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Gan-jiang (GINGER) Zingiber officinale

Thai Gan-Jiang, a versatile  herb for healing sore muscles and an all around folk- remedy for many health issues

Gan-jiang (Zingiber officinale) Thai Gan-jiang has been used in Asia for thousands of years for relief from arthritis, rheumatism, sprains, muscular aches and pains, catarrh, congestion, coughs, sinusitis, sore throats, diarrhea, colic, cramps, indigestion, loss of appetite, motion sickness, fever, flu, chills, and infectious disease. The dried root treats depleted yang, the bright energy element in Chinese Chi.

Experiments have also shown analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity. Even in modern China, while an essential ingredient in almost any meal, it is also one of the most widely consumed drugs. Both fresh and dried roots are official drugs of the modern Chinese pharmacopoeia, as is a liquid extract and tincture. Gan-jiang is used in dozens of traditional Chinese prescriptions as a "guide drug" to "mediate" the effects of potentially toxic ingredients. In fact, in modern China, it is believed to be used in half of all herbal prescriptions.

Studies by Japanese researchers indicate that Gan-jiangr has a tonic effect on the heart, and may lower blood pressure by restricting blood flow in peripheral areas of the body. Further studies show that Gan-jiang can lower cholesterol levels by reducing cholesterol absorption in the blood and liver. Extracts have been extensively studied for a broad range of biological activities including antibacterial, anti-convulsant, analgesic, anti-ulcer, gastric anti-secretory, anti-tumor, anti-fungal, anti-spasmodic, anti-allergenic, and other activities.

Gingerols have been shown to be inhibitors of prostaglandin biosynthesis. Danish researchers at Odense University have studied the anti-coagulant properties of Zingiber officinale and found that it was a more potent blood clotting agent than garlic or onion. The same research group studied the potential use in the treatment of migraine, based on the long history of Gan-jiang use for neurological disorders by practitioners of India's traditional Ayurvedic medicine. The researchers proposed that Zingiber officinale may exert migraine headache relieving and preventative activity without side effects.

Other scientific studies show that gingerol, one of the primary pungent principles of Gan-jiang, helps counter liver toxicity by increasing bile secretion. Gan-jiang has potent anti-microbial and anti-oxidant (food preservative) qualities as well. A recent study furthering it's reputation as a stomachic, demonstrate that acetone and methanol extracts of Zingiber officinale strongly inhibits gastric ulceration.

The antimicrobial properties of various extracts of Zingiber officinale against Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi and Bacillus subtilis that are common cause of gastrointestinal tract infections were investigated using the cup-plate diffusion method. The result obtained revealed that ethanolic extract of Gan-jiang gave the widest zone of inhibition against two out of the three test organisms at the concentration
of 0.8gml-1.

However, Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhi were more sensitive to the extract of onion bulbs compared to Bacillus subtilis which was predominantly resistant. It was also observed that the solvent of extraction and its varying concentrations affected the sensitivity of two of the test organisms to the plant materials.
The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of extracts on the test organisms ranged from 0.1gml-1 - 0.2gml-1, showing that Gan-jiang was more effective and produced remarkable inhibitory effect on the two out of the three test organisms when compared to the onion extracts. This investigation indicates that, though both plants had antimicrobial activities on the two gram negative test organisms but not effective on the gram positive test organism, Gan-jiang had more inhibitory effect thus confirming their use in folk medicine.

Flavanoids are chemical compounds active against microorganisms. They have been found in-vitro to be effective antimicrobial substance against a wide array of microorganisms. Gan-jiang consists of the fresh or dried roots of Zingiber officinale. In humans, Gan-jiang is thought to act directly on the gastrointestinal system to reduce nausea. Traditionally, Gan-jiang has been used to treat intestinal infections, especially related with digestive problems. Equally, its antibacterial ‘power' is effective against preventing numerous intestinal problems that take place as a result of the alteration of the intestinal flora.

This is ideal to avoid the formation of ulcers by eliminating the Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium whose secretions of ammonia are responsible for many ulcers, especially those of the duodena, and for other stomach problems like gastritis, since the plant is able to neutralize the excess of gastric acid that is another of the causes that favors the formation of ulcers.

The gingerols have analgesic, sedative, antipyretic, antibacterial, and gastrointestinal tract motility effects. Gan-jiang has the capacity to eliminate harmful bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, responsible for most of the diarrhea, especially in children. It eases both diarrhea and constipation; hence it should have impact on the growth of Bacillus cereus, which mainly causes diarrhea and nausea. It has been shown to reduce the stickiness of blood platelets, hence may help reduce risk of atherosclerosis.

