Can Essential Oils Help Treat Fibromyalgia?

Essential oils are concentrated aromatic liquids that are distilled from plants. They are believed to provide a number of health benefits and ease the symptoms of several medical conditions, including fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic musculoskeletal disorder and a class of rheumatic disease, which is believed to affect the way the body processes pain signals. It is marked by pain throughout the body, fatigue, mental fog, depression, cramps, and sleep disturbances.

According to the American College of Rheumatology, fibromyalgia affects between 2 and 4 percent of people. Up to 90 percent of people with the condition are women. At present, there is no cure for fibromyalgia. Treatment is based on managing the symptoms.

Essential oils and fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia causes chronic pain, fatigue, depression, and other symptoms.

People with fibromyalgia may experience relief from both physical and mental symptoms through the use of essential oils.

In general, research suggests that essential oils offer therapeutic potential in pain relief.

Studies specifically on essential oils for fibromyalgia, other rheumatic conditions, and pain management are limited. However, the following essential oils may help with symptoms of fibromyalgia:

Basil

In one study, basil oil was found to produce painkilling effects on mice with chronic muscle pain. This finding led the researchers to suggest basil oil as a potential method of pain relief for those with fibromyalgia.

Capsicum

This essential oil is extracted from red chilies. It contains capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, which is well-documented as a pain reliever.

In one study, people with severe fibromyalgia applied topical capsaicin three times per day for 6 weeks. The treatment led to significant improvements in terms of pain relief and overall well-being.

It has also been suggested that concentrated capsaicin patches can reduce neuropathic pain for up to 12 weeks.

Cedarwood

Research from 2015 suggests that inhaling cedarwood essential oil alleviates post-surgery pain in mice by influencing the way the body experiences pain.

Clove

A review of research on clove essential oil suggests that it may be a possible method to relieve pain.

The researchers suggest that clove oil may be so effective because it contains eugenol in high concentrations (88.58 percent). Eugenol is commonly used as a local antiseptic and anesthetic.

Ginger and orange

A blend of both ginger and orange oil was tested on older adults with moderate-to-severe knee pain.

Those treated experienced an improvement in physical function and a reduction in pain when compared with those that received a placebo, or no treatment at all. These benefits were still observable at the 1-week follow-up, but not at the 4-week review.

This study indicates an aromatherapy massage using these essential oils can effectively reduce pain in the short term. Be careful when using citrus oils if going out in the sun, as some research has suggested that they may cause sunburn.

Lavender

Recent research found that an aromatherapy massage using lavender oil effectively reduced pain in people with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Pain levels were reduced immediately after the treatment and remained lowered at 1-week post-treatment. However, the pain relief did not last long-term. At the 4 week follow-up, the pain had returned.

Lavender oil was also found to reduce stress and anxiety, and so may be beneficial for those who experience these common fibromyalgia symptoms. It may also aid sleep.

Multiple oil blend

Research that looked at the effects of a commercially available essential oil blend on people with fibromyalgia found that, following 4 weeks of treatment, improvements were experienced in night pain, strength, and tender point pain thresholds.

The oil blend tested comprised white camphor oil, aloe vera oil, eucalyptus oil, lemon oil, orange oil, peppermint oil, and rosemary oil.

How to use essential oils for fibromyalgia

[lavender essential oil]
The essential oil should not be applied directly to the skin without diluting it first. Alternately, it can be inhaled using a diffuser or oil burner.

Essential oils can be used in the following ways:

  • Topically. Do not apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin. Essential oils must be mixed with a carrier oil. Mix a few drops of an essential oil with 1 ounce of carrier oil (such as coconut oil, sweet almond oil, or olive oil) before applying to the skin. It can also be used as a massage oil. Mixed oils can also be added to bathwater.
  • Inhaled. The oils can be inhaled directly, or placed in an essential oil diffuser or burner.

To ease fibromyalgia and other pain conditions, it is best to use essential oils on a regular basis. Some of the above studies suggest that the beneficial effects of the oils do not endure beyond a few days, so the regular application may help to keep the pain at bay.

