Ginger for Dysmenorrhea
NSAIDs or Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs like diclofenac, ibuprofen, mefenamic acid, and naproxen are pharmaceutical drugs most commonly used to treat menstrual pain. They are effective, especially if started before the onset and continued until day 2., but not without side effects. NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal symptoms (gas, bloating, heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting), dizziness, headaches, gastrointestinal bleeding, high blood pressure and can worsen liver or kidney damage, amongst other risks.
Could there be an alternative that could alleviate the pain without the unwanted side effects?
Current research suggests there could be….but why is this so important?
Menstrual pain or dysmenorrhea affects up to 90% of women, with prevalence being highest amongst adolescents. Dysmenorrhea results in absence from school and work. In some accounts, it costs 600 million lost work hours and $2 billion in lost productivity annually.1 Cramps can be debilitating and costly.
Ginger has long been used as an anti-inflammatory agent in traditional medicine and recently its anti-inflammatory properties have been tested for effectiveness in treating primary dysmenorrhea. Several studies have since reported that ginger or Zingiber officinale is as effective as NSAIDs at treating primary dysmenorrhea.
In one study, 122 females with moderate to severe primary dysmenorrhea were randomly assigned to either ginger or mefenamic acid groups in a clinical trial. The mefenamic acid group