Ginger is more commonly appreciated for its aromatic and tangy taste enjoyed the world over in everything from entrées to baked goods. Beyond the kitchen, the spice has been used for centuries to calm digestive upsets. More recent studies have found that bioactive components in ginger have strong anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-diabetic activities.
At the NC Research Campus two sets of collaborators are studying ginger, the rhizome or underground stem of the plant Zingiber officinale, to determine its use as a treatment for cancer and anemia.
Shengmin Sang, PhD, lead scientist for functional foods with NC A&T’s Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies, is applying his expertise in the identification of bioactive natural products to study ginger and its active components gingerols and shogaols as preventative agents for lung and colon cancer. Sang and TinChung Leung, PhD, of NC Central University recently collaborated on a study of 10-gingerol. Using a zebrafish model, they discovered its potential as a treatment to prevent anemia caused by chemotherapy or renal disease.
Mary Grace, PhD, with the NC State University Plants for Human Health Institute in partnership with Akram Aloqbi, a visiting PhD candidate in oncology from the University of Surrey, England, are searching for anti-cancer compounds in several ginger varieties. Of special interest is zerumbone, a phytochemical in ginger known to possess anti-inflammatory properties and counter HIV activity. The compound shows promise as a potential treatment for some cancers. Grace and Aloqbi are working to analyze differences in activity levels in varieties of ginger from China, the United Kingdom and the United States.