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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Researchers: Spices may alleviate arthritis

    Working more Canada Dry or Schweppes into a diet could help prevent arthritis or even cure cancer, said one UA researcher who is studying the beneficial healing power of ginger and turmeric plants.

    David Gang, associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has been working for nearly seven years studying how the structure of natural plants and their components can promote healing and improve health.

    Physicians who have done studies on these plants have found that turmeric has potent anti-inflammatory properties, Gang said. These studies were done with Indian and Chinese populations, among which there are lower instances of inflammatory diseases.

    “”It turned out that it wasn’t genetics, it was their diets,”” Gang said. “”What they found in common was the turmeric, which is found in curry.””

    Turmeric is a tropical plant, in the ginger family, which gives curry its yellow color. It can be added to many culinary dishes, such as meat, rice and vegetables, without changing the flavor, Gang said.

    “”Lots of older people swear by it,”” he said. “”They used to have real big problems with arthritis and now they can go for their two mile walks again, they can garden again and their hands don’t hurt, it’s really amazing.””

    Janet Funk, an associate professor in the department of medicine, has tested the effects of these plants on animals, she said there is still no clinical trial that proves humans would receive the same medicinal benefits.

    “”There’s no data to support that, that’s just an opinion,”” she said. “”There isn’t any real definitive proof.””

    Gang said he is also a personal believer in the plant because of his own personal health issue.

    “”For a number of years I had a stomach problem and I didn’t know what it was and I used ginger to control it for a long time,”” he said.

    Turmeric can also be useful in treating cancer patients by helping block the flow of blood to the tumor, Gang said.

    “”They’ve found that if you give turmeric to people that are undergoing chemotherapy that they actually respond better,”” he said. “”They don’t get as sick, they don’t have as many of the negative aspects of chemotherapy and the cancer goes away quicker.””

    Even common foods like the potato or tomato can be enriched with turmeric, and the anti-nausea effects also draw people to the plant, he said.

    “”Even pregnant women take ginger all the time for morning sickness, and it seems to be perfectly safe,”” he said. “”It’s the remedy that China’s had for thousands of years.””

    Funk’s lab has found that turmeric and ginger have been very effective in preventing arthritis in animals, but that humans would have to take a 10 times larger dose of it everyday to maybe have the same effects.

    “”Then the question comes up ‘Is it safe to take that much everyday’ well, no one knows,”” said Funk. “”These dietary supplements can be sold without any proof of safety.””

    She also mentioned the strong history that turmeric has among people from India, but she said she doesn’t believe people should assume that it’s safe.

    “”Kids in Nepal who have a sore throat, their mom mixes turmeric and hot milk,”” she said. “”But in terms of controlled trials of safety and efficacy there really is no strong data to support that.””

    Yuying Sang, who received her doctorate in plant molecular biology last December, worked with Gang on studying these plants.

    “”It’s a very healthy plant and can maybe cure some diseases,”” she said. “”I’m sure it can keep you healthy and improve your physical health.””

    Turmeric powder can be found at any health food store and Gang recommends sprinkling it in your food, or taking a quarter teaspoon of it everyday.

    “”Different people respond differently, I’m not your doctor,”” he said. “”You need to go talk to your physician to make sure that its okay for you to take it and they’ll probably say ‘Yeah it’s perfectly fine.'””

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