Ginger as Anti-inflammatory in Lupus

Many herbal medicines offer autoimmune sufferers opportunities to find relief without risking unwanted side effects.  Those of us in the functional medicine world see patients daily benefiting from these natural options, yet conventional medicine demands mechanisms and explanations.  Researchers continue to provide our functional world with that proof in articles like this one.  Scientists from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor report on the mechanism by which ginger attenuates inflammation in lupus patients.

Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus, affects numerous patients with a variety of distressing symptoms including the antiphospholipid syndrome which causes blood clots at a higher than normal rate.  Patients with lupus face worsening dysfunction in a variety of organs unless they give in to various immune suppressing drugs like prednisone and others.  The immune suppressants do help the disease, but have dark sides.  They can increase risk of infections.  They can cause metabolic dysfunction.  They can increase cancer risk.  None of these are desirable outcomes, but are the tradeoffs for disease control.

In functional medicine, we know that many autoimmune conditions can be the result of other processes like leaky gut, toxicities, occult infections, and of course genetics.  We work to find reversible processes so that root causes are addressed rather than just throwing a medication at a patient.  This usually takes time to remove the root cause trigger and patients want to feel better now.

For this reason, beyond searching for root causes, we use the natural and sometimes pharmaceutical options to start healing patients from the inside out.  We choose from several options which science has shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects.  For the moment, this article draws our attention to ginger and one particular ingredient called 6-gingerol.  Other studies have highlighted how it influences various cytokines (IL-12, IL-1Beta, TNF-alpha, NF-Kappa B, and others).  This article describes how 6-gingerol lowers the release of inflammatory products of neutrophils called neutrophil extracellular trap (NET).

In lupus, the NET contributes to inflammatory effects.  Decreasing the release of NET should lower the damage caused by excess NET.  These tangles of chromatin and microbicidal proteins amplify inflammation and blood clotting in autoimmune diseases.  6 gingerol stands out as one of the most abundant phytochemicals in ginger that appears to exert many of the whole ginger benefits.  These researchers uncovered 6 gingerol’s ability to inhibit phosphodiesterase as being linked with its ability to reduce NET release.  Inhibiting PDE activity correlated with lower NET release and would explain the mechanism by which ginger could benefit lupus patients.

Functional medicine loves this kind of research as it makes our job a little bit easier.  Whether explaining to patients or more conventionally minded physicians, we can lay out clear mechanisms of action by which natural therapies turn down inflammation and symptoms while we work to connect the root cause dots.  Helping patients in 2021 and beyond requires not only this knowledge but willingness and ability to educate others on the natural options available for autoimmune patients.

Original Article:

Ramadan A. Ali, Alex A. Gandhi, Lipeng Dai, Julia K. Weiner, Shanea K. Estes, Srilakshmi Yalavarthi, Kelsey Gockman, Duxin Sun, Jason S. Knight. Anti-neutrophil properties of natural gingerols in models of lupus. JCI Insight, 2020; DOI: 10.1172/jci.insight.138385

Thanks to Science Daily:

Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan. “New research finds ginger counters certain autoimmune diseases in mice.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2021. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210106133030.htm>.


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