Colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the colon. The disease is most common in people aged 50 to 70 and tends to run in families, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Ginger root is a traditional herbal remedy that may help relieve the symptoms of colitis and lessen the frequency of flare-ups. Talk to your doctor to decide if ginger might be helpful for your situation.
Causes and Symptoms
Although the exact cause of colitis is still unknown, it may be an autoimmune disorder caused by an abnormal immune reaction to bacteria or other components of food. The symptoms of colitis vary in severity, but most people experience abdominal pain and diarrhea during an acute episode. Other symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, rectal bleeding, skin problems and joint pain. Some additional symptoms such as skin problems and joint pain may occur due to inflammation outside of the gastrointestinal tract.
Ginger root is actually the underground rhizome of the Zingiber officinale plant. It has been used in herbal medicine in Asia, India and the Arabian peninsula for thousands of years. Its traditional uses include treatment of stomach distress, diarrhea, heart conditions and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. The biologically active compounds in ginger root include several volatile oils and phenolic chemicals called gingerols and shogaols. Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory herb that may be beneficial in relieving symptoms of colitis.
Actions and Evidence
Ginger promotes bile production by the liver, aiding digestion of fats. It also promotes emptying of the stomach and improves contractions of muscle in the intestinal wall. The anti-inflammatory action of ginger may also lessen or slow the inflammation thought to cause colitis. In a study published in the “Journal of Ehtnopharmacology” in 2008, when laboratory animals with ulcerative colitis were fed either ginger extract, a prescription anti-inflammatory drug or a placebo, ginger was as effective as the drug in suppressing the disorder. These are promising preliminary findings, although clinical trials with ginger and human subjects are still needed.
Recommendations and Precautions
Ginger root is available from health food stores as fresh root, an extract or tincture, or in capsules. The maximum recommended daily dose of ginger is 4 g daily. While ginger is generally considered a safe herb, it may cause mild heartburn or mouth irritation in some people. Do not take ginger if you have gallstones or a bleeding disorder, or if you take blood-thinning medications. Discuss ginger root with your doctor before adding it to your regular routine