Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe, Zingiberaceae) is one of the most commonly consumed dietary condiments in the world (Surh et al. 1999). The oleoresin (i.e., oily resin) from the rhizomes (i.e., roots) of ginger contains many bioactive components, such as -gingerol (1-[4′-hydroxy-3′- methoxyphenyl]-5-hydroxy-3-decanone; Figure 7.1), which is the primary pungent ingredient that is believed to exert a variety of remarkable pharmacological and physiological activities. Although ginger is generally considered to be safe (Kaul and Joshi 2001), the lack of a complete understanding of its mechanisms of action suggests caution in its therapeutic use (Wilkinson 2000a). Previous reviews (Barrett, Kiefer, and Rabago 1999; Ness, Sherman, and Pan 1999; Talalay and Talalay 2001) have emphasized the importance of careful scientific research in establishing the safety and efficacy of potential therapeutic plant remedies and in defining the risks and benefits of herbal medicine. Ginger has been used for thousands of years for the treatment of numerous ailments, such as colds, nausea, arthritis, migraines, and hypertension. The medicinal, chemical, and pharmacological properties of ginger have been extensively reviewed (Surh, Lee, and Lee 1998; Ernst and Pittler 2000; Afzal et al. 2001; Bode and Dong 2004; Boone and Shields 2005; Borrelli et al. 2005; Chrubasik and Pittler 2005; Chrubasik, Pittler, and Roufogalis 2005; Grzanna, Lindmark, and Frondoza 2005; Thompson and Potter 2006; Eliopoulos 2007; Shukla and Singh 2007; White 2007; Ali et al. 2008; Nicoll and Henein 2009). Over the last few years, interest in ginger or its various components as valid preventive or therapeutic agents has increased markedly, and scientific studies focusing on verification of ginger’s pharmacological and physiological actions have likewise increased (Ali et al. 2008). The primary purpose of this chapter is to comprehensively examine the available scientific evidence regarding ginger’s proven effectiveness in preventing or treating a variety of pathologic conditions.
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