Ginger – the painkiller

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Native to India and China, ginger has long been known to be an aphrodisiac and an excellent digestive agent. Recent studies undertaken by scientists have attributed painkilling properties as well to this medicinal herb. Read on to know more about ginger, the painkiller.

Ginger's anti-inflammatory properties heal pain and mitigate the inflammation associated with arthritis, muscle spasms and rheumatism. This has been confirmed by research conducted at the University of Sydney in 2001. The researchers had stated that ginger may be an alternative to painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.

According to the study, active ingredients in ginger - compounds called gingerols are similar in structure to capsaicin, the active ingredient of capsicum and chilli pepper that are known pain relievers. Capsaicin acts on a specific receptor in the body that sits on pain sensory nerve endings. This receptor is called the vanilloid receptor and it normally reacts to heat and acidity.

The 'hot' sensation experienced when you eat chili originates from the capsaicin in the chili coming in contact with those pain receptors. But the catch is that capsaicin dulls pain receptors only after setting them off. It initially causes pain but after some time prevents the sensation of pain.

And this is where ginger scores over capsaicin. Gingerol found in ginger also acts on the vanilloid receptor but since it is less pungent than capsaicin found in capsicum, pain is relieved without the initial painful response. The best way to use ginger as a painkiller is by taking it with tea multiple times a day.

Apart from relieving the pain directly, it also relieves the inflammation which in itself causes pain. Gingerols restrain the enzyme that causes inflammation, cyclooxygenase (COX in short). COX comes in two forms: COX-1 is always present in your body, and COX-2 is produced during inflammation. Gingerols are like older anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, that inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2.

Painkilling aside, ginger is good for you in so many other ways. Taking its name from the Sanskrit word stringa-vera that means having body like a horn', ginger has long been taken as an aphrodisiac that works if taken both internally as well as externally. It is most commonly used as a digestive aid. It increases the production of digestive fluids and saliva and thus relieves gas pains, diarrhea, indigestion and stomach cramps.

The primary known constituents of ginger root include gingerols, essential oils (zingiberene, zingiberole, camphene, cineol, borneol), bisabolenel, oleoresins, starch, mucilage, zingibain and protein. Gingerols and their painkilling use have already been discussed and gingerols are only one of the many useful constituents of ginger.

Ginger has been an important ingredient in Chinese medicine for many centuries. Ginger root is used to cure nausea caused by motion sickness and morning sickness. Ginger is even more effective than Dramamine



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