Risks and considerations

Although essential oils are considered a natural remedy, they carry some risks. It is important for people to keep the following in mind:

  • Essential oils should not be ingested. Although some people may recommend taking essential oils by mouth, these products are highly concentrated. They can have serious side effects if taken incorrectly in this manner.
  • It is possible to be allergic to essential oils. People should test their chosen essential oil by mixing it with a carrier oil and putting a small amount, about the size of a dime, on their forearm. If there is no reaction, it should be safe to use. Test each new essential oil in the same manner.
  • Look out for unwanted side effects. While these oils have been shown in studies to have beneficial effects, they may have negative effects too. If any undesirable side effects are experienced, people should stop using them and consult a doctor. Risk varies depending on age, health status, and medications.
  • Check for drug interactions. Essential oils can interact with common prescription drugs. Those on medication should consult a doctor before using essential oils, especially if intending to use them on the skin.
  • Always use a carrier oil. Undiluted oils can cause skin irritation, blisters, or rash. Some oils can also increase sensitivity to light, especially citrus oils. People should dilute essential oils with a carrier oil such as almond oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil.
  • Choose a reputable brand. There is considerable variation between essential oils in terms of potency and quality.

Other natural remedies and lifestyle changes

There are several other natural treatments for fibromyalgia that vary in effectiveness from person to person. A combination of treatments tends to work best.

Some natural remedies and lifestyle changes include:

[young woman getting a massage]
Massage therapy can help people with fibromyalgia manage their symptoms.
  • Acupuncture. There is some research to suggest that certain acupuncture therapies can ease symptoms for some people with fibromyalgia.
  • Exercise. Regular gentle exercises such as yoga, walking, swimming, and Pilates may help to decrease pain symptoms and fatigue and improve mood and sleep.
  • Massage. According to the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association, regular massage therapy can improve chronic pain and fibromyalgia symptoms. Massage with the essential oils listed above may be particularly beneficial.
  • Sleep. Setting a regular sleep schedule – with the same bedtime and wake time – helps ease fatigue.
  • Stress management. Managing fibromyalgia means reducing both physical and emotional symptoms of stress. Several techniques can help with this, including meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and breathing exercises.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Working with a therapist who practices CBT can help people to develop new coping strategies. It can help people to change thoughts, behaviors, and emotions to better manage pain and other symptoms.

A review of research found that 12 weeks of CBT led to a slight reduction in pain, negative mood, and disability in people of all ages with fibromyalgia. These changes were still experienced 6 months after treatment ended.

When to see a doctor

People should see a doctor if any of the symptoms of fibromyalgia persist, or if symptoms get worse.

Common fibromyalgia symptoms include:

  • depression
  • the difficulty with focus and concentration
  • tiredness
  • headaches
  • muscle spasms
  • nausea
  • widespread pain

Complications associated with fibromyalgia include an impaired ability to function and increased anxiety.

Causes and risk factors

While researchers are not sure of the exact cause of fibromyalgia, the following factors are thought to play a role:

  • Genetics. A family history of fibromyalgia is a risk factor.
  • Inflammation. Inflammation around groups of blood vessels and nerves can cause an over-reactive nervous system.
  • Infection. Certain infections trigger onset.
  • Other disorders. People with other rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or lupus, are at increased risk of fibromyalgia.
  • Psychological distress. Some research suggests that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a potential risk factor for fibromyalgia. Trauma and PTSD ignite inflammatory responses in the body that can lead to pain and disease.
  • Physical trauma. A physical injury, such as a car accident or through surgery, can bring on symptoms.
  • Sex. Women are more likely than men to develop fibromyalgia.

Those who are considering using essential oils for fibromyalgia, particularly if taking multiple medications, may wish to speak with their doctor before beginning treatment.

Nine Diabetes Superfoods and How to Prepare Them

Diabetes is a disease that causes elevated blood sugar levels due to a lack of insulin, the body’s inability to use insulin, or both.

Poorly managed diabetes can cause damage to blood vessels and nerve cells, which may lead to foot problems and a condition called neuropathy. High blood sugar levels can also cause damage to the eyes and kidneys, and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Foods that can help manage blood sugar

People with diabetes should first make sure that they have a regular eating routine. Having a source of fiber, slow-digesting carbohydrate, lean protein, and healthy fat with each meal helps to control blood sugar levels throughout the day.

People should limit quick-digesting carbohydrates like white bread and pasta. Instead, they should opt for slower-digesting carbohydrates with extra nutrients like vegetables, whole grains, beans, and berries. These cause a smaller spike in blood sugar.

Nine diabetes superfoods

Here are nine examples of foods that can play a role in a healthy, balanced diet for people with diabetes.

1. Walnuts

Hands holding walnuts.
Walnuts contain fiber, protein, and healthy fats.

The combination of fiber, protein and healthy fats in walnuts makes them a great alternative to simple carbohydrate snacks like chips or crackers.

The fatty acids in walnuts can increase good cholesterol while decreasing harmful cholesterol. This may reduce the risk of heart disease or heart attack. People with diabetes are at a greater risk for these conditions.

