by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health
Can ginger really help men with prostate cancer? It certainly is a time-honored remedy for other, less serious problems — including occasional indigestion, muscle soreness, nausea and even arthritis pain. But if ginger can help men manage, or even someday cure, this dangerous cancer, well, that puts it on another level entirely. Since prostate cancer — and the question of whether or not it should even be treated in many men — is generating such controversy these days, Iâm really happy to be able to tell you about a therapy that is totally natural and, according to recent research, scientifically sound.
ANTITUMOR BENEFITS WITHOUT TOXIC EFFECTS
Thereâs no doubt that ginger is a nutritional powerhouse — previous research has shown that many of the phytochemicals that make up ginger are packed with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiproliferative powers. Some have been shown, individually, to reduce the risk of developing cancer, and others have been shown to slow tumor growth if cancer occurs. Researchers at Georgia State University in Atlanta thought it would be interesting to see what effect whole ginger extract might have on prostate cancer, specifically, because other studies have shown that a high intake of fruits and vegetables (which also are high in phytochemicals) help prevent prostate cancer.
After implanting human prostate cancer in mice, investigators fed half of them whole ginger extract (the human equivalent of about 3.5 ounces of fresh ginger) every day for eight weeks, while the other half, the control group, was fed no ginger. Researchers found…
- In the mice that were fed ginger, there was an inhibition (or slowing) of tumor growth by an average of 56%, compared with no inhibition of tumor growth in the control group that received no ginger.
- Among the ginger-fed mice, there were no toxic effects in healthy tissue such as the gut or bone marrow. This is a promising finding, because if these were humans with prostate cancer and they were given a typical treatment of chemotherapy, there would be a high likelihood of toxic side effects, such as neuropathy, nausea, hair loss, mouth sores, diarrhea and permanent infertility.
These findings appeared in the August 18, 2011 issue of British Journal of Nutrition.
AN ANTICANCER DIET
I thought it was really interesting that this super food actually slowed tumor growth, so I called Geovanni Espinosa, ND, director of clinical trials at the Integrative Urology Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City and a highly regarded expert in natural treatment for prostate cancer, to hear what he had to say about this research.
One finding that Dr. Espinosa pointed to was that ginger showed zero signs of toxicity in the study. He noted that ginger is not 100% risk-free — for example, in rare cases, high amounts of ginger might worsen a bleeding disorder, reduce blood sugar too much if youâre diabetic and interfere with blood pressure drugs and certain heart medications, such as digoxin and digitoxin. So the possible side effects of treatment with ginger need to be studied in humans. But Dr. Espinosa believes that the Georgia State study provides sufficient information to encourage most prostate cancer patients to include ginger in their diets — so talk to your doctor. And, because some of the individual components in ginger are anti-inflammatory, he believes that ginger (like fruits and vegetables) may even help prevent prostate cancer as well — even though that topic wasnât tackled in this particular study. In fact, since inflammation lies at the bottom of so many diseases besides prostate cancer, Dr. Espinosa told me that virtually everyone — male and female — can benefit from consuming ginger.
Itâs easy to include the pungent root in your daily diet — you can grate it or slice it to mix with vegetables, rice, salad dressings and smoothies. Ginger tea (made from the root) is delicious, as are some ginger-infused beverages from natural-food manufacturers — just donât fall into the trap of thinking ginger ale is a healthy choice, since it has so much sugar!
Geovanni Espinosa, ND, director, Integrative Urology Center, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City. www.DrGeo.com.