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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

An Ally in the War Against Arthritis

A new drug employs ginger to help deliver sufferers from pain

By Catherine Shepherd


FROM CURRIES TO COOKIES, ginger finds its way into all kinds of foods. It can be dried and powdered, preserved, candied and juiced. It adds zing to life and, perhaps most important of all, it is good for you. This tormented-looking root helps ease nausea, aids digestion and is a dedicated enemy of flatulence. Aromatherapists also use its essential oil to warm and relieve sore muscles, improve circulation and speed the healing of bruises.

And now ginger has made its way into a pill that relieves much of the pain and inflammation of arthritis. The drug, Zinax, was developed in Denmark using Chinese ginger. Why Chinese? The answer is that ginger from China, as opposed to the Indian, African or other varieties, contains more gingeroles, the compounds responsible for blocking the inflammatory process. Also important: Gingeroles are side-effect free.

In a 1996 study on Danish arthritis sufferers, Zinax relieved pain for 70% of participants. For the other 30%, it was used, without adverse interactions, to lower the need for conventional drugs. A study on Asian arthritics is currently underway at Tan Tock Seng hospital in Singapore. The trial is expected to be completed by August.

Arthritis is usually treated with ibuprofen, one of a group of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Though they do relieve arthritis pain, they are not without problems. They cause gastric upset and increase the risk of ulcer development. Tolerance of NSAIDs builds with use, so higher doses are gradually required to bring the same relief, causing even more side-effects.

Marketed and distributed in Asia by Bionax, an Australian health supplement firm, Zinax is available without a prescription in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore.


IN BRIEF

Cancer warning

Moles can go a long way to telling a doctor if a patient is at risk of melanoma (skin cancer), according to this week's Journal of the American Medical Association. The study examined 1,868 volunteers with differing numbers and types of moles -- also known as nevi -- and established that the risk of melanoma is largely determined by their number, appearance and size.

Previously, doctors checked only for moles with signs of dysplasia (abnormal growth), such as variable pigmentation, irregular shape and indistinct borders. The new findings do not mean that people with non-dysplastic moles should panic. But experts advise a full skin examination. Any changes in existing moles should be reported immediately.

Those over 50 should be checked regularly, experts say, because nevi tend to peak in young adulthood, and then fade as we age. "The finding of dysplastic nevi in older individuals may mark them as at particularly increased risk of melanoma," the researchers write in the U.S. publication. There is no reason for alarm if newborns have small body moles. They are not normally associated with an increased risk of cancer.

Good with chips?

Golf balls can cause hepatitis -- when licked, that is. Yes, some golfers desperate for more yardage off the tee lick their ball to give it more zip through the air, even though they know many courses are liberally soaked in weed killers. One hapless golfer developed hepatitis in reaction to the chemicals. Reporting the phenomenon, this week's British Medical Journal advises golfers to carry a damp cloth around the course with them. Simple counsel, you might think, but many golfers tend to leave common sense in the locker room.

Cool advice

Good news for ice-cream lovers. Also in this week's British Medical Journal, a Philadelphia professor concludes that despite the headaches that sometimes occur 30 to 60 seconds after a bite of the stuff, "abstinence is not indicated." The headaches subside almost immediately and cause no damage. The author also has a useful tip: Ice-cream should be eaten with the front of the mouth. The further back it goes, the more likely it is that "brain freeze" will occur.


This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home

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