Ginger is a well known pungent, culinary spice, but it also has remarkable health-promoting properties. For instance, I’ve previously written about the use of ginger for easing painful periods and preventing menstrual migraines. But, ginger offers much more than pain relief. In this scientific review in the Royal Society of Chemistry Journal: Food and Function, researchers discuss the potential ability of ginger to protect against stomach ulcer.
The culinary and medicinal part of ginger is the rhizome, often described as a root, but actually an underground plant stem. Thought to have it’s origins in northern India, the remedy is now grown in many parts of the world. No doubt, at least partly due to its valuable contribution to several systems of traditional herbal medicine, including Chinese, Ayurvedic, Unani, Arabic, Greek and Roman.
Ginger as a traditional medicine
Ginger has a long history of use for relieving pain and spasms, as well as reducing inflammation. So it has found a use in arthritis, rheumatism, muscular aches and pains, cramps and sprains. It also has use as a popular herbal remedy for infections, such as colds and flu, sore throats, catarrh and gingivitis. What’s more, it’s use for various digestive problems including indigestion, belching, bloating, gastritis, nausea and vomiting, has been validated by scientific studies. And now in animal studies, researchers have looked at ginger as a potential means of preventing gastric ulcers.
How a stomach ulcer develops
A stomach ulcer is an ulcer that occurs on the inside lining of the stomach. The stomach is vulnerable to ulceration because cells in the stomach lining layer produce digestive secretions. These include digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid. Digestive secretions are a necessary part of the process of digestion. Yet these same digestive juices can erode the stomach lining, potentially forming a stomach ulcer.
Other cells in the stomach lining produce protective mucous. This mucous coats the stomach surface, protecting it from stomach acid and other digestive secretions.
Yet, in some cases, ulceration does occur. This can happen when the stomach makes too much stomach acid or makes too little protective mucous. There are some factors that we know increase the risk of ulceration. These include the chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin. And other factors such as alcohol, stress and infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori.
Ginger and mucous production
In animal studies, ginger has been found to be an effective way of preventing gastric ulcers from these causes. Researchers suggest that ginger is protective because it mops up free radicals and prevents damage to cell membranes. It also has the ability to reduce intestinal spasms, flatulence and bloating, whilst increasing the rate of emptying of the stomach. All of which may help to reduce the amount of time the acidic contents remain in the stomach. So, limiting damage to the stomach lining.
Ginger may also stimulate the production and secretion of mucin. This is a constituent of the slimy, protective mucous that coats the stomach lining. A thicker mucous layer helps to prevent contact between the acidic stomach contents and the stomach wall.
The researchers conclude that ginger may help to prevent gastric ulcers through several different mechanisms. And, whilst some of the available evidence is inconsistent, they say that following further studies ginger may have potential as a non-toxic broad-spectrum gastroprotective agent.
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