According to the Lupus Foundation of America, over 5 million people worldwide and 1.5 million Americans have lupus. There are four different types of lupus; systemic, cutaneous, drug-induced, and neonatal, but systemic lupus accounts for 70% of all cases.1 Nine out of ten people with lupus are women, with it most commonly affecting women of childbearing age.2 There is some evidence that the inflammation associated with lupus, suggests that ginger may be good for lupus.
What are the symptoms and causes of lupus?
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune condition. When you develop an autoimmune disease, your body’s immune system can’t tell the difference between your cells and foreign cells. This causes your body to attack healthy cells by mistake. It can attack any part of your body, including your organs, blood, skin, or joints causing inflammation and pain.
It is not known exactly what causes lupus. However, scientists think that it is a combination of hormonal, genetic, and environmental factors.3 There is also believed to be a link between certain medications, such as TNF blocker medications, and drug-induced lupus.4 Although still being researched, there may also be a link between contracting infections like cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr and developing lupus.5
Lupus patients are all affected differently, and due to it attacking any part of the body, symptoms are wide-ranging. It tends to be a disease where the symptoms come and go – known as flares, and remissions.6,7 Symptoms can include:
- Joint pain6, 7
- Muscle pain6, 7
- Higher risk of blood clotting (due to inflammation of the blood vessels) 6, 7
- Eye disease 6, 7
- Fevers 6, 7
- Skin Rashes – in particular, a butterfly-shaped rash on the nose and cheeks 6 7
- Chest pain 6, 7
- Thyroid problems 6, 7
- Hair loss6, 7
- Photosensitivity 6, 7
- Kidney problems6, 7
- Mouth ulcers 6, 7
- Extreme fatigue 6, 7
- Anemia 6, 7
- Cognitive or memory problems 6, 7
- Pregnancy complications 6, 7
Due to such a wide range of lupus symptoms that mimic other conditions, it can take a long time to establish a diagnosis. On average, it takes nearly six years from the first symptom to a diagnosis of lupus.8
What are the health benefits of ginger?
Ginger is an incredibly healthy spice originating from Southeast Asia. Used for thousands of years, its therapeutic properties can help with several ailments, such as colds, nausea, arthritis, migraines, hypertension, and lupus.9
Numerous studies have been conducted on ginger, highlighting the following health properties:
- Anti-emetic – helps with sickness and nausea 9, 10
- Anti-inflammatory – reduces inflammation 9, 10
- Anti-oxidant – prevents or slows damage to cells caused by free radicals 9, 10
- Anti-diabetic – helps lower blood sugar levels and diabetic complications 10
- Anti-carcinogenic – helps prevent or delay cancer9, 10
- Anti-microbial – inhibits the growth of different bacteria, fungi, and viruses 10
Ginger is loaded with bioactive compounds such as gingerols, shogaols, and paradols that promote good health in the body. Research highlights that you can use it to assist in managing diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, nausea, inflammatory disease, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and neurodegenerative diseases.10
Ginger and lupus – What does the research say?
One of the most potent components of ginger is gingerol, with its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.11 Ginger also contains curcumin, which has been shown to help treat chronic conditions.12
As the inflammation caused by lupus affects many different body systems, ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties are of particular interest. Although not specific to lupus, various studies have identified these anti-inflammatory properties. Research shows that ginger can reduce inflammation and decrease nitric oxide levels in patients with osteoarthritis.13 It has also been found to lower levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein.14
So what research is specific to lupus? A study published in JCI Insight recently identified that the anti-inflammatory compounds in ginger directly affect autoantibodies related to illnesses such as lupus. The research trial carried out on mice with lupus highlighted that ginger might break the inflammation cycle and potentially work as a treatment for lupus.
Further research is required; however, ginger-based supplements could be used to ease lupus symptoms and blood-clotting issues in the future if the results can be replicated in humans.15
Although this is one of the first studies directly linking the benefits of ginger to lupus, numerous studies previously conducted show the benefits of ginger on similar autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.
