All posts by nathan01pd2014

Zingiber officinale

Growing up with a Chinese mother, one of the worst parts about getting sick wasn’t just the symptoms, but the ingestion of traditional Chinese remedies. The ginger root was (and still is) the worst one in my opinion however at the same time it was the most effective. Whenever I get sick, my mom will either make me eat solid cut up ginger root or she would put it in into Coca-Cola for me to drink and for some reason it is surprisingly effective. This got me wondering, what chemical process lies behind this home remedy and how does it work?

The ginger (Zingiber officinale) root, or rhizome, has been used as herbal medicine in its native Asian continent for thousands of years. It has been known to mainly help cure ailments such as a common cold and those involving the stomach, such as: stomach aches, motion sickness, morning sickness, diarrhea and nausea to name a few. However, it has also been known to be a pain reliever, relieving chest pain, low back pain, arthritis and muscle soreness, nature’s very own analgesic if you will.[1][2] Doctor’s also prescribe ginger pre-surgery to alleviate post-surgery nausea and it is also used post-chemotherapy operations for similar reasons. [1]

ginger_foster

Figure 1: Foster, S. Zingiber Officinale

Surprisingly enough, even though this natural remedy has been in use for thousands of years, scientists still don’t have a clear idea on how it acts on our body on the micro level. What is known is that the active ingredients in the ginger root are non-volatile pungent components oleoresin, grouped into gingerols and shogaols. Gingerols are a series of homologues with varied unbranched alkyl chain length, whereas shogaols are a series of homologues derived from gingerols with dehydration at the C-5 and C-4. The most active gingerols and shogaols are the 6-, 8- and 10-, gingerols and 6- shogoal.[5]

Gingerols & shogoals

Figure 2:

Diagrams of 6-, 8-, 10- gingerols & 6- shogaols compared to internal standard PAV

Part of a study conducted by Yanke Yu. et,al took twenty high-risk subjects developing colorectal cancer and randomly placed them in half. Half of them would receive 250mg ginger extract and half of them would receive a placebo. The study found that 6- gingerols in particular was found in high-concentrations in the colon among high-risk sample subjects that ingested dried powdered ginger. This lead to the assumption that 6- gingerols were a necessary factor in the health of the colon and thus is being investigated as a possible treatment for patients with colon cancer.

However, despite all of the positive (albeit vague) effects that ginger has on the body, there also possible side-effects of ingesting ginger. MedlinePlus suggests that ginger affects fetal sex hormones and thus it is advised that pregnant women avoid eating ginger. Breast-feeding women, people with various bleeding disorders (hemophilia), diabetics and people with heart conditions should stay away from eating ginger. The effects of ginger interacting with prescribed medication have also raised some questions for people with similar cases as previously stated. Ginger shouldn’t be used with anti-coagulative / anti-platelet drugs as ginger “might” slow blood clotting, such medications include ibuprofen and aspirin. Medications for diabetes and high blood pressure should also not be ingested with ginger as ginger might reduce blood sugar concentration.

What vexes me most about this investigation is how vague my sources are. I find that although my question has been answered on mainly a macro level. I still do not know how the 6-, 8-, 10- gingerols and 6- shogaols interacts with various bacteria and other pathogens. However, I do observe that the structures of the gingerols and shogaols do contain an alcohol hydroxyl functional group. Drawing upon my everyday experiences and previous knowledge, I know that alcohols do have anti-septic properties and this functional group might play a role in how gingerols and shogaols interact with various bacteria and pathogens in the human body. Also, the gingerols and shogaols have a non-polar structure, I assume that this allows them to pass through blood-membrane barriers more easily than other polar substances, however this is pure speculation.

The implications of this lack of knowledge is that, until we know more about how gingerols and shogaols found in ginger interact with our bodies’ systems, we will be putting more people with colorectal cancer at risk. It has been found in the study previously stated that the gingerols and shogaols found in ginger are necessary in our bodies gastro-intestinal tract (specifically in the colon) and could play a vital role in aiding people with colorectal cancer. Also, if we know how the gingerols and shogaols interact with various pathogens and with our body in general, it could be possible to create more effective medical solutions for common day sicknesses and reduce the risk of additional side effects with other medications.

