Ginger could be used to manage long-term diabetes, a new study reports.

Ginger has been used for centuries in Asian cuisine and medicine. It is widely used to treat nausea, heart-burn and indigestion. The spice is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Researchers from University of Sydney have found that extracts from Buderim Ginger could increase uptake of glucose by the cells without the need of insulin.

"This assists in the management of high levels of blood sugar that create complications for long-term diabetic patients, and may allow cells to operate independently of insulin," said Professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, Basil Roufogalis, lead author of the study.

In type 2diabetes, the body produces insulin (a hormone that breaks down sugar) but the cells are unable to use it as opposed to type 1 diabetes where the body does not produce insulin. The ginger extract has been shown to increase glucose uptake independently of insulin.

Ginger has many compounds with treatment properties including gingerones, gingerols, paradols and shogaols.

"The components responsible for the increase in glucose were gingerols, the major phenolic components of the ginger rhizome," said Professor Roufogalis.

Researchers obtained extracts from Buderim Ginger. They found that a fraction rich in gingerols, particularly the [6]- and [8]-gingerols was more effective in increasing uptake of glucose than the whole extract.

Researchers also found out why these gingerols increased the glucose uptake by the cells. The gingerols increase distribution of a protein called GLUT4. When this protein appears on the surface of the skeletal muscle cells, it increases glucose uptake.

In people who have type 2 diabetes, glucose isn't used up by the skeletal muscles due to inefficiency of the protein GLUT4.

"Under normal conditions, blood glucose level is strictly maintained within a narrow range, and skeletal muscle is a major site of glucose clearance in the body," said Professor Roufogalis.

Human clinical trials will determine if the spice extract can be used in managing diabetes.

"It is hoped that these promising results for managing blood glucose levels can be examined further in human clinical trials," said Professor Roufogalis.

Previous research has shown that ginger extracts can be used to manage some types of prostate cancers.

The study was published in Planta Medica.