is more rarely seen [2].

  • Ginger inhibits production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes – two groups of chemicals that trigger the inflammatory cascade [2].

  • Ginger reduces inflammation by decreasing levels of nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes blood vessels, increasing blood supply, and with it, swelling, pain and inflammation, to an affected area [2].

  • Some studies have found that ginger is nearly equivalent to ibuprofen in its anti-inflammatory effects [2].

  • By reducing inflammation ginger proved to be an effective pain-reliever in 95% of patients with knee osteoarthritis, in one clinical trial [5].

  • A tissue culture study found that ginger has the ability to zero-in on the inflammatory response and short-circuit inflammatory attacks that break down cartilage and bone cells in osteoarthritis [3].

  • Ginger oil reduces both chronic and acute inflammation and also possesses antioxidant and pain-relieving properties [4].

Suppress Tissue-Destroying Enzymes

Ginger also protects joints by inhibiting tissue-destroying enzymes. In a laboratory experiment, enzymes particular to joint destruction in gout were effectively shut down by exposure to a single ginger compound [8].

An ayurvedic herbal formula containing ginger, black pepper and pippali pepper has also been found to reduce activity of the same enzymes [6].

Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis Complications

Advanced stages of RA can impact numerous bodily organs including the heart, lungs and kidneys, as well as impair blood cell production and metabolic activities.

A laboratory animal experiment found that ginger was more effective than the prescription drug indomethacin at protecting against advanced-stage complications of RA [7].

Ginger preserved healthy body weight, promoted production of healthy red and white blood cells and normal blood protein levels and prevented damage to the heart and kidneys.

Effectively Manage Drug Side Effects

Stomach ulcers from taking NSAIDS and adrenal suppression from the overuse of steroid drugs cause many arthritis patients to seek alternative medicine solutions.

In a clinical trial of patients with knee osteoarthritis, a combination of ginger with the prescription arthritis drug diclofenac resulted in better symptom improvement than the drug by itself [5].

This means potentially less need for prescription drugs and lower drug side-effect risk for many osteoarthritis patients.

Safety Note

Ginger is generally considered safe with only mild adverse effects such as heartburn and diarrhea.

However, high doses of ginger may have a blood thinning effect [9]. If you take anticoagulant therapy you should consult with your doctor before taking ginger.

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