Green Tea, Ginger, Flavonoids, and Multiple Sclerosis

Tea is a common drink, MS has only one-fifteenth the frequency as with people in California. Japanese living in Hawaii have three times the frequency of MS as those living in Japan.

Speculation: do these frequency differences correlate to green tea consumption? Also, Japanese consume an approximate average of 8 grams of ginger per day. Like the flavonoids, ginger has strong anti-oxidant properties.

In my article on MS, the Blood Brain Barrier, and New Possible Treatment posted at (retrieve)   I speculate that flavonoids may have value in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. MS lesions have been linked to breakdowns in the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Certain flavonoids have been demonstrated to have membrane strengthening capability in experiments performed with rats. The theory is to use flavonoids to strengthen the blood-brain barrier of people with MS in an effort to prevent the breakdowns or to reduce their intensity. There are two proposed mechanisms by which flavonoids could be effective. One is their ability to inhibit the action of certain enzymes classified as MMPs which are active in inflammation and can attack BBB integrity. The other is by their anti-oxidant activity, where oxygen free radicals are destroyed; these radicals can also lead to BBB breakdown.

In general the flavonoids which are anticipated to show the greatest promise for MS are from blueberries/bilberry, grape seed extract, and pycnogenol. Some speculation that citric flavonoids and rutin may be of value is discussed in the article at

Since writing the above two articles I have read that green tea is also a good potential source of flavonoids. ref 1 One cup of green tea provides between 80 mg and 110 mg of polyphenols, most of which are flavonoids. As a conservative estimate, one would probably be safe in assuming that 3 cups of green tea would provide at least 200 mg of flavonoids. It is estimated that people in Japan drink about 3 cups of green tea per day.

Green tea and black tea come from the same plant. Black tea is made by allowing the leaves to oxidize. This destroys the flavonoids. Green tea goes through a steaming step early in its processing cycle which destroys the enzymes which oxidize the leaves. Hence, the potential benefits for MS patients come from green tea only, not from black tea.

Ginger is another herb with very strong anti-oxidant qualities. The average person in Japan eats about 1/3 ounce of ginger per day. ref 2 The anti-oxidant properties of Ginger may be of some value in BBB strengthening.

Although it is not known for sure if the flavonoids have any specific effect on the symptoms or progress of MS, the above observations lead to some interesting questions.

Since Japan is noted for its consumption of green tea and ginger, how does the frequency of MS in Japan compare with that in the U.S.A. or Europe?

It is known that the frequency of MS in a population tends to correlate extremely well with latitude. The farther north and colder the climate, the more frequent the occurrence of MS. However, one notable exception is Japan. ref 3

Another articles says that in Hawaii these numbers change. In Japan the frequency of MS is only one fifteenth of that in California. However, the frequency of MS amongst Japanese living in Hawaii increases by a factor of three, while that of Caucasians living in Hawaii is cut by one-third; now the differences become minimal. There may still be some dietary differences between the Japanese and Caucasians who are living in Japan which could account for the remaining small difference. ref 4

This observation raises some immediate questions: How much green tea and how much ginger are typically consumed by those in Japan that DO get MS? Is there any correlation between the amount of consumption of these nutrients and the severity of symptoms with those who do get the disease? How does the diet vary in Hawaii from that of Japan and California? How does the diet vary in Hawaii between Japanese and Caucasians and between those who get MS and those who don’t? One would expect that perhaps the quantity of flavonoids consumed in Hawaii would lie between that of California and Japan, if flavonoids truly have relevance.

As a matter of completeness, it should be pointed out others have suggested that other dietary factors may be involved in MS. Some have suggested in particular that wheat gluten and milk are particularly bad, with many people having allergies to these foods. Japan also features low wheat and milk consumption, so the differences are not necessarily due to green tea and ginger. ref 5

A person who has MS may want to consider including green tea as