As a spice, ginger is widely used in cooking and can add a unique flavor to many different dishes. But, it turns out that ginger is also so much more than that. In fact, there is a range of health benefits associated with ginger, mostly due to the beneficial compounds that it contains.
For example, one of the key advantages connected to ginger is its anti-inflammatory action.
Because of this, some research has focused on the connection between ginger and arthritis, as there is a significant inflammation component in some forms of arthritis.
In theory, being able to reduce inflammation could act to lower the pain connected to arthritis and even improve mobility overall. The site Healthline offers some insight into this area and its implications for your health.
Two connected papers, both published in 2016 have examined this potential connection (Mozaffari-Khosravi et al., 2016 and Naderi, 2016). So, with this post on ginger and arthritis, we’re going to take a look at the outcomes of these two studies and consider what the implications are for ginger consumption and supplementation.
The Studies Themselves
Even though the results were published in two separate papers, the data and outcomes actually come from a single underlying study. Within that study, 120 participants with knee osteoporosis were placed into two groups (20 were excluded during the study, meaning that 100 individuals completed trial).
One of these groups received two capsules containing 500 mg of ginger powder every day for 3 months.
The other group was given capsules that appeared identical but contained 500 mg of starch instead of ginger.
The study also used a double-blind technique.
Double-blinding means that neither the participants nor the researchers know who is in the experimental group and who is in the placebo. Doing so helps to make the study more reliable, as it means that both groups are treated exactly the same.
Samples were collected at baseline (i.e. before the study started) and afterward and the outcomes were then compared.
According to the paper by Naderi et al., there were no significant differences in the inflammatory markers nitric oxide (NO) and hs C-reactive protein before the intervention.
However, after the intervention, the levels of these markers had declined more significantly in the ginger group compared to the placebo group.
Overall, those outcomes suggest that levels of inflammation were lower in the group that took the supplements compared to the one that did not.
Similar effects were also found in the paper by Mozaffari-Khosravi, where the authors noted that cytokines decreased in the ginger group.
In both cases, the authors argued that the observed outcomes supported ginger’s potential to lower inflammation in patients with osteoarthritis. As such, the outcomes do support a potential connection between ginger and arthritis.
The outcomes also support the idea that further research is needed, particularly to determine ideal doses. Additionally, more research could help to see whether the decreases in inflammation markers have impacts on participants, such as increased mobility or decreased pain.
Strengths and Limitations
Inflammation can be a difficult topic to research, as it isn’t something that can be tested directly. That’s why studies have to rely on inflammation markers, like NO levels and CRP, to determine the impact of a given supplement.
With this study, the biggest strength was its design.
This particular design is often referred to as the ‘golden standard’ for research, as it is the most effective way to test a cause and effect relationship.
Another advantage is that the study ended up having 100 participants. That’s a fairly decent sample size for an experimental study and it increases the chance of finding legitimate outcomes.
In contrast, you often find experimental studies that use 10 or 12 participants total. Studies like that tend to be very limited, as the observed results could easily happen because of chance and nothing else.
So, overall, the study was designed well.
However, the outcomes aren’t especially strong.
While there was a statistically significant difference between C-reactive protein, NO and cytokine levels after intervention between the ginger and the placebo groups, the authors are not clear on how much effect this difference would have on participants.
This can be seen by looking at the graphs. For example, if I extend the axis of the NO concentration graph to start at 0, it’s easy to see just how small the difference truly is.
As such, more research into ginger supplementation is needed before we know whether the outcomes have clinical significance.
Implications for Ginger and Arthritis
The outcomes of this research do suggest a possible relationship between ginger and arthritis, through the impact that ginger may have on inflammation. However, it’s clear that there is still a long way to go with this research.
It may be quite some time before we know the implications for human health.
This indicates that if you want to take ginger to reduce inflammation or improve arthritis outcomes, the amount you get in your diet probably won’t be enough.
In this particular case, the observed outcomes were for 1 gram per day and it might be hard to get that much ginger in your food.
One final note is that the connection between ginger and arthritis may complement inflammatory medication. For example, one study looked at this topic with 750 mg of ginger per day (in supplement form). The authors found that the best outcomes came from the group that took both the ginger and Diclofenac, which is an anti-inflammatory drug commonly prescribed for people with arthritis.
This is an encouraging outcome but, overall, much more research needs to be done before we truly know the connection between ginger and arthritis.
In the meantime, it may be worth supplementing ginger but personally, I recommend trying to get it in your food. There are many foods out there that can help to combat inflammation naturally and relying on whole and healthy food tends to be the best option for health and well-being.
As an example, the site Mind Body Green talks about various food rules that help you reduce inflammation.
For that matter, another spice that has a similar effect is turmeric. Research has highlighted a range of different turmeric health benefits, including the ability for turmeric to fight inflammation and be beneficial for patients with arthritis.
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What are your thoughts? Do you think there's potential in ginger supplements or is this just another failed idea?