Ginger: The Super Spice to Beat Cancer

Ginger the Superspice to Beat Cancer

In clinical trials, ginger has shown promise for treating inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, while a Cancer Prevention Research study found it reduced inflammation markers in the colon in one month, which in turn decreases colon cancer risk. Ginger’s phenolic compounds relieve gastrointestinal irritation, stimulate saliva and bile production, and suppress gastric contractions through the GI tract. It eases pain, with a University of Georgia study finding that ginger supplementation cut muscle pain by 25 percent. It also relieves period cramps and morning sickness.

Modern technology is transforming ginger into a targeted destroyer of cancer cells. Using fresh ginger and a kitchen blender, researchers led by Dr Didier Merlin at Georgia State University turned the ginger into GDNPs, or ginger-derived nanoparticles. The
next step was considerably more high-tech, involving a super-high-speed centrifuging and ultrasonic dispersion of the ginger juice, to break it into single pellets. Each nanoparticle measured about 230 nanometres in diameter: to put this in context, more than 300 could fit across the width of a human hair.

The team’s findings, based on experiments with cells and mice, were reported in Biomaterials, and show these GDNPs may be good – and cheap – medicine for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and may also fight cancer linked to colitis. Fed to lab mice, the GNDPs exerted significant therapeutic effects, efficiently targeting the colon, and being absorbed by intestinal lining cells, where IBD inflammation occurs. The particles reduced acute colitis; prevented chronic colitis and colitis-associated cancer; enhanced intestinal repair by boosting survival and proliferation of colon lining cells; lowered production of proteins that promote inflammation; and raised levels of proteins that fight inflammation.

Part of the therapeutic effect, the researchers explain, comes from the high levels of lipids in the GDNPs: one such lipid is phosphatidic acid, a key building block of cell membranes. The particles also retained 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol, key constituents found in ginger which are active against oxidation, inflammation, and cancer, and which are what make standard ginger effective for nausea and digestion problems. Delivering these compounds in a nanoparticle, says Merlin’s team, may be a better way to target colon tissue than
simply taking the herb as a food or supplement.

A subsequent study in Biomaterials found nanolipids created from ginger nanoparticles also show promise for targeting and delivering chemotherapeutic drugs to treat colon cancer. The current colon-cancer treatment of non-targeted chemotherapy is unable to distinguish between cancerous and healthy cells, resulting in poor therapeutic effects on tumour cells and severe toxic side effects in healthy cells. Enabling chemotherapeutic drugs to target cancer cells would be a major development and an exciting breakthrough, given colon  cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women worldwide – and its incidence is rising.

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