By Elizabeth Magill
No cookie says more about the holidays than the gingerbread man. It’s cute, tasty and its history dates back to the 16th century. And now health professionals are touting ginger’s benefits in helping with chronic pain.
In a study of 261 patients with osteoarthritis at the University of Maryland Medical Center, patients who ingested ginger extract twice a day experienced less pain and required less pain-killing medications than those who didn’t. The reason? Ginger contains prostaglandin and leukotriene, compounds which are believed to be inflammatory mediators.
Joy Bauer, a registered dietitian and author of “Joy Bauer’s Food Cures,” recommends the use of ginger to help with inflammation and arthritis.
“Ginger is a versatile spice that has anti-inflammatory properties and early research shows it may be helpful in alleviating arthritis pain, making it one of the best foods for arthritis,” says Bauer on her website.
Bauer also speaks highly of ginger green tea, which is made by slicing fresh ginger and steeping it in hot water. In addition to its anti-inflammatory benefits, Bauer says the tea helps with nausea and an upset stomach.
Kathleen Blanchard, a registered nurse, also praises ginger’s anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. Blanchard notes that studies are being conducted to investigate the use of ginger for the prevention and treatment of migraine headaches, asthma, heart disease and cancer. Other studies suggest that ginger may play a role in blood clot prevention and cholesterol reduction.
Fresh ginger is used for treating baldness, toothaches, malaria, rheumatism, migraines and poisonous snake bites; while dried ginger is used to relieve stomach, chest and back pain, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Some people obtain relief from painful burns by applying fresh ginger juice to their burned skin, according to the NIH.
Historically, ginger has been used in Indian, Arabic and Asian medicines to relieve a wide range of health conditions, including colic, diarrhea, and indigestion. Food products containing ginger are either made from dried or fresh ginger root. Ginger is available in many forms, including capsules, extracts and oils. It’s a common cooking and baking spice used in salad dressings, ginger ale, marinades and, of course, the beloved gingerbread man.