The genus Salmonella is among the most common causes of food and water borne infectious diseases in the world. The organism has a wide host range which comprises most animal species including mammals, birds and cold-blooded animals in addition to human. A number of studies in Nigeria have shown that Salmonella infections are endemic in many parts of the country and its endemicity increases especially in areas with low environmental hygiene. Bacillus subtilis has been implicated in various food spoilage including ropiness in bread, production of CO2 in canned meats, sliminess and coagulation in milk, etc.

Escherichia coli is one of the main causes of both nosocomial and community-acquired infections in humans and one of the micro-organisms most frequently isolated from blood. E. coli in humans is a common inhabitant of the gastrointestinal tract. It can also cause various intestinal and extra-intestinal diseases. The pathogenic isolates of E. coli have a relatively large potential for developing resistance.

The spread of microbial drug resistance is a global public health challenge, which impairs the efficacy of anti-microbial agents and results in substantial increased illnesses and death rate, hence, this work was therefore undertaken to investigate as well as authenticate the antimicrobial potentials of the two medicinal plants.

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02. Bisset, N. G. and M. Wichtl. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart, Medpharm Scientific Publishers, 1994.
03. Blumenthal, M. et al. eds., S. Klein, trans. German Commission E Therapeutic Monographs on Medicinal Herbs for Human Use. (English translation). Austin, Texas: American Botanical Council, (in edit). 1997.
04. Bone, M.E. et al. Ginger root - A new Antiemetic. The effect of ginger root on postoperative nausea and vomiting after major gynecological surgery. Anesthesia 45(8):669, 1990.
05. Bradly, P. R., ed. British Herbal Compendium. Vol. 1., Dorset, England: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992.
06. Grontved, A., et al.. Ginger Root Against Seasickness. Acta Otolaryngol (Stockh), 105:45-49, 1988.
07. Foster, S. and C. X. Yue. Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West. Rochester, Vt: Healing Arts Press, 1992.
08. Holtmann, S., et al. The anti-motion sickness mechanism of ginger. Acta Otolaryngol (Stockh), 108, 168, 1989.
09. Leung, A. and S. Foster. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics. 2nd. ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
10. Mowrey, D. B. and D. E. Clayson . Motion Sickness, Ginger and Pyschophysics. Lancet 20, 655-667, 1982
11. Tyler, VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press; 1994.
12. Wood, C. D., et al. Comparison of Efficacy of Ginger with Various Antimotion Sickness Drugs. Clinical Research Practices and Drug Regulatory Affairs, 6(2):129-136, 1988.
13. Yamahara, et. al. 1990. Gastrointestinal Motility Enhancing Effect of Ginger and its Active Constituents. Chem. Pharm. Bull. 38(2):430-431.

Effect of antioxidant properties of rhizome of Zingiber officinale Rose to prevent peptic ulcer.
Personal Authors: Chaudhuri, S. R., Biswajit Majumdar, Arun Ray, Bandyopadhyay, S. K.
Author Affiliation: Department of Biochemistry, University College of Medicine, Calcutta University, Kolkata, India.

Oxidative modification on protein due to oxidative stress or damage by reactive oxygen species was significantly lowered, and the primary cytoprotective mucus barrier level maintained a comparatively high value. The results indicate a significant protective action of acetone extract of Zingiber officinale against indomethacin-induced gastric ulcer in the experimental model, and the mechanism is presumably governed by free radical scavenging action.
Publisher: National Academy of Sciences, India
Journal of Tropical Medicine TM
ISSN: 1540-2681

Medicinal plants may be defined as any plant that can be put to culinary or medicinal use and include those we associate with, orthodox drugs such as fox glove and opium poppy, as well as everyday plants, such as garlic 1 .We shall not forget that all drugs of the past were substances with a particular therapeutic action extracted from plants. More and more researchers find that food and their individual constituents perform similar fashion to modern drugs and sometimes better without the dreaded side effects 2. The use of herbs and medicinal plants as the first medicines is a universal phenomenon. Every culture on earth, through written or oral tradition, has relied on the vast variety of natural chemistry found in healing plants for their therapeutic properties 2.

1. Serrentino J. How Natural Remedies Work. Point Robert, W.A.: Harley and Marks Publishers,1991: 20 -22.
2. Wainright M. Miracle cure: The story of penicillin and the golden age of antibiotics, 2001: 237.


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