Ginger Supplements

A small, preliminary study finds that ginger root supplements seem to reduce inflammation in the intestines – a potential sign that the pills might reduce the risk of colon cancer.

However, more study needs to be done, and the researchers aren’t yet recommending that people head to the supplements’ aisle or start gobbling up more ginger at meal times.

“If you want to add ginger to part of a healthy diet, that’s great. But you can’t make any conclusions about definite health benefits” based on the study findings, said lead author Suzanna M. Zick, a naturopathic physician and research associate professor at University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor.

The study, funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, was published online Oct. 11 in Cancer Prevention Research.

Ginger, an herb, is found in supplements and in many foods such as ginger snaps and Asian dishes. Research has supported its use to treat stomach problems such as nausea and vomiting; the U.S. National Library of Medicine says it’s “likely safe,” although some people may develop mild side effects.

Previous research in animals has suggested that ginger can reduce inflammation but isn’t potentially toxic to the stomach like aspirin, Zick noted. And scientists have linked chronic inflammation in the gut to colon cancer, suggesting that easing this inflammation could reduce the risk of the disease.

In the new study, Zick’s team randomly assigned 30 people to take pills containing 2 grams of ground ginger root extract or a “dummy” placebo pill each day for 28 days. They measured the level of inflammation in the participants’ intestines before and after the test period.The amount of ginger in the pills is equivalent to 20 grams of raw ginger root, the authors said. That is probably well beyond what most people would eat in their regular diet, Zick noted. As for cost, she said that a month’s supply of similar ginger supplements typically runs about $10 to $30.

The researchers found that the level of inflammation in the subjects who took the ginger pills fell by an average of 28 percent, while staying about the same in those who took the placebo.