People whose diets include large amounts of nuts put on less weight than those that do not, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Weight loss can help to reduce blood sugars.

  • Add crushed walnuts to yogurt, oats, or salad
  • Make a trail mix treat with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dark chocolate chips

2. Avocado

The avocado is the only fruit that is a good source of healthy fat. Avocados also provide about 20 different vitamins and minerals and are especially high in potassium, vitamins C, E, and K, lutein, and beta-carotene.

Eating foods that contain healthy fats may help increase fullness. Eating fat slows the digestion of carbohydrates, which helps to keep blood sugar levels more stable.

Avocado is high in fiber too, with half a fruit containing 6-7 grams. According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program of the University of Kentucky, high fiber intake is associated with a significantly lower risk for diabetes.

Eating high-fiber foods can also reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve weight loss, and make insulin more efficient.

  • Spread avocado on toast in the morning instead of butter
  • Use avocado instead of mayonnaise in chicken or egg salad

3. Ezekiel bread

A loaf of Ezekiel bread.
Ezekiel bread has a higher protein and nutrient content than other bread.

Ezekiel bread and other sprouted grain bread are less processed than standard white and whole wheat bread. The grains in Ezekiel bread are soaked and sprouted, allowing for higher protein and nutrient content. Bread made from sprouted grains tends to contain more B vitamins, fiber, folate, and vitamin C than other bread.

Ezekiel bread is often found in the freezer section. Sprouted grain bread have a denser consistency and are best when toasted.

  • Toast Ezekiel bread and top with avocado, a sliced hard-boiled egg, and black pepper
  • People can also find sprouted grain bagels, English muffins, pizza crust, and tortillas

4. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium. The body needs magnesium for over 300 processes, including breaking down food for energy.

A lack of magnesium is linked to insulin resistance, a main cause of diabetes. For every 100-milligram-a-day increase in magnesium intake, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes falls by around 15 percent.

Two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds contain 74 milligrams of magnesium. This is around a quarter of the recommended daily amount.

  • Brush pumpkin seeds with olive oil, season with cumin, and bake until brown and toasted
  • Make pumpkin seed butter by blending whole, raw pumpkin seeds in a food processor until smooth

5. Strawberries

One study found that fisetin, a substance contained in strawberries, prevented both kidney and brain complications in mice with diabetes.

Other human studies have suggested that a higher intake of berries lowers the risk of diabetes.

One cup of fresh strawberries contains 160 percent of an adult’s daily needs for vitamin C at only 50 calories. Several studies have shown a link between lack of vitamin C and diabetes.

  • Make a superfood salad by mixing strawberries, spinach, and walnuts
  • Add frozen strawberries to a smoothie with milk and peanut butter

6. Chia seeds

Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium.

High-fiber diets are linked with stable blood sugar levels and a lower risk of developing diabetes. Despite this, most adults are still not meeting their daily fiber needs.

Just 1 ounce of chia seeds provides 10 grams of fiber, almost half the daily recommendation for a woman over 50.

  • Sprinkle chia seeds on yogurt, cereal, and oats.
  • Chia can be a substitute for eggs in baking. Mix 1 tablespoon of chia with 3 tablespoons of water. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes. The seeds will absorb the water and form a gel that can be used instead of an egg.

7. Ginger

A cup of ginger tea.
Ginger may reduce fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Anti-inflammatory diets and foods can help to treat and relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of long-term diseases like diabetes. Plant-based foods that are high in antioxidants are at the top of the anti-inflammatory foods list.

Ginger has been shown to be high in antioxidants and healthy compounds that enhance its anti-inflammatory powers.

Studies on ginger and diabetes are limited. However, research has shown that ginger reduces fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

  • Steep peeled fresh ginger in boiling water to make ginger tea
  • Add fresh or dried ginger to a stir-fry or homemade salad dressing

8. Spinach

Low potassium intake is linked with a higher risk of diabetes and diabetes complications.

Spinach is one of the best sources of dietary potassium, with 839 milligrams per cup when cooked. One cup of banana has about 539 milligrams of potassium.

  • Throw a handful of spinach into a smoothie
  • Add spinach to sandwiches instead of iceberg lettuce

9. Cinnamon

Cinnamon has been shown in some studies to lower blood sugars in people with diabetes, though not all studies agree. Participants in one study who took a high dose of cinnamon reduced their average blood sugar levels from 8.9 percent to 8.0 percent. Participants who took a low dose of cinnamon reduced their average blood sugar levels from 8.9 to 8.2 percent. Participants who did not take cinnamon saw no change.

