Most of you know that ginger is a medicinal herb but its uses in preventive cardiology are not well known. Ginger is a member of a plant family that includes cardamom and turmeric. Its familiar aroma is mainly due to compounds called gingerols. At least 30 gingerol-related compounds are contained in the fresh ginger root (rhizome). The proportion gingerols depends on where it is from and how it is processed. Ginger has been used as a medicine for over 5000 years to treat many ailments. India is the largest producer. Ginger was a highly sought-after commodity back in the day and was exported from India to the Roman Empire for its medicinal properties.
Recently Ginger has gained interest among the scientific community for its potential to treat various aspects of cardiovascular disease, in part due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiplatelet, hypotensive, and hypolipidemic effects.These effects have all been scientifically proven although exact doses are tricky to determine in humans. Antiplatelet therapy is an effective approach for preventing coronary heart disease because this prevents clots, the main cause of heart attacks and strokes. Ginger represents a new class of platelet-activation inhibitors without the potential side effects of aspirin which can cause GI bleeding.
Consumption of ginger (5 g) inhibited platelet aggregation induced in men who consumed 100 g of butter (saturated fat induces platelet aggregation/sticky blood) daily for 7 days and a later study showed that ginger enhanced fibrinolytic activity (the dissolving of clots). In animals that were fed a high-cholesterol diet, administration of ginger extract lowered cholesterol and reduced arterial plaque compared to placebo. In humans ginger powder (3 g/day in 1-g capsule 3xd) significantly lowered cholesterol in a double-blind, controlled clinical trial. Triglyceride, LDL and cholesterol were substantially decreased while HDL good cholesterol increased compared to the placebo group. Dried ginger powder (0.1 g/kg BW, per oral administration [p.o.] for 75 days) removed 50% of the plaque in the arteries of rabbits that were fed cholesterol. Rabbits can be made to get atherosclerosis easily by feeding them cholesterol because they do not normally eat it in their diet.
Ginger and nifedipine (a calcium-channel blocker) were reported to have a synergistic effect on antiplatelet aggregation in humans. Ginger oil (24% citral) has been reported to be able to relax arteries. Ginger compounds have been reported to directly stimulate heart muscle contractility, making the heart muscle pump more effectively.
I recommend the whole ginger root as it contains all of the medicinal compounds. The daily dose should be about the size of your thumb. It can be used in cooking, eaten raw or blended into a smoothie or similar blender drink. At the end of each day I like to blend the following elixir to enjoy:
- 1 handful of ginger and turmeric root
- The juice of one lemon
- Add ingredients to the Vitamix and blend for about 3-5 minutes.
It is great for digestion and headaches too!