Heartburn is a common painful burning sensation in the chest area, above stomach, caused due to reflux of acid in the oesophagus.
This reflux is usually a result of poor diet and lifestyle, that eases up the pressure on the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) making it loose and allowing the stomach contents to flow back up. the severe form of heartburn, called the gastro oesophageal reflux disease can occur due to negligence of common heartburn and gastro intestinal health causing greater discomfort .
Ginger root and heartburn
Ginger is an herb, commonly found in Indian subcontinent and has been used in ayurvedic medicines since centuries. It is a rhizome (underground root) which is used both as a spice and a medicine. It can be used fresh, dried, in tea preparations, as a juice and as oil. It is commonly used to cure upset stomach and gastro intestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, colic, gas, diarrhoea, motion sickness and morning sickness.
It is prescribed during cancer treatment and pregnancy in modern medicine as it eases the discomfort caused due to chemotherapy or nausea during pregnancy. Not just the gastro intestinal problems, but ginger root is used to cure muscle problems, sore throat, cough, bronchitis, pain and burns.
Ginger prepared by boiling in water along with different other herbs is called ginger root tea and is widely used in preventing and treating the above mentioned problems including heartburns .
There has been a lack of proper research in establishing the reasons for most of the therapeutic properties of ginger in modern medicine and clinical trials which is why is is difficult to provide proper prescription and dosage amounts of ginger root tea and other preparations officially.
However, historical documents such as ayurvedic researches provide sufficient evidence of its effectiveness, though not the reason for it, along with the dosage to cure various discomforts.
Antioxidant properties of ginger root tea
It has been shown that oxidative stress, which is the production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species to react against tissue injury, is a very important factor in development of heartburn and GERD. Acid reflux causes the erosion of gut mucosa and ulcerative injury activation the of oxidative stress elements, thereby increasing the inflammation and wounds .
Ginger root has excellent anti-oxidative properties, more than any other known natural compound, surpassed only by pomegranate and some other types of berries .
A type of phorbol ester called TPA is responsible for promoting oxidative stress by activating NADPH dependent generation of reactive oxygen species. Ginger was reported to inhibit the TPA production in cancer cells and in many types of tissues .
Certain other studies indicate that ginger inhibits superoxide production and  gingerol, a compound found in ginger reduces the reactive nitrogen species mediated oxidative damage .
Anti inflammatory properties of ginger root
Many researchers have claimed of ginger to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain.  gingerol has been shown to exhibit analgesic an potent anti inflammatory effects on various parts of the body. The mechanism by which  gingerol acts is by releasing heat from the affected area which is followed by increased oxygen uptake and lactic acid efflux. Lactic acid deposition is major cause of pain in limps, joints and tissues .
Data suggests that gingerol might modulate calcium levels by interfering with the functioning of a type of receptor found in the tissues which are sensitive to heat and pain .
Another anti inflammatory action of ginger root that has been hypothesized is by its ability to inhibit prostaglandin and leukotrine synthesis. Prostaglandins and leukotrines are the lipid hormones synthesized in the body against stress to increase inflammation. gingerol found in ginger root inhibit the enzymes cycloxygenase or COX and lipoxygenase which are required for enhanced prostaglandin and leukotrine biosynthesis respectively .
Yet another anti inflammatory action of ginger is exhibited by its property to inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-12 and TNF- in the blood, which are important in signalling the immune cells upon damage, which in turn get activated and attack on the damage site, increasing inflammation .
Ginger as an antiemetic agent
The most well established use of ginger is in reduction of nausea and vomiting. Heartburn is one of the common discomforts which due to reflux of stomach content cause nausea and vomiting . Several independent controlled studies have proved that ginger is a potent antiemetic agent. This antiemetic property has been attributed to its carminative effect which helps to break up and expel stomach and intestinal gas .
Ginger accelerates gastric emptying and gut motility
Gastric emptying is one of the predominant factors that determine the exacerbation or alleviation of heartburn. Slow emptying of stomach due to impaired digestion causes greater acid secretion and higher chance of acid reflux. Ginger has been shown to increase gastric emptying rates and antral contractions for better and faster digestion, thereby, reducing the symptoms of heartburn, effectively .
Ginger root for ulcer reduction
Two of the compounds found in ginger, gingesulfonic acid and -gingerol have been shown to reduce the acid induced lesions and ulcerations in the gut, reducing damage of the gut mucosa to a very large extent. Both these compounds reduce the damaging effects of HCL on the stomach and oesophageal wall which during heartburn normally lead to ulceration, inflammation and pain .
Consumption of ginger root
Ginger root can be taken as dried ginger powder, fresh ginger or ginger root tea, juice or oil, tea of which is one of the most effective means of ginger consumption because it extracts out the most essential compounds for maximum effectivity. The most convenient way of making ginger root tea is to boil peeled and crushed or cut pieces of ginger root in water for about 8 to 10 minutes, based on the amount of tea being prepared.
This can be cooled, strained and consumed directly . Ginger can also be added to normal milk tea preparation to give a ginger root flavour and its essence. However, ginger root boiled as such in water works best.
Ginger is approved by FDA and generally considered safe for consumption in any form, if not consumed in excess.
There has not been much research conducted on the dosage of ginger root tea but studies on dried ginger powder have shown that a dose of 500-2000 mg/Kg by weight for 35 days does not cause any side effects . There are no other adverse effects of ginger except mild stomach ache and diarrhoea in some patients. A case had shown increased bleeding upon taking ginger root during menstruation.
The general ayurvedic recommendations suggest boiling for tea or direct consumption of up to 250 grams of ginger root and 4 times a day for heartburn and morning sickness; and 1-2 grams for nausea. Using ginger root tea during pregnancy has been controversial, but its consumption is nevertheless widespread for treating pregnancy induced nausea and vomiting.
Records suggest that it is harmless for the baby and can be consumed in moderate amounts during the first 3 months of gestation period. Its consumption is not suggested in the later months of pregnancy because it might increase bleeding .
Ginger root tea should strictly not be taken with medications which reduce blood clotting. One such medication is nifedipine, which if taken while ginger root tea is being consumed, can increase bleeding and bruising because the anti coagulant effects of the medication are enhanced with ginger.
Ginger also increases the absorption of certain drugs such as antibiotics, anti hypertensive and anti diabetes drugs. This can enhance the effect and side effects of those drugs beyond expected or needed. The examples of such drugs include cyclosporine, calcium channel blockers for reducing blood pressure and insulin.
Not just drugs but certain natural herbs, which show enhanced effects if taken with ginger root tea are anti hypertensive herbs and spices like fenugreek, guar gum, devil’s claw and anti coagulant herbs like clover, fennel, clove, garlic, gingko and turmeric among several others .
Ginger is a wonder drug, exerting various pharmacological effects on the body such as alleviating heartburn, pain, swelling inflammation and even cancer. Its regular consumption in food or as tea can prevent several diseases while its consumption during heartburn and other physiological disorders can provide sufficient relief.
Although, its actual targets and mode of actions on the body are largely unknown, and its dosage is dependent on just the old records with a lack of proper clinical research, it appears to be safe and effective in low to moderate concentrations for almost every person and should definitely be included in a healthy diet.