If you are not spicing your meals with garlic, ginger and turmeric (GG&T), you need to be taking them as supplements. GG&T are known to be natural anti-inflammatory supplements, and are beginning to be viewed as foods and/or supplements for cancer prevention.1 In reality, GG&T should be viewed as agents that can prevent and/or help treat any disease that is promoted by inflammation.
Readers should be aware that aspirin and NSAID’s are thought of as cancer-preventing agents. The problem is that, with long-term use, these medications cause ulceration of the digestive tract that can be fatal; so it is known that they cannot be used for preventing the development of chronic disease.1
Deaths induced by long-term use of NSAID’s
The reason NSAID’s have been used to treat all cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and all painful conditions (arthritis, back pain, headaches, dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, etc.) is because these conditions are all driven by inflammation and NSAID’s are anti-inflammatory agents. Unfortunately, humans cannot consume NSAID’s on a long-term basis due to their dangerous side effects. Indeed, some 16,500 deaths occur each year from ulcers induced by NSAID’s.3
A group of neuroscience researchers at UCLA have been looking at natural anti-inflammatory agents for use against Alzheimer’s disease, because it is known that arthritic patients who take NSAID’s for long periods have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.3 According to the UCLA researchers, “Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis involves a central nervous system inflammatory response, and Alzheimer’s disease risk is reduced in those consuming [NSAID’s].”
Is curcumin the answer?
Their search has led them to investigate curcumin, which is found in turmeric and used extensively in traditional Indian cuisine. Turmeric is the reddish spice that gives curry dishes their characteristic color. Of particular interest is the fact that only 4% of Indians over the age of 80 develop Alzheimer’s disease, compared to some 16% of age-matched Americans.3
Turmeric and ginger have been used as natural anti-inflammatory agents for many years; however, Frautschy, et al., were the first to test the utility of turmeric in an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease. The results were very positive, which led to their conclusion that, “Curcumin has a long history of safe use and is well-tolerated in humans with limited or no side-effects reported at effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant doses. The data reported here argue that curcumin may prove useful for Alzheimer’s disease prevention or treatment.”
Curcumin has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin inhibits the enzyme cyclo-oxygenase, (COX), which functions to synthesize prostaglandins, such as PGE2. It inhibits lipoxygenase (LOX), which functions to synthesize leukotrienes, such as LTB4, as well as NFkB, which is a pro-inflammatory cell-signaling molecule that promotes the expression of COX2. Curcumin has also been reported several times more potent than vitamin E as a free radical scavenger and effective against nitric oxide based radicals.
Benefits of ginger
Sally Frautschy at UCLA indicates that it is likely that ginger has properties equal to turmeric. Like turmeric, ginger has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent.
In the past, I have written in The American Chiropractor about the benefits of ginger in the treatment of musculoskeletal problems, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis, and muscular pain. Better results seemed to occur in those who took the most ginger.
For example, one man diagnosed with RA at the age of 50 began to take 50 grams of raw/fresh ginger daily in the first month after diagnosis. The ginger was lightly cooked and added to vegetable and meat dishes. Within one month, relief of pain and swelling were evident and, at three months, the patient was completely free of pain and swelling. Remarkably, at the time of interview, 13-14 years had passed without a relapse of symptoms.4
Not surprisingly, other inflammatory diseases can be influenced by ginger. Researchers recently examined ginger in an animal model of atherosclerosis and concluded that “consumption of ginger extract may be proven beneficial in attenuation of atherosclerosis development, since it is associated with reduced macrophage-mediated oxidation of LDL, reduced uptake of oxidized LDL by macrophages, reduced oxidative state of LDL and reduced LDL aggregation. All these effects lead to a reduced cellular cholesterol accumulation and foam cell formation, the hallmark of early athero-sclerosis.”5
Garlic has been studied mostly in the context of atherosclerosis and will be discussed in a future column. For now, make sure that you get a daily dose of ginger and turmeric. If you are not spicing your meals, take ginger/turmeric (2 grams total per/d) supplements along with a multiple, magnesium (400-1000 mg/d), EPA/DHA (1-2 gram/d), and CoQ10 (100 mg/d).
Dr. Seaman is the Clinical Chiropractic Consultant for Anabolic Laboratories, one of the first supplement manufacturers to service the chiropractic profession. He is on the faculty of Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida and on the postgraduate faculties of several other chiropractic colleges, providing nutrition seminars that focus on the needs of the chiropractic patient. Dr. Seaman believes that chiropractors should be thinking like chiropractors, while providing nutritional recommendations. Doctors and patients who follow his programs report improved feelings of well-being, weight loss, dramatic increases in energy, and significant pain reduction. Dr. Seaman can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
1. Wargovich MJ, Woods C, Hollis DM, Zander ME.Herbals, cancer prevention and health. J Nutr 2001; 131:3034S-36S
2. Rich M, Scheiman JM. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug gastropathy at the new millennium: mechanisms and prevention. Sem Arth Rheum 2001; 30:167-79
3. Frautschy SA, Hu W, Kim P et al. Phenolic anti-inflammatory antioxidant reversal of A–induced cognitive deficits and neuropathology. Neurobio Aging 2001; 22:993-1005
4. Srivastava KC, Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders. Med Hyp 1992; 39:342-48
5. Fuhrman B, Rosenblat M, Hayek T, Coleman R, Aviram M. Ginger extract consumption reduces plasma cholesterol, inhibits LDL oxidation, and attenuates development of atherosclerosis in atherosclerotic, apolipoprotein E-deficient mice. J Nutr 2000; 130: 1124-31