Research shows ginger may play a role in maintaining a healthy heart
The human heart beats around 70 times a minute, non-stop for 80 years give or take, pumping more than 10 million litres of blood around your body every year. Without a break, it continues its steady, faithful beat. Sadly, many of us take our hearts for granted. Heart disease accounts for 1 in 4 deaths in the United States and around 600,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. every year. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
Research shows that ginger may play a role in maintaining a healthy heart. Used in traditional Chinese, Indonesian and Ayurvedic medicine, ginger has been used for centuries to treat a variety of cardiovascular conditions. In theory, ginger helps reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. But how does ginger do this?
Studies have shown that ginger contains anti-inflammatory properties that work much like the more common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, often referred to as NSAIDs.1 Specifically, ginger inhibits the action of several of the genes involved in the inflammation process.
Ginger helps to reduce inflammation by actually blocking the very genes needed to create inflammation in the first place.
In a placebo-controlled animal study, researchers gave both a low dose (50 mg/kg) and a high dose (500 mg/kg) of ginger extract to rats for four weeks.2 Researchers found that rats given the higher dosage of ginger extract orally exhibited a statistically significant reduction in blood-clotting factors and cholesterol levels, as compared to the placebo group. They also had a reduction in inflammation markers. Researchers concluded that ginger may be useful as a cholesterol-lowering, anti-inflammatory blood thinner.
The University of Maryland Medical Center cites a number of studies that suggest ginger may lower cholesterol and prevent blood from clotting. This blood-thinning or anti-coagulant effect is important for people with heart disease: if blood is thinner and free-flowing, it is much less likely to become clogged and lead to a heart attack or stroke. Studies at Cornell University point specifically to the gingerols in ginger as being responsible for helping to prevent abnormal blood coagulation.
Buckle up for the science part about cholesterol: a type of fat, cholesterol is found in all cells in the body (it forms part of their outer layer) and is transported around the body, in the blood, attached to a protein. This combination of fat and protein is called a lipoprotein. Lipoproteins can be high density (HDL) or low density (LDL). Although we often hear how cholesterol is bad for us (and too much of the wrong type is), some cholesterol is actually essential for good health.
HDL cholesterol is mostly made up of protein and a small amount of fat. It helps to protect against heart disease by transporting fats away from the arteries and is often referred to as ‘good’ cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is made up of mostly fat and a small amount of protein. It can cause cholesterol levels to build up in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease and is often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol. Some studies go further and suggest that this is just half the story: it’s not just about the good and the bad, but also other factors such as oxidative stress and inflammation.3
What is key is balance: high levels of HDL and low levels of LDL, and many studies show that ginger reduces blood cholesterol levels (probably by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress) and also by improving liver function. Ginger may also help lower blood pressure, another indicator of heart disease.
There are many ways to increase consumption of ginger and one of the quickest ways is through a daily ginger juice shot, either in the morning or at bedtime. Ginger is also an easy ingredient to incorporate into most recipes, from sweet to savory. If don’t happen to have one of The Ginger People’s recipe-ready ginger ingredients in your pantry and you’re starting from fresh, simply peel a piece of ginger and grate it into drinks, soups, stir fry, and virtually any chicken, fish, or bean dish for a great shot of flavour, as well as health. Ginger pairs particularly well with root vegetables such as carrots, beetroot, parsnips and turnips.
To make a quick ginger detox tea, peel a piece of ginger and cut it into slices. Steep the ginger in boiling water for half an hour. You can also add a spoonful of honey and lemon for a little extra health kick. For more ginger recipe inspiration, click here.
It goes without saying, there are no quick fixes when it comes to improving your health and mitigating the risk of cardiovascular disease. We all know living a “conscious” lifestyle through a healthy diet and wise lifestyle choices is a good start. If you have any health concerns, we encourage you to speak with your doctor about diet and exercise and how ginger may be able to help you.
1. Grzanna, R et al. “Ginger – an herbal medicinal product with broad anti- inflammatory actions.” J Med Food. 2005 Summer;8(2):125-32.
2. Thomson, M et al. “The use of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) as a potential anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic agent.” Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2002 Dec;67(6):475-8.
3. Verma, SK et al. “Antioxidant property of ginger in patients with coronary artery disease.” South Asian J Prev Cardiology. 2004;8 (4).
4. “Ginger Lowers Blood Pressure Through Blockade of Voltage-Dependent Calcium Channels.” Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology 45(1):74-80, February 2005.
Alexandra Rothwell Kelly is a Registered Dietitian with a Masters in Public Health, currently residing in San Francisco. She received her undergraduate degree from New York University and completed her graduate studies at Mount Sinai. Alexandra has several years of experience in oncology nutrition at the Tisch Cancer Institute in New York and has performed clinical research in integrative medicine and health technology. She conducts individualized nutrition and lifestyle counseling with a focus on general wellness, chronic disease prevention, and cancer survivorship.