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Ginger may help manage inflammation in autoimmune diseases, new research suggests. Science Photo Library/Getty Images
  • New research reveals that ginger supplements may offer a promising approach to managing inflammation in individuals with autoimmune conditions.
  • The study highlights ginger’s ability to influence neutrophils, making them less susceptible to NETosis—a process linked to inflammation and various autoimmune diseases.
  • As more patients turn to natural remedies like ginger to alleviate symptoms, researchers are eager to further explore its therapeutic potential, especially for conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and even COVID-19.

As a natural supplement, ginger might be beneficial in addressing inflammation and symptoms for people with various autoimmune disorders.

In this new study, published in JCI Insight, researchers describe how ginger affects neutrophils, a type of white blood cell.

The primary focus was on the process of NETosis, or the formation of structures known as neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs).

NETosis is a process where specific immune cells (neutrophils) produce NETs. These NETs are composed of DNA material combined with proteins that can destroy bacteria.

Various triggers, such as infections, immune responses, and certain cellular signals, can activate this NET-forming process.

The findings of this research suggest that when healthy people consume ginger, it makes their neutrophils less prone to NETosis.

This discovery is significant since NETs, resembling microscopic webs, can boost inflammation and clotting, factors linked to various autoimmune conditions like lupus, antiphospholipid syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis.

During a clinical trial, researchers observed that when healthy participants took a ginger supplement daily for a week (20 mg of gingerols/day), there was an increase in a chemical called cAMP within the neutrophil.

Elevated levels of cAMP subsequently hindered NETosis when exposed to triggers associated with certain diseases.

The researchers say that many people with inflammatory conditions are likely to ask their health care providers whether natural supplements could be helpful for them or they already take supplements, like ginger, to help manage symptoms.

Senior co-author Dr. Kristen Demoruelle, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, spoke to Medical News Today, saying, “We found a specific pathway by which ginger supplements can have an anti-inflammatory effect.”

“Our study included healthy people which allowed us to confirm our findings are applicable to people and not just a finding seen in a test tube. The specific pathway of inflammation that we found ginger was able to disrupt was related to a specific type of cell called a neutrophil.”
— Dr. Kristen Demoruelle

Kelsey Costa, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant for the National Coalition on Healthcare, who was not involved in this research, said, “the key takeaway from this study is that ginger supplements may significantly change how white blood cells, specifically neutrophils, behave and decrease a process known as NETosis.”

“This research suggests that ginger supplements could revolutionize the management of autoimmune diseases, such as APS and lupus, by changing how specific immune cells function. Combining ginger with existing treatments could potentially improve therapeutic outcomes in chronic inflammatory diseases.”
— Kelsey Costa

Megan Hilbert, a registered dietitian specializing in gut health nutrition from Top Nutrition Coaching, who was also not involved in the study, noted that “this paper does a great job expanding off previous research that shows ginger, and in particular, gingerol may have an important impact on modulating the immune system for auto-immune conditions.”

“Previous studies looked at gingerols impact on mice and on in vitro human cells. Now, we have even more preliminary research that shows how impactful ginger can be on neutrophils activity to dampen the immune response that worsens auto immune conditions.”
— Megan Hilbert

Hilbert pointed out that this study is impactful as “we now have better data on what dosage of ginger for oral administration may be effective (20mg).”

“What we still need to understand is how this impacts those with autoimmune conditions in particular, and if these findings can also be recreated in these populations since the qualifications of this study specified healthy adults,” Hilbert said.

“These preliminary findings can help pave the way for future research in this area. In future studies, I would like to see a larger and more diverse population studied, as well as testing ginger on populations with autoimmune conditions. I would also like to see a longer study on these populations, as this study only followed participants for 7 days,” Hilbert noted.

“‘Food as medicine’ is a topic that has been around for quite some time, and thankfully now we see more and more research that backs up what many anecdotally have noticed; and that is certain foods, particularly plant foods with high concentrations of polyphenols like ginger, can have profound impacts on our health.”
— Megan Hilbert

The researchers hope to build further evidence on ginger’s advantages, particularly the direct way it influences neutrophils, hoping this will prompt medical professionals and patients to consider the merits of incorporating ginger supplements into their therapeutic strategies.

Moving forward, the team aspires to leverage this study to secure financing for clinical trials investigating ginger’s effects on patients with autoimmune and inflammatory conditions characterised by hyperactive neutrophils.

“Because overactive neutrophils are involved in the inflammation seen in a range of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, antiphospholipid syndrome, lupus and even covid-19, our findings provide scientific rationale to support that the use of ginger supplements in people with these diseases may be beneficial to lower inflammation.”
— Dr. Kristen Demoruelle

Costa agreed, saying, “our understanding of the potential benefits of phytochemicals, such as 6-gingerol, is deepening, particularly concerning their impact on the body’s immune system. We are learning these natural compounds may offer more than the widely acknowledged health advantages.”

Hilbert concurred, saying the study provides “the next step for research on ginger and it’s impacts on the immune system, especially for those with diagnosed auto immune conditions.”

“It gets us closer to understanding what dosage we may need to study on this population, and that oral administration of gingerol has been shown to be an effective immunomodulator in humans,” Hilbert told MNT.

Hilbert also noted that this research “can also provide a good stepping stone for clinicians and patients who may already be interested in trying ginger supplementation for auto immune conditions.”

“For many, finding the right treatment can be complicated and may require some experimentation. While we still need further research in this area, those who may already want to take ginger can use research like this as a guide with their healthcare provider to explore potential dosage options.”
— Megan Hilbert

Costa concluded that “this research offers exciting revelations about the potential of ginger extract as a natural, complementary remedy for autoimmune diseases.”

“If further research confirms its effectiveness, it could revolutionize how we manage and treat these conditions,” she said.