Claims on Ginger Being Better Than Chemo

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In September 2006 a social media post went viral stating that according to the findings of a US study,[1] published in the British Journal of Nutrition, ginger extract can stop the development of prostate cancer cells when ingested in a daily dose of 100 mg per kilogram of human body weight, and that ginger is extremely effective in destroying cancer cells in ovarian, prostate, and colon cancer.[2]
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The America Cancer Society states that botanical supplements, including ginger, even though they are made of plant material and sold as “natural” products, are safe. But this doesn't indicate that all botanical supplements are truly safe for all individuals and all the different cases. Plants are made up of many chemicals, some of which can be helpful, while others can be poisonous or have the ability to cause allergies in some persons. This means that the botanicals which are marketed as “all natural” are not always helpful, and the reasons behind that vary. For example, they may not be well refined to remove all the potentially harmful chemicals in them. Also, concentrated extracts, which may be sold as liquids or pills, could contain the therapeutic chemicals of the plant, but in greater amounts that could be harmful because safety and doses are related even when it comes to natural therapeutics.[3]

When it comes to using a botanical supplement as a treatment, the lack of supportive and comprehensive studies, which investigate all the different aspects of that specific plant or natural medicine regarding their efficacy and safety, may mean that the product is not always safe. For instance, ginger could be very harmful in certain patients, such as cancer patients who have a potential risk of increased bleeding, because of its blood-thinning effects.[4]

Many studies have reported the potential anti-cancer effect of ginger against a variety of cancer types including skin, ovarian, colon, breast, cervical, oral, renal, prostate, gastric, pancreatic, liver, and brain cancer, but almost all these studies were conducted on experimental animals.[5][6][7][8][9]

An analytical study published in 2015 concluded that, except for a few small and short clinical studies on human subjects,[10][11] most of the known actions of ginger constituents were based only in vitro (in a test tube, culture dish, or elsewhere outside a living organism) and in vivo (on experimental animal). Therefore, to demonstrate its efficacy as an anti-cancer agent in humans, it was advised to have more extensive and well-controlled studies in humans.[12]

In one of the few short ginger studies on humans, the researchers studied the effect of ginger in 20 subjects for 28 days,[11] and the results were inconclusive and in contrast to previous studies in humans as well as those conducted in a rat model.[13][14][15][16]

Although the researchers of the study suggested that ginger may have a chemopreventive effect (ability to suppress or reverse the process of cancer), the mechanism of that potential effect remained unclear. They also found that ginger lacks the ability to lower the risk of colorectal cancer in those who are at increased risk for this malignancy.[11]

Differences between these various studies could be due to different doses and formulations of the ginger products, the absorption and metabolism of ginger in in vivo environments, or differential effects of ginger on different tissue types or in situations of underlying inflammation. A clear challenge with natural health products, such as ginger, is the heterogeneity of ginger preparations. So, it's not always safe to go on a trial of ginger or other botanical sources of complementary medicines without the existence of solid comprehensive studies, especially when there is much less known about all uses and effects of ginger on different health conditions.[17]


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