  • Try cinnamon on sweet potatoes, roasted carrots, and butternut squash
  • Stir cinnamon into tea or warm milk

Example superfood meal plan

Breakfast

  • Toasted Ezekiel bread (complex carbohydrate)
  • Avocado (healthy fat)
  • Spinach (antioxidants)
  • Hard-boiled egg (lean protein and healthy fat)

Lunch

  • Leafy greens
  • Quinoa (complex carbohydrate and lean protein)
  • Roasted beets (antioxidants)
  • Lean protein (like tuna or chicken)

Snack

  • Chopped apple (complex carb)
  • Walnut and pumpkin seed mix (healthy fat and lean protein)

Dinner

  • Salmon (lean protein and healthy fat)
  • Fresh ginger (antioxidants)
  • Sweet potato (complex carb) topped with cinnamon
  • A choice of veggie

Chronic Pain

A person affected by any kind of chronic pain can feel a lot of discomfort throughout his or her life. It does not matter whether the form of chronic pain is an aching sensation, a tingling feeling, stabbing pains, shooting pains, or burning sensations. Any prolonged and uncontrollable chronic pain can and will affect the individual’s entire life and the kind of lifestyle he or she might enjoy. Psychological issues are another important factor that added to the complication of suffering over prolonged periods of chronic pain. Added o the physical discomfort, is a persistent psychological suffering which can induce long-term anxiety and anger, and lead to a deep depression, all of which can again result in intensifying the pain and prolonging it in the memory of the sufferer.

The human body reports painful sensations when one of the nerve endings in the body senses a source of distress or physical stress from the body and conveys this as a neural signal to the brain. Such impulses usually last for very short periods of time and disappear with the abatement of the stimulus. If the impulses continue long after the stimulus has gone, then the painful sensation can be said to have become chronic-such sensations are persistent over long periods of time and cause a great deal of discomfort to the individual so affected. There are many different causes of chronic pain in people and some of the most prominent among the numerous factors include a poor ability to heal from physical injury (this can be due to genetic or immune system factors), the presence of arthritis, the result of a pinched or irritated and impaired nerve anywhere in the body, and chronic pains can also signal the presence of an underlying disorder such as cancer and other disorders. The actual cause remains an unfortunate mystery, in some cases, particularly for those chronic pain cases that involve the muscles and the bones of an individual.

Supplements and Herbs:

The use of natural pain relievers can be made if carried out under proper supervision from a qualified medical doctor. These analgesic medications may be used singly or in a combination dose, and most of them can be used in the long-term treatment of recurring chronic pain in the body. The use of most of these natural analgesics can be done alongside the use of the conventional prescription painkillers given by the doctor. The use of these natural supplements is generally considered to be safer for the overall health and well-being of the individual, and most are regarded to be safer than the medications prescribed by the doctor-furthermore, the use of these medications may reduce the requirement for prescription medications. There are exceptions to this rule; aspirin cannot be used along with the natural analgesic derived from the herbal white willow bark. The chemical composition of these two compounds is very similar; using a combination dose of these two compounds may increase the risk of aspirin-related side effects in the body. The action of both of these compounds is very similar; they block or actively reduce the levels of the natural pain inducing compounds in the body known as the prostaglandins.

At the same time, the herbal remedy made from the bark of the white willow can be safely combined with the other pain relieving herbs and many of the medications. Inflammation related chronic pain can be alleviated according to some practitioners by the use of the compound known as bromelain, this is an anti-inflammatory plant-based protein which is synthesized from pineapple, another arena in which bromelain can be used in treatment is in alleviating the sports injuries and other complications arising from physical activity. Many other herbs have a potentially helpful property in dealing with chronic pain in the human body, these include common herbs such as the ginger, this garden herb, is similar in action to the white willow bark, and acts by blocking the action of the prostaglandins within the body, herbs such as the commonly found meadowsweet, the feverfew herb, the cat’s claw, the devil’s claw, the pau d’arco, and the common turmeric can also be used as potential pain relievers in an individual suffering from chronic pain.