Drink ginger tea
One way to include ginger into your diet is to make a tea with fresh ginger root. The best way to add ginger into your diet is to do it naturally, such as making a tea, like above, or using it to flavor your food.
If you decide to take a ginger dietary supplement, it is always best to consult your doctor first. Supplements are largely unregulated, and the contents may not be what they appear. Your doctor will be able to monitor you, support you, and keep an eye on your condition if they know you are starting a new dietary supplement. Always seek medical advice before starting any new alternative treatments for a condition to ensure they are safe.
Written by Helen Massy, BSc
1. Lupus facts and statistics. Lupus Foundation of America. https://www.lupus.org/resources/lupus-facts-and-statistics#:~:text=The%20Lupus%20Foundation%20of%20America,living%20with%20lupus%20are%20women. Published 2021. Accessed January 19, 2021.
2. Pons-Estel G, Alarcón G, Scofield L, Reinlib L, Cooper G. Understanding the Epidemiology and Progression of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2010;39(4):257-268. doi:10.1016/j.semarthrit.2008.10.007
3. What Causes Lupus?. Lupus Foundation of America. https://www.lupus.org/resources/what-causes-lupus. Published 2016. Accessed January 19, 2021.
4. De Bandt M. Anti-TNF-alpha-induced lupus. Arthritis Res Ther. 2019;21(1). doi:10.1186/s13075-019-2028-2
5. BARZILAI O, SHERER Y, RAM M, IZHAKY D, ANAYA J, SHOENFELD Y. Epstein Barr Virus and Cytomegalovirus in Autoimmune Diseases: Are They Truly Notorious? A Preliminary Report. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007;1108(1):567-577. doi:10.1196/annals.1422.059
6.Cojocaru M, Cojocaru IM, Silosi I, Vrabie CD. Manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus. Maedica (Bucur). 2011;6(4):330-336.
7. Could you have lupus?. womenshealth.gov. https://www.womenshealth.gov/lupus/lupus-symptoms. Published 2019. Accessed January 19, 2021.
8. Al Sawah S, Daly R, Foster S et al. SAT0423 Understanding Delay in Diagnosis, Access to Care and Satisfaction with Care in Lupus: Findings from a Cross-Sectional Online Survey in the United States. Ann Rheum Dis. 2015;74(Suppl 2):812.3-812. doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2015-eular.1159
9. Bode AM, Dong Z. The Amazing and Mighty Ginger. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 7. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/
10.Mao QQ, Xu XY, Cao SY, et al. Bioactive Compounds and Bioactivities of Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe). Foods. 2019;8(6):185. Published 2019 May 30. doi:10.3390/foods8060185
11. Mohd Yusof Y. Gingerol and Its Role in Chronic Diseases. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016:177-207. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-41342-6_8
12.Rahmani AH, Alsahli MA, Aly SM, Khan MA, Aldebasi YH. Role of Curcumin in Disease Prevention and Treatment. Adv Biomed Res. 2018;7:38. Published 2018 Feb 28. doi:10.4103/abr.abr_147_16
13. Naderi Z, Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Dehghan A, Nadjarzadeh A, Huseini H. Effect of ginger powder supplementation on nitric oxide and C-reactive protein in elderly knee osteoarthritis patients: A 12-week double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Tradit Complement Med. 2016;6(3):199-203. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2014.12.007
14. Mazidi M, Gao H, Rezaie P, Ferns G. The effect of ginger supplementation on serum C-reactive protein, lipid profile and glycaemia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Food Nutr Res. 2016;60(1):32613. doi:10.3402/fnr.v60.32613
15. Ali R, Gandhi A, Dai L et al. Anti-neutrophil properties of natural gingerols in models of lupus. JCI Insight. 2020. doi:10.1172/jci.insight.138385