There’s a familiar pattern to the way alternative treatment move from the underground to the mainstream. A key moment in this pattern is when a doctor who knows of a natural remedy stemming from traditional medicinal wisdom—like ginger for headaches—and says to a migraine patient, “Hey, I’m not sure if this will help, but I know it won’t hurt, so why don’t you give it a try?”
The doctor recommends that at the first sign of a headache, the patient mix a spoonful of powdered ginger into a glass of water and drink it down. Within half an hour, the headache has vanished. The ginger works every time, and the patient experiences zero side effects.
Why Case Reports Matter
That whole story—from recommendation to outcome—is what’s called a case report. In some senses, a case report is the weakest kind of evidence in favor of a certain treatment. But case reports play an important role in the development of new methods of treating and curing health conditions. Case reports lay the foundation for further investigation. This is especially important for natural remedies, which often go unstudied since there’s no enticing possibility of a massive profit margin to attract funding.
Migraines: A Multi-Billion Dollar Problem
Consider the market for migraine drugs, for instance. Migraine headaches affect an estimated 28 million people living in the United States each year, and companies make billions of dollars selling over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs that claim to target these devastating headaches.
For severe cases, OTC medications are close to worthless. The most commonly prescribed prescription drugs for treating migraines are triptans. Triptans work by constricting blood vessels and blocking pain pathways in the brain. The so-called gold standard of these drugs, with the most studies to make it up, is sumatriptan (sold as Imitrex). Research shows that for most people who take it, it brings near-immediate relief. For half those people, however, the headache will return within 24 hours. The drug also causes a long list of unpleasant side effects that range from uncomfortable to fatal, such as…
- Muscle weakness
- Abnormal heart beats
- Coronary artery spasms
- Heart attacks
Ginger Proved to Be Every Bit as Good as Top Drug Treatment
Luckily for migraine sufferers, a breakthrough study recently compared top drug treatment sumatriptan to ginger, and found that ginger works just as fast, and comes with none of the side effects! A double-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trial assigned half the participants to take a dose of sumatriptan at the onset of a migraine, and half to take 1/8 of a teaspoon of powdered ginger mixed into a glass of water. Participants’ reports show that ginger worked just as quickly and effectively as sumatriptan, and the only side effect reported was an upset stomach. Only one out of every 25 people found that ginger irritated their stomach, but if you intend to try this treatment yourself, that is something to keep in mind.
Not only is ginger equally effective and far safer than migraine drugs, but it’s also much, much less expensive. Expert estimate that using ginger to treat your migraines is up to 3,000 times cheaper than using a drug! If you or someone you know suffers from migraines, this could be a life-changing remedy. For those who experience more mild headaches, consider using ginger to replace OTC painkillers, which can be just as harmful as their prescription counterparts.
As always, use caution and common sense when trying a new treatment, and consult with a trusted medical advisory to avoid unforeseen interactions and complications.