chronic-pain-clinicThe use of many kinds of topical herbal preparations can also be very beneficial in the treatment of chronic pain. The use of the cream made from the cayenne pepper is particularly effective in the treatment of arthritic joints, in the treatment of individual recovering from the pain left behind after an attack of the shingles, in treating nerve damage induced by type 2 diabetes or arising as a result of surgery including major procedures such as a mastectomy or an amputation. The use of this cream which causes an intense burning sensation may be much less effective on large areas of the body it is best suited to the treatment of small localized pains in different corners of the body. The cayenne cream can be alternatively substituted by a mixed herbal treatment. The herbal essences can be combined for an effective topical remedy, mixing a few drops of ginger juice or tincture, some drops of lavender oil, and some birch oils with about half an ounce of a neutral oil – almond oil is a good example. The affected area of the body can be massaged using this herbal blend; the herbal essences must be applied directly to the painful areas of the body. The nerve endings that transmit pain signals can be directly quieted down using other topical options such as peppermint oil, the oil of the wintergreen, or some eucalyptus oil-this topical treatment can directly treat the chronic pain in the affected individual.

The use of these herbal supplements and topical remedies will generally bring some relief from the pain within three to four hours after use. If anxiety or depression accompanies the pain, then the first treatment must include the St. John’s wort herb, followed by the kava herb. While it is not proven, these herbs may pose some direct pain-relieving abilities besides quieting down the nervous tension. The use of the valerian herb must be considered if the painful sensations start interfering with the ability of the individual to get a good night’s sleep this herb will induce sleepiness and ensure that the person is relaxed at night.

chronic-pain-2Additional Things You May Do:

The use of alternative techniques such as acupuncture must be contemplated if the pain persists following the use of other treatment medications. Some alternative treatments and mind-body techniques like biofeedback, induced hypnosis, and relaxation training along with behavioral counseling can all potentially help the individual in handling the painful sensations in the body. Your doctor can give you suggestions on good pain clinics, these places offer a wide range of treatments and techniques to beat back chronic pain.

Recommended Dosage:

  • Ginger, 100 mg three times daily. Essential oil of ginger can be used as a part of massage blend.
  • Cayenne cream, apply cayenne cream thinly to painful areas several times daily. Should contain 0.025%-0.075% capsaicin.
  • St. John’s wort, 300 mg three times daily.
  • Peppermint oil, add a few drops of peppermint oil to 15 g of neutral oil. Apply to painful areas up to four times a day.
  • Kava, 250 mg three times daily.
  • White willow bark, one or two pills thrice daily when needed for pain. Attention: white willow bark may irritate the stomach.
  • Valerian, 400 mg daily. Do not use valerian if you are a pregnant or nursing mother.
  • Bromelain, 500 mg thrice daily on an empty stomach. If ineffective, eliminate bromelain after 14 days.

For Children:

Children affected by chronic pain can be helped by making them drink an herbal brew of pain relieving teas. Herbal teas for the treatment of chronic pain in children can be prepared by simmering a tablespoon of the bark of white willow in one quart of water and allowing the bark to steep in the water for 15 minutes. After this, the tea can be fortified by mixing a tablespoon of the root extract of the valerian herb, along with a tablespoon of the skullcap herb, and a single tablespoon of the herbal extracts of the chamomile, at last half a tablespoon of the licorice root can be added to the tea. Let the mixed herbs simmer in the water for another ten minutes, allow the solution to cool and then strain it. The dosage of this herbal teas for the affected child can be a single dose of the herbal tea, given once every hour, this can be repeated for four consecutive hours, and will greatly aid in relieving the generalized painful sensations felt by the child all over the body. Similar in action to the medication aspirin, the white willow bark has a strong anti-inflammatory action and is also an analgesic. The sedative and anti-spasmodic properties of the valerian and skullcap herbs add an extra punch to the herbal tea. The effective relaxing properties of the chamomile calm the child. The anti-inflammatory action of licorice is another useful property and this herb also boosts the action of the other herbs in the tea. Licorice is also the main agent that adds sweetness to the herbal tea which would otherwise taste quite bitter.

For you, attention: the herbal extracts of the skullcap must not be given to a child who is under six years of age even if she or he suffers from extreme body aches-alternatives must be found in such a case. At the same time, the licorice must also not be given to a child suffering from a high blood pressure as it can cause side effects in the body of such a child.

