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Anticancer potential of ginger.

Cheng X, Liu Q, Peng Y, Qi L, Li P. 2011. Steamed ginger (Zingiber officinale): changed chemical profile and increased anticancer potential. Food Chem. Article in press.

Ginger, Zingiber officinale, is a widely used therapeutic food and herb. It has been used across India, China and Arabic countries for treating many ailments including headaches, colds, fever, nausea and rheumatic conditions. How the plant is prepared is undoubtedly important in the therapeutic activity however few studies have examined this to date.

Ginger is known to have pronounced antioxidant, antiinflammatory, antiemetic, antidiabetic and anticancer properties, many related to the diarylheptanoids and gingerol related compounds. Most research focuses on fresh or dried ginger however steaming the root may affect its phytochemical make up and properties as occurs with other herbs such as ginseng root.

In this trial researchers steamed the ginger root at different temperatures for different times (100[degrees]C for 1 h or 120[degrees]C for 0.5, 1, 2, 4 and 6 h) then air dried the product. The constituents and antiproliferative effect of the fresh, dried and steamed gingers were then quantitatively compared. After the processing 15, 21 and 22 constituents were identified in the fresh, dried and steamed ginger (120[degrees]C 4 h) extract respectively. The researchers chose two of the more well known compounds to assess in each extract: gingerols (6-, 8- and 10-gingerol) and shogaol (6-shogaol). As a general rule the concentration of gingerols decreased with steaming but the level of 6-shogaol actually increased in a time dependant manner and reached the maximum quantity after 4hrof steaming. Steaming at 120[degrees]C greatly increased the concentration of this compound compared with steaming at 100[degrees]C, suggesting that higher temperatures may be more beneficial for facilitating the conversion of shaogoals from gingerols and producing more concentrated extracts. The level of 6-shogaol in steamed ginger at 120[degrees]C for 4 h was found to be approximately 7 and 12 fold higher than that in dried ginger and fresh ginger respectively.

When steamed extracts were compared with fresh and dried ginger they were also found to have more potent anticancer effects. In human Hela cancer cells proliferation assays exposed to ginger for 24 and 48 hours, the steamed ginger produced stronger anticancer effect than the fresh and dried extracts. This is likely due to the higher amounts of shogaol in the herb, as past studies have shown this to have stronger growth inhibitory effects than gingerols on A-549 human lung cancer cells, SK-OV-3 human ovarian cancer cells, SKMEL-2 human skin cancer cells and HCT-15 human colon cancer cells.

This study provides interesting food for thought on the best forms of ginger (and perhaps other herbs) to use in patients when seeking an anticancer effect.

Tessa Finney-Brown MNHAA

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Author:Finney-Brown, Tessa
Publication:Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism
Article Type:Report
Date:Sep 22, 2011
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