Reference list:

[1] University of Maryland Medical Center. (2013). Ginger. Retrieved from: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/ginger

[2] United States National Library of Medicine. (2013). Ginger. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/961.html

[3] National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2013). Herbs at a glance: Ginger. Retrieved from: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ginger

[4] Medicine.net Inc. (2013) ginger (zingiber officinale) – oral. Retrieved from: http://www.medicinenet.com/ginger_zingiber_officinale-oral/page2.htm

[5]Yu, Yangke., Zick, Susanna., Li, Xiaoqin., Peng, Zhou., Wright, Benjamin., Sun, Duxin., (2011). Examination of the Pharmacokinetics of Active Ingredients of Ginger in Humans. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3160151/#!po=2.50000

[6] National Library of Medicine. (2013). Diagram of structures of 6-, 8-, 10- gingerols and 6- shogoal compared to standard internal PAV. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/core/lw/2.0/html/tileshop_pmc/tileshop_pmc_inline.html?title=Click%20on%20image%20to%20zoom&p=PMC3&id=3160151_12248_2011_9286_Fig1_HTML.jpg (picture)

[7] Sabina, E.P., Pragasam, S.J., Kumar, S., Rasool, M., (2011). 6- gingerol, an active ingredient of ginger, protects acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity in mice. Retrived from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22088594

The Air that we breath

Being a swimmer, lung health is one of the most important assets that a swimmer can have. If our lungs are weak or damaged, we can’t perform at the level we want to. In a few days I’m going to Beijing on a swim tournament, however, going to Beijing at this time can be detrimental to lung health. As you may know, over the course of the last few weeks, Beijing and other cities in china (including Shanghai) have had critically high air pollution levels. The Beijing government has even advised civilians to stay indoors when possible, and to avoid strenuous activity. (BBC, 2013) Now, we all know that pollution is bad for the lungs, but this got me thinking. How does air pollution damage our lungs and what is air pollutions impact on society? Due to my personal experiences in Shanghai, the form of pollutant I will investigate will be smog.

Before we can assess how air pollution damages our lungs, knowing how the lungs work is essential. The lungs work as a part of our respiratory system, According to the Cleveland clinic (2010), we breathe air in through our nose and mouth, which travel down the throat and pass through the voice box and into our trachea. The trachea is divided into two air passages called the bronchial tubes, one leading to the slightly larger right lung and the other to the left lung. Further down the bronchial tubes, the tubes divide into three lobes in the right lung and into two lobes in the left lung. These lobes go under further division into bronchi and then to bronchioles. The bronchioles end in tiny air sacs called alveoli where oxygen is transferred from the air to the blood. This transfer is a process known as “gas exchange” which is the process of which oxygen is transferred into the blood and carbon dioxide being expelled from our system caused by diffusion across the alveolar membrane and the pulmonary capillary that the alveoli are attached to. (Fruedenrich. n.d.). In order for oxygen to be the only gas that enters our blood, our lungs have three main forms of defense against dangerous objects: Cilia are small hairs in our nose that filter out harmful and large particles. In our trachea and bronchial tubes, mucus is created to keep air passages moist and aid in intercepting dust, bacteria and other particles. And lastly the sweeping motion of the cilia helps keep air passages clean. (Cleveland Clinic. 2010)

Human Respiratory system

Picture 1: A diagram of the human respiratory system

Now that we know how our lungs function, it is time to know what air pollution really is. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) (2013), “Air pollution is contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere.” In other words, our air is mainly comprised of nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen, but pollutants are other “particles” or “gases” that are in the air, which damage our health. Some common air pollutants are sulfur dioxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, cigarette smoke and ozone (O3), which are mainly generated by industry. Each of these different particles have different effects on our lungs and our bodies as a whole, numerous scientific studies have linked particle pollution exposure to a variety of different health problems. (US EPA.2013) Air pollution is measured in ppm or “particles per million”, the higher the ppm the denser the air particles in the air and the more polluted it is. However, the smaller the particle, the more hazardous it is to humans, because small particles can penetrate deep into our lungs and either damage our alveoli or enter our bloodstream causing all sorts of damage to tissue and blood cells alike. (US EPA. 2013)