Other Beneficial Herbs

  • American Aspen
  • Andiroba
  • Chia
  • Espinheira Santa
  • Gold Coin Grass
  • Iporuru
  • Kombucha Tea
  • Pellitory Of The Wall
  • Red Alder
  • Tamanu Nut Oil

Food as Medicine Ginger (Zingiber officinale, Zingiberaceae)

History and Traditional Use
Range and Habitat

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a tropical perennial herb native to Southeast Asia and widely cultivated in China, India, Nigeria, Australia, Jamaica, and Haiti.1 Its subterranean stem, known as a rhizome, is the edible and medicinal portion of the plant.2 Gingerroot is characterized by its knotted, beige exterior and its yellow interior. The herb features thick, protruding, reed-like3 stems and lanceolate leaves arranged in two vertical columns on opposite sides of the stem.4 Seasonally unfurling from ginger’s leaves are dense, ovoid-shaped flower structures that produce yellow-green flowers with a deep purple, yellow-marked lip.3Ginger plants can have an indefinite spread in tropical climates, though it is susceptible to pests and disease.5 The flavor of ginger is described as sweet and peppery with a prominent spicy aroma due to the presence of gingerols and ketones.6

Phytochemicals and Constituents

Thus far, researchers have identified 115 chemical components in a variety of dried and fresh ginger types.6 The most important phenolic elements of the ginger root are gingerols and their ginger-related composites — paradols, zingerone, and shogaols.6,7 Gingerols are the most abundant constituents of fresh ginger6; the three other phenolic compounds are not as plentiful. When gingerols are cooked or dried, they transform into various bioactive compounds,6 many of which have beneficial antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties.7 Research suggests that the optimal dosage of ginger ranges from 250 mg to 4.8 g per day of fresh or dried rhizomes.6,8 Other dosages for ginger intake vary depending on the form in which they are consumed and the purpose for which they are intended.8

Historical and Commercial Uses

In India, ginger has been used as a flavoring agent in food and beverage preparations as well as in traditional Ayurveda medicinal practices.4 Historically, it was regarded as the mahaoushadha (“the great medicine”) among ancient Indians.9 Fresh and dried ginger is used commonly in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of ailments such as indigestion, fever, and digestive disorders.8 Fresh ginger is thought to be beneficial in reducing nausea and vomiting due to the presence of shogaol, and dried ginger has been shown to alleviate chronic respiratory conditions.10 In addition, gingerol, the most predominate pungent bioactive compound of ginger, has been reported to stimulate digestive enzymes to help improve gastrointestinally (GI) issues.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, fresh ginger root (sheng jiang) is considered warm and pungent and recognized for dispersing cold within the stomach, which contributes to the treatment of nausea and vomiting.11 It also is acknowledged as an expeller of exterior cold, quelling inflammation of the stomach and infections related to the cold and flu. Dry ginger (gan jiang) is considered to be more hot and pungent than fresh ginger, and it is responsible for dispersing cold in the spleen region, thereby alleviating ailments such as diarrhea and poor appetite. Quick-fried ginger (pao jiang) is warm and bitter and used to treat symptoms associated with conditions such as dysmenorrhea and diarrhea. Asian cuisine features ginger in a number of dishes for flavoring, including soups, curries, rice dishes, stir-fries, and sauces.12

It is believed that both the Chinese and Indians have used ginger root for medicinal purposes for more than 5,000 years; however, the exact origin is unknown.6 Highly prized for its medicinal properties, ginger was a popular trading commodity exported to the Roman Empire more than 2,000 years ago from India. (Anecdotally, Queen Elizabeth I of England is credited with the creation of the gingerbread man, which evolved into a popular treat consumed during the Christmas holidays.)

Ginger is used commercially in a variety of forms, including, but not limited to, fresh, dried, and candied.6The age of the ginger plant determines its culinary and medicinal use. Young ginger root harvested at five months has not matured and typically has a mild flavor, suitable to be used fresh. At nine months, ginger characteristically has a thick skin and pungent root, from which the volatile oils can be extracted. This material also is used in dried or ground form as a spice and in commercial baking products. Further, ginger is added as a flavoring to a number of different beverages such as ginger ale, ginger beer, and ginger wine.12

Modern Research

A considerable amount of research demonstrates and supports the significant health benefits of ginger. The majority of clinical evidence for ginger’s medicinal properties is related to nausea caused by pregnancy or chemotherapy.13

Three clinical studies have explored the effects of ginger in reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea in young adults and children.14-16 The results from these studies indicated that ginger is effective in decreasing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. More specifically, one trial indicated that supplementing with ginger (0.5 g to 1.0 g liquid ginger root extract) reduces nausea.16 In a separate study, researchers observed reductions in the prevalence of nausea in patients with breast cancer when 1.5 g powdered dried ginger root was added to an antiemetic therapy following chemotherapy.14

Another clinical study observed the effects of powdered ginger in patients with intra- and postoperative nausea accompanying Cesarean sections.17 The results indicated that episodes of intraoperative nausea were reduced when ginger was administered orally. However, ginger did not have an effect on the overall incidence of intraoperative nausea and vomiting.

