Why curcumin and ginger are a winning combination to fight inflammation
(NaturalHealth365) Long-term, low-level inflammation is at the root of so many degenerative health conditions currently affecting millions of people. These potentially life-threatening illnesses include heart disease, cancer (the number one and number two causes of death, respectively, in the United States), atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and over 100 different forms of autoimmune disorders. Studies like this one from MD Anderson Cancer Center, show that the combination of two common nutrients – ginger and curcumin-rich turmeric – may hold the key to quenching chronic inflammation, and fighting the deadly conditions it can trigger.
In truth, both turmeric and ginger have been long prized in Asian and Indian cuisine for their ability to impart distinctive color, flavors and piquancy to recipes – and both are also treasured in various herbal and Ayurvedic healing systems for their ability to treat a variety of ills.
It’s official: Scientific analysis confirms the benefits of ginger and turmeric
But what makes the partnership of ginger and curcumin so effective? Let’s take a look at each.
Ginger root, scientifically known as Zingiber officinale, is rich in plant chemicals known as gingerols and shogaols. These powerful antioxidant compounds scavenge harmful free radicals that can cause oxidative stress and tissue damage – which leads to disease. Gingerols and shogaols also limit the production of enzymes that produce pro-inflammatory chemicals called leukotrienes.
In one double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial – the undisputed gold standard for medical research – researchers found that 1,000 mg of ginger extract a day for three months reduced inflammatory markers and relieved symptoms in patients with moderately painful knee osteoarthritis.
And, when it comes to relieving inflammation, curcumin is no slouch either. The active constituent of turmeric, curcumin – like ginger – reduces oxidative damage and inhibits production of pro-inflammatory chemicals.
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In addition, researchers are intrigued by the fact that curcumin boosts the expression of sirtuin 1, a protein credited with promoting healthy aging and longevity. Currently, over 12,000 peer-reviewed articles attest to the benefits of curcumin.
In one eye-opening study involving 45 participants with rheumatoid arthritis, turmeric extract actually outperformed diclofenac, a pharmaceutical arthritis drug, in reducing symptoms.
In a notable study published in Oncogene, researchers tested the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin against an assortment of other natural anti-inflammatory substances – and also against a variety of pharmaceutical NSAID pain relievers including aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.
And curcumin (along with resveratrol, a flavonoid found in purple grapes and organic wine) came out on top.
Compelling data: Research highlights the ability of a ginger/curcumin combination to treat arthritis
Not only have both curcumin (from turmeric) and ginger been extensively studied for their anti-inflammatory effects, but recent research has shown that each can potentiate the effects of the other, increasing effectiveness. The benefits of this “dynamic duo” are particularly pronounced when it comes to easing arthritis, an inflammation-driven condition in which protective cartilage is eroded from joints.
In a relatively recent animal study published in International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases, ginger and turmeric reduced the joint inflammation that accompanies rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers noted that the combination protected and preserved the structure of joints – and even helped to prevent impaired kidney function and anemia that can occur with the disease.
And it is not only animal studies that help validate ginger/curcumin benefits.
Human studies, as well, show that the combination can inhibit production of pro-inflammatory compounds, improve physical function, promote mobility and even bolster mood and quality of life.
Health alert: Chronic inflammation linked to obesity and premature aging
Why all this emphasis on reducing inflammation?
While acute inflammation is a normal (and necessary) biological response to injury and illness, experts say that inflammation can trigger disease when it is systemic and chronic. And, a host of unhealthy (and widespread) conditions can contribute to chronic inflammation.
These include environmental toxins, improper diet, hormone dysregulation, stress, injury and imbalance in the gut microbiome (the community of bacteria that live in the intestinal tract). Overweight and obesity, as well, are major contributors to chronic inflammation. In fact, researchers have recently learned that excess fat cells release unhealthy amounts of pro-inflammatory chemicals.
Finally, the simple act of getting older can drive inflammation. In fact, so closely linked are inflammation and aging that some scientists conflate the terms “inflammation” and “aging” into one descriptive term: “inflammaging.”
Unfortunately, normal aging causes an increase in the number of senescent cells – cells that have lost the ability to divide and to support the health of tissues. Like fat cells, these “obsolete” cells emit damaging pro-inflammatory molecules.
There’s more: Ginger and turmeric can help prevent metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease
Metabolic syndrome is a constellation of unhealthy conditions that includes high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, abnormal levels of fats in the blood, obesity and excessive abdominal fat.
Metabolic syndrome can set the stage for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. But, ginger and turmeric have been shown to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome by blocking the inflammation in arteries that leads to atherosclerosis, and by regulating blood sugar.
There is also evidence that turmeric and ginger help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions by reducing inflammation and reducing damage from beta-amyloid proteins in the brain.
Ginger and turmeric also benefit the brain by boosting levels of acetylcholine (essential for memory and learning).
How should I take turmeric and ginger?
Utilizing generous amounts of turmeric in recipes is clearly a healthy culinary choice. But, to obtain maximum health benefits, supplementation may be necessary. Look for a formula made from organic turmeric, standardized to contain 95 percent curcuminoids.
Extra tip: experts advise seeking out a formula that contains black pepper – which greatly enhances the availability of curcumin. Natural healers typically recommend curcumin dosages ranging from 500 mg to 2,000 mg a day.
To get more ginger in your diet, you can add fresh, sliced ginger root to vegetables, salads and soups – or nibble on pickled ginger. You can also juice the root …or to enhance the flavor of marinades intended for wild-caught salmon, grass-fed beef or chicken.
Ginger extracts are also available in capsules and tablets, with integrative healthcare providers typically recommending dosages in the area of 1,000 mg to 3,000 mg a day. As always, check first with your doctor before supplementing with curcumin or ginger.
Clearly, when it comes to reducing dangerous inflammation and protecting against disease, ginger and curcumin are natural partners – a truly “terrific twosome.”
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