Ginger May Help Counter the Progression of Some Autoimmune Diseases, Study Finds

While ginger does not provide protein or nutrients such as vitamins or minerals, it is well-known to be a good source of antioxidants and a popular home remedy for nausea, stomach pain, and other health issues.

In addition to health benefits such as reducing gas, improving digestion, and relieving pain, ginger is also known for its anti-inflammatory effects and thus has traditionally been used as herbal supplements in the treatment of various chronic diseases such as asthma and arthritis.

A new Michigan Medicine study on mice suggests that ginger could also help counter autoimmune diseases such as lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome.

Published in JCI Insight, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, on December 29, 2020, researchers suggest that a primary bioactive compound found in ginger root, 6-gingerol, is therapeutic in countering the mechanism that facilitates certain autoimmune diseases in mice.

More specifically, the authors of the study the therapeutic properties of the bioactive compound on autoimmune diseases such as lupus, which attacks the body’s immune system as well as antiphospholipid syndrome, which is often associated with lupus and causes blood clots.

Both of these diseases can cause widespread inflammation and damages organs over time.

The result of the study found that in mice with either of the disease, 6-gingerol stopped the neutrophil extracellular trap release caused by the diseases’ production of autoantibodies.

In a press release, Dr. Ramadan Ali, the lead author of the study explained “Neutrophil extracellular traps, or NETs, come from white blood cells called neutrophils”.

According to Dr. Ali, “These sticky spider-webs like structures are formed when autoantibodies interact with receptors on the neutrophil’s surface”, and thus play a fundamental role in the development of lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome by setting off autoantibody formations and contributing to clots in the blood vessels and other organ damages.

In answering the hypothesis to find out if the anti-inflammatory properties associated with ginger would extend to neutrophils and if the natural medicine would be able to halt neutrophils from creating NETs traps that cause the progression of autoimmune diseases, Dr. Ali said “This pre-clinical study in mice offers a surprising and exciting, ‘yes’”.

The results of the study found NET’s tendency to form clots was also dramatically reduced by the 6-gingerol, which also seemed to inhibit neutrophil enzymes called phosphodiesterases. This, in turn, reduced neutrophil activation.

Most surprisingly, the mice had reduced autoantibodies regardless of whether they had antiphospholipid or lupus. This suggests that the 6-gingerol was able to break the inflammatory cycle of autoantibodies stimulating NETs, which in turn stimulate more autoantibodies.

The authors of the study also noted that the health-promoting properties of ginger have been attributed to its richness in phenolic phytochemicals, which are biologically active compounds that may possess some disease-preventative properties and other health benefits.

While the study only focused on the autoimmune disease-preventative properties of ginger on mice, the authors believe that the promising preclinical data could encourage a clinical trial development on humans in the future.

“As for basically all treatments in our field, one size does not fit all. But, I wonder if there is a subgroup of autoimmune patients with hyperactive neutrophils who might benefit from increased intake of 6-gingerol,” said study author and rheumatologist Dr. Jason Knight, M.D in the press release.

While 6-gingerol won’t be able to be the primary therapy for individuals with lupus or active antiphospholipid syndrome, the research team is eager to see if the natural supplement offers help to those at high risk for developing autoimmune diseases.

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