Ginger has been explored as a possible treatment for other GI issues such as dyspepsia, gastric emptying, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).18-20 The authors of one clinical study tested the effects of ginger on functional dyspepsia and gastric motility.18 The results indicated that ginger increased gastric emptying more rapidly than the placebo; however, ginger did not influence any GI symptoms. Researchers of a related clinical trial examined ginger’s effects on IBS over a period of 28 days.20 The results indicated that the group taking 1 g of ginger had a 26.4% reduction in symptoms.

Studies have shown that ginger may be beneficial for non-GI-related conditions as well. In two separate clinical studies, researchers explored ginger’s mitigating impact on dysmenorrhea.  The first study was conducted for a period of three days based on reports of pain experienced during the first two days of menstruation each month.21 The results suggested that ginger had more of an impact on dysmenorrhea symptoms compared to muscle-relaxation exercises. A similar clinical study found that at the end of the study period, 82.85% of the participants in the experimental group reported symptom improvement compared to 47.05% of the participants in the placebo group.22

Three clinical studies have examined the effects of ginger in the treatment of colorectal cancer.7,23,24 As noted, the bioactive compounds of ginger contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties, which can interfere with pathways responsible for cancer development.7 The results of all three studies demonstrated that an intake of 2 g of ginger root was able to reduce proliferation in the colorectal epithelium. Further, one trial illustrated that ginger simultaneously increased apoptosis (normal, programmed cell death) and differentiation.7 Ginger also exhibited an anti-inflammatory effect in individuals of normal risk and lowered COX-1 in individuals at higher risk.23,24

Other clinical studies have explored the effects of ginger in relation to muscle pain, respiratory distress syndrome, chronic lower-back pain, satiety, migraines, osteoarthritis, and type 2 diabetes.25-32

Nutrient Profile33

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 1 tablespoon [6 g] raw ginger)

5 calories
0.11 g protein
1.07 g carbohydrate
0.04 g fat

Secondary Metabolites: (Per 1 tablespoon [6 g] raw ginger)

Good source of:

Magnesium: 3 mg (0.75% DV)
Potassium: 25 mg (0.7% DV)
Vitamin B6: 0.01 mg (0.5% DV)
Vitamin C: 0.3 mg (0.5% DV)
Dietary Fiber: 0.1 g (0.4% DV)
Folate: 1 mcg (0.25% DV)
Niacin: 0.05 mg (0.25% DV)
Phosphorus: 2 mg (0.2% DV)
Calcium: 1 mg (0.1% DV)

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Recipe: Candied Ginger

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh ginger root
  •  3 cups water
  • 3 cups granulated sugar, plus additional for coating

Directions:

  1. Spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray and set it in a sheet pan lined with wax paper.

  2. Peel and thinly slice the ginger root.

  3. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan. When the sugar is dissolved, add the ginger and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, until ginger is tender.

  4. Drain the ginger and reserve the liquid for another use. (The reserved liquid can be further reduced to make ginger syrup or added to drinks.) Spread the ginger on the cooling rack in a single layer and dry for 30 minutes.

  5. Once dry, toss ginger slices with additional sugar to coat. Store in an airtight container.

References

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  4. Ginger. University of Maryland Medical Center website. Available here. Accessed February 23, 2015.
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  7. Citronberg J, Bostick R, Ahearn T, et al. Effects of ginger supplementation on cell-cycle biomarkers in the normal-appearing colonic mucosa of patients at increased risk for colorectal cancer: results from a pilot, randomized, and controlled trial. Cancer Prev Res. 2013;6(4):271-281.
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  9. Ravindran PN, Babu KN. Ginger: the Genus Zingiber. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2005.
  10. Ginger – Ayurveda “Root” to Good Health. Kerala – Home of Ayurveda website. Available here. Accessed March 4, 2015.
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  20. Van Tilburg MA, Palsson OS, Ringel Y, Whitehead WE. Is ginger effective for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome? A double-blind randomized controlled pilot trial. Complement Ther Med. 2014;22(1):17-20.
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Ginger: A Life Changing Food

Ginger is one of the most important tools for giving ourselves respite from a reactive state. When you’ve been going a mile a minute from morning until night and you finally start to check out mentally and emotionally, the physical body often stays reactive, in a heightened, spasmodic state. This is how stress-related illnesses such as adrenal fatigue, acid reflux, sleep apnea, spastic bladder, insomnia, digestive issues such as spastic colon and gastritis, and chronic muscle pain can get kicked up. Ginger is the ultimate antispasmodic. A cup of ginger tea can calm an upset stomach and relax any other areas of tension for up to 12 hours. Rather than acting as a nerve tonic, it acts as a tonic for the organs and muscles, telling the body that it can let go, that everything is under control.

