Ginger refers to the fresh or dried rhizome (underground stem) of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale). Ginger contains numerous compounds that have been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-arthritic, hypotensive, antiatherogenic, radioprotective and antiemetic properties.
Ginger is believed to affect serotonin receptors in the digestive tract and it has been traditionally used to aid digestion and treat stomach upset and nausea (including pregnancy-related "morning sickness"). Ginger may assist in prevention of the progression of type 2 diabetes through its hypoglycemic effects and by increasing insulin sensitivity.
Ginger also contains components shown to have anti-cancer effects, including various gingerols, gingerdione, shogaols, and paradols, as well as caffeic acid, β-elemene and zingerone. Ginger has been shown to have protective effect in cell and animal prostate cancer models and to suppress colorectal, skin and lung carcinogenesis in laboratory animals. Ginger has also been shown to inhibit the growth of leukemia cells, as well as gastric, pancreatic, liver and ovarian cancer cells in the laboratory.
Breast cancer-related effects of eating ginger
Ginger has been found to significantly inhibit mammary tumorigenesis and tumor growth in laboratory mice when fed in drinking water. Ginger components 6-Shogaol and -gingerol have been shown to inhibit cell adhesion, invasion, and motility in both hormone receptor positive (ER+/PR+) and triple negative (ER-/PR-/HER2-) human breast cancer cells in the laboratory. 6-shogaol has also been shown to induce breast cancer cell death and inhibit the formation of breast cancer stem cell-like spheroids.
Ginger has been found to be effective in treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, although not all studies agree. The key appears to be to take the ginger before undergoing a chemotherapy treatment as well as afterwards. It has been shown that 6-shogaol increases the cytotoxic effects of Taxol (paclitaxel). In addition, ginger appears to increase the effectiveness of Adriamycin (doxorubicin) chemotherapy.
On the other hand, ginger should be avoided during radiation treatment since it has been shown to help protect cells against the cytotoxic effects of radiation.
Tropical ginger and wild ginger
Edible tropical ginger (Zingiber zerumbet Smith), also known as subtropical ginger, contains compounds such as zerumbone and 1'-acetoxychavicol acetate, which have been shown to have anti-breast cancer effects in the laboratory. However, note that this ginger is typically not sold in the U.S. and many "tropical gingers" are inedible ornamental plants.
Wild ginger (Asarum canadense), which is used in some weight loss and Chinese herbal preparations, should be avoided. Wild ginger incorporates aristolochic acid, which has been shown to be toxic to the kidneys and is a suspected human carcinogen.
Ginger ale or ginger beer is a soft drink that, as formulated commercially, typically contains high amounts of sugar and low or nonexistent amounts of ginger. For example Canada Dry regular ginger ale contains the following ingredients: carbonated water, high fructose syrup and/or sugar, citric acid, natural flavors, sodium benzoate and caramel color.
Below are links to recent studies concerning this food. For a more complete list of studies, please click on ginger.