Currently in Shanghai, the haze that I have been seeing over the past couple days is undoubtedly “smog”. A term coined by the residents living in London during the early 1900’s describing a mixture of smoke and fog. (DEQ Louisiana. 2013)  Scientifically speaking, smog is actually a mixture of different pollutants such as ozone, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. The effects of such substances are varied given the time exposed to them, how often you are exposed and how hard you are breathing (e.g. the amount of air you breath while running as opposed to walking). Just these three pollutants alone will damage the lining of the lungs and respiratory tract and destroy our body’s defenses against bacteria, making us more prone to air-borne sicknesses, enter our bloodstream and disrupt the supply of oxygen to our body’s tissues and give us respiratory diseases and physical lung damage. (EPA. 2013) Smog has many different forms and so these three examples don’t fully describe the full danger of smog. However, they are the three most commonly found substances in smog, ozone being the foundation of smog forming.

Beijing Smog

Picture 2: A picture of thick beijing smog in recent days

I had always assumed that smog was just pollution and fog; however, now knowing what smog really is and how it affects us gives me a sense of the gravity of the implications that smog has on our society. In Shanghai alone, there are 12.21 million people living in urban areas, who are currently experiencing heavy smog. (Shanghaihighlights. 2013). According to WHO, 5% of all cardiopulmonary deaths worldwide are related to outdoor air pollution. In the year 2008 alone China had over 470,000 deaths related to outdoor air pollution. Due to my studies in economics class, discussing how pollution is a “cost” to society, I think that it is due to these reasons that countries governments are starting to tax businesses (mainly energy producing firms) on the amount of tons of pollutants released into the air as a result of these high pollution rates and its hazardous effect on society’s health. This will also affect the economy, as nothing in industry can be produced without generating electricity, the methods of which give off pollution. In my opinion this also accounts for a greater backing of clean energy sources, which in the future could power our cities and decrease the amount of pollution we give off through generating clean energy. I hope that this post has given you a better understanding of the dangers of pollution and that you will take the necessary steps to safeguard your lungs and those of the people around you!

Reference list:

Cleveland Clinic. (2010). How your Lungs Work. Diseases and Conditions. Retrieved January 23 from: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/anatomy/lung/hic_how_your_lungs_work.aspx

American Lung Association. (2013). The respiratory system. How your Lungs Work. Retrieved January 23 from: http://www.lung.org/your-lungs/how-lungs-work/

Montana State Education. (n.d). How your Lungs Work. Retrieved January 27 from: http://www.montana.edu/craigs/How%20Your%20Lungs%20Work.htm

BBC. (2013). Beijing’s hazardous pollution sparks Chinese media anger. News China. Retrieved January 27 from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-21007893

EPA Victoria. (n.d). Table of main air pollutants. What is Air Pollution. Retrieved January 27 from: http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/air/aq4kids/pollution.asp

WHO. (2013). Air Pollution. Health Topics. Retrieved January 27 from: http://www.who.int/topics/air_pollution/en/

United States EPA. (2013). Health. Particulate matter. Retrieved January 28 from: http://www.epa.gov/pm/health.html

DEQ Louisiana. (2013). What is smog?. Ozone facts and experiments. Retrieved January 28 from: http://www.deq.louisiana.gov/portal/PROGRAMS/OzoneActionProgram/OzoneFactsandExperiments/WhatisSmog.aspx

Shanghai Highlights. (2013). Shanghai Facts. Retrived January 28 from: http://www.shanghaihighlights.com/essential/

WHO. (2013). Mortality and Burden of disease from outdoor air pollution. Global Health Observatory. Retrieved January 28 from: http://www.who.int/gho/phe/outdoor_air_pollution/burden/en/index.html

Cleveland Clinic. (2013). (picture to show anatomy of respiratory system). Retrieved January 28 from: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/anatomy/lung/hic_how_your_lungs_work.aspx

BBC. (2013). (picture of thick Beijing smog in recent days). Retrieved January 28 from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-21007893