If your throat muscles are tight from speaking or yelling too much, or from having to hold in something you wish you could say, ginger is an amazing relaxant for the area. It also helps relieve tension headaches and flush excess lactic acid from muscle tissue into the bloodstream and out of the body—because it’s not just strenuous exercise that causes the release of lactic acid; stress does, too. If you sit at a desk all day with stress pumping lactic acid through your muscles, it needs a way out, since you’re not moving around to keep it flowing on its normal path.

Ginger’s antispasmodic properties come from its more than 60 trace minerals, well over 30 amino acids (many of them undiscovered), and more than 500 enzymes and coenzymes all working together to calm reactivity. And as an antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-parasitic, ginger deserves all the accolades it gets for promoting a healthy immune system. Ginger is also ideal for stress assistance, DNA reconstruction, enhancement of your body’s production of B12, and so much more. It will be 100 years before research uncovers how much ginger truly holds.

Conditions

If you have any of the following conditions, try bringing ginger into your life: pancreatitis, gallstones, adrenal fatigue, spastic colon, sleep apnea, spastic bladder, insomnia, laryngitis, common colds, influenza, hiatal hernia, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)/mononucleosis, migraines, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), thyroid disease, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), HHV-6, eczema, psoriasis, anxiety, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), plantar fasciitis, Raynaud’s syndrome, radiation exposure, all types of cancer (especially thyroid cancer and pancreatic cancer), celiac disease, chronic sinusitis, ear infections, fungal infections, hiatal hernia, human papilloma virus (HPV), insomnia, lymphedema, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis, shingles

Symptoms

If you have any of the following symptoms, try bringing ginger into your life: muscle spasms, muscle cramps, ganglia cysts, muscle tightness, muscle pain, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues, anxiousness, gastritis, bloating, stomach cramps, stomach pain, canker sores, acid reflux, upset stomach, headaches, gallbladder spasms, pelvic pain, back pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, sinus pain, congestion (particularly of the chest and/or sinuses), cough, urinary frequency, incontinence, urinary retention, weight gain, food allergies, abnormal Pap smear results, mineral deficiencies, food sensitivities, belching, diarrhea, brain fog, chronic nausea, colon spasms, cough, congestion, digestive disturbances, high cholesterol, sleeping disturbances, fatigue

Emotional Support

Ginger is ideal for those who feel forced to hold back what they have to say. When you are silenced, there are circumstances where the right course of action is to speak up anyway, and circumstances where you get the sense that saying your piece, however valid, would make the situation worse. Ginger is for the latter. Because holding in your true sentiments can make you feel locked up and stifled—and even put you into muscle spasm—it’s very important to release all that tension, and ginger performs the job beautifully.

Spiritual Lesson

Ginger teaches us that we don’t always have to have an insight, breakthrough, or solution in order to let go of what’s not helping us. We don’t have to process everything or stress ourselves out reliving it. We don’t have to react. There are enough other situations that require our reactions; there’s no sense in taking on extra. Just like we can turn to ginger to work the kinks out of our muscles and the knots out of our stomachs, we can let it work that antispasmodic magic on our souls, cleansing us of wounds and damage without us having to do anything other than letting it.

Tips

  • Ginger can be reused throughout the day. It’s fine to keep using the same ginger for multiple servings of tea.
  • Drinking ginger tea during a full moon increases the medicinal effects of the ginger by 50 percent.
  • Consume ginger shortly before or during a time period when you have to make a serious life decision.
  • Just before you take a therapeutic bath, drink ginger water or ginger tea to enhance the bath’s healing power.

ginger-recipeGinger Limeade

Serves 2-4

¼ cup honey

4 cups water, divided

1 tablespoon ginger juice (from about one 3-inch piece of ginger)

1 cup lime juice (from about 10 limes)

¼ cup fresh mint leaves

1. Heat ¼ cup of honey and 1 cup of water in a small pan until the honey dissolves completely. Set aside to cool.

2. Juice the ginger and limes into a large pitcher. Mix in the remaining 3 cups of water. Stir in the cooled honey water and the fresh mint leaves. Refrigerate until chilled.

“This ginger limeade is so refreshing. It will be especially helpful to anyone trying to transition off of caffeinated energy drinks. The subtle heat of fresh ginger juice makes this drink one you will come back to time and time again.”