Ginger: A natural ally for heart health

Ginger, a popular spice, has been used for centuries not just for its flavour but also for its medicinal properties.


Recent research suggests that this modest root may be useful in lowering high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease. 

High blood pressure or hypertension affects roughly a billion people worldwide, and is a major cause of diseases of the heart and blood vessels.  It is a silent killer that frequently goes undetected until it is too late.

It is therefore comforting to know that a popular spice like ginger can help to reduce high blood pressure, however marginal that may be. Ginger, scientifically known as Zingiber officinale has numerous useful chemicals, including gingerols and shogaols, which are antioxidants.

These chemicals are thought to have blood pressure-lowering properties. Consuming approximately one to two teaspoons of ginger each day may reduce the chance of having high blood pressure. The ginger can be chewed whole, freshly grounded, powdered, or juiced.

Research shows that patients with type 2 diabetes who consumed approximately one and half teaspoons of ginger powder daily for 56 days experienced a significant drop in their systolic and diastolic blood pressures, with an average decrease of 11.27 mmHg and 6.20 mmHg, respectively.

Another research found that consuming approximately two teaspoons of ginger powder daily for 8 weeks had favourable effect on blood pressure. The systolic blood pressure was reduced by an average of 6.36 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure reduced by an average of 2.12 mmHg.

The antioxidant, 6-shogaol, found in ginger, helps stop infectious cells from growing too much by making them stay in a resting phase. It also activates mechanisms in the body that protect against oxidative damage of body cells and exhibits anti-inflammatory properties through the generation of carbon monoxide.

It causes the body to have more nitrogen oxide, a substance that makes the blood vessels wider. When the blood vessels widen, it helps to lower blood pressure. So basically, ginger helps blood to flow better through the blood vessels, which is good for the heart.

Despite these promising findings, ginger should not be used as a substitute for hypertension medicines. It can be used as a supplement, integrated with a healthy diet and lifestyle. 
Ginger, with its possible blood pressure-lowering qualities, could be a useful addition to our nutritional armory against hypertension.

So, the next time you cook, remember to add a dash of this heart-healthy spice! Please talk to a registered dietitian for any assistance you may need with the dietary management of blood pressure.

The writers, are with the Department of Dietetics,
School of Biomedical and Allied Health Sciences, College of Health Sciences,
University of Ghana.

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