Recently we reported on how ginger worked as well as leading drugs for relieving migraine pain. But headaches are not the only pain for which ginger offers a powerful natural solution. For more than 5,000 years, practitioners of traditional medicine have relied on ginger (Zingiber officinale) to treat a whole range of pain—from sore muscles to arthritis. Now research shows ginger works just as well as popular over-the-counter pain medications such as Advil and Motrin (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—or NSAIDs).
NSAIDs are commonly used for pain but have recently come under serious scrutiny for their risks and side effects. Yet they are by far the most popular remedy for menstrual cramps. That’s probably because menstrual cramps can be brutally painful—and they’re extremely common, too: up to 90% of younger women are affected. That’s why it’s such great news that ginger really works for pain. The science is clear.
The Science Behind Ginger’s Painkilling Power
Researchers at Indiana University School of Nursing and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Nursing reviewed studies on the use of ginger for menstrual cramps and analyzed the results of six studies that met their quality inclusion criteria. Their aim was to
determine just how effective ginger was against cramps.
All of the original studies used validated pain scales common in scientific studies, which allowed the reviewers to measure how much ginger reduced pain. Each original studies compared ginger either to a placebo or to an NSAID.
- In their analysis, the reviewers found that across studies, ginger effectively reduced pain.
- In the two studies that compared ginger to NSAIDs found that ginger was just as effective as the drugs, which included mefanamic acid (Ponstan) and ibuprofen (Motrin)—both of which are commonly used for menstrual pain.
Another research group from Korea’s Hoseo University also reviewed studies of ginger for menstrual pain. They found seven studies that met their inclusion criteria. Just like the Indiana University team, the Hoseo group concluded that ginger works for menstrual pain: “Collectively these randomized clinical trials provide suggestive evidence for the effectiveness of 750–2000 milligrams ginger powder during the first 3–4 days of menstrual cycle for primary [menstrual pain].”
How to Use Ginger for Menstrual Pain
In many of the studies reviewed, women who took ginger for menstrual pain used as little as a quarter-teaspoon of ground ginger (this is the same thing as ginger powder) three times a day during the first three days of menstruation, and this dose significantly reduced their pain. In fact, in one study, subjects who followed this protocol said their pain dropped by two points on a 10-point scale (from a 7 to a 5), where as those in the placebo group saw no change. The women in the ginger group reported feeling much better.
Not only did ginger reduce pain, but it lessened the duration of pain by about 4 hours (from about 19 hours to 15 hours). The researchers commented that based on these findings, three quarters of a teaspoon of ginger powder a day, taken for three days, is “a safe and effective way to produce” pain relief with menstrual cramps.
The best news of all may be that ginger offers powerful pain relief without the risks of NSAIDs, such as damage to the stomach and intestines. In fact, instead of risky side effects, ginger offers other potent health benefits while it soothes pain. Ginger’s beneficial bioactive mechanisms are well documented, as are its more than 400 medicinal compounds. Now that’s the kind of pain relief we can stand behind.