Ginger Extract Could Help Manage High Blood Sugar in Diabetes
Although in The US we mostly think of ginger as a cooking spice, the root of the Zingiber officinale plant has been used as a medicine in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions since ancient times as a digestive aid and an anti-inflammatory helping to treat arthritis and the common cold. Researchers from the University of Sydney have also found that extracts may help improve long-term diabetic blood sugar control.
Basil Roufogalis, professor of pharmaceutical chemistry and lead author of the study published in the journal Planta Medica, obtained extracts from Buderim Ginger, grown in Australia and recognized as the “World’s Finest Ginger.” The company exports to over 17 countries worldwide. The research team found that a component of the ginger, known as gingerol, was effective in increasing uptake of glucose by cells without the need of insulin.
In Type 2 diabetes, although the body produces the hormone insulin in the pancreas (opposed to Type 1 diabetes where little to no insulin is produced), cells are unable to use it to transport glucose (sugar) out of the blood and into the cells where it is used for energy. Glucose that continues to circulate in the bloodstream can cause complications such as blindness and kidney disease in diabetic patients.
Ginger, a knotted thick underground stem known as a rhizome, has many important active compounds including gingerones, gingerols, paradols and shogaols. The researchers found in this study that the - and -gingerols were most effective in increasing the uptake of glucose.
The team explains that these gingerols increase distribution of a protein called GLUT4. When this protein appears on the surface of the skeletal muscle cells (the major site of glucose clearance in the body), it increases glucose uptake. Type 2 diabetics have insufficient GLUT4 for this process to occur.
Gingerols are also anti-inflammatory compounds. High blood glucose levels can increase levels of proteins that result in inflammation, increasing the risk for heart disease and end-state kidney disease. A recent UK study found that inflammation is a key risk factor in the link between psoriasis and Type 2 diabetes.
"It is hoped that these promising results for managing blood glucose levels can be examined further in human clinical trials," said Professor Roufogalis.
In the meantime, ginger is a healthful addition to the diet. Whole Foods suggests these quick serving ideas for adding ginger to your meals and snacks:
• Turn up the heat while cooling off by making ginger lemonade. Simply combine freshly grated ginger, lemon juice, cane juice or honey and water.
• Add extra inspiration to your rice side dishes by sprinkling grated ginger, sesame seeds and nori strips on top.
• Combine ginger, soy sauce, olive oil and garlic to make a wonderful salad dressing.
• Add ginger and orange juice to puréed sweet potatoes.
• Add grated ginger to your favorite stuffing for baked apples.
• Spice up your healthy sautéed vegetables by adding freshly minced ginger.
For medicinal use, ginger products are available in extracts, tinctures, capsules and oils. Always check with your physician before beginning any new complementary medicine and follow these guidelines set by the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Center for Integrative Medicine:
Don't give ginger to children under 2. Ginger may be used by children over 2 years of age to treat nausea, stomach cramping, and headaches. Ask your doctor to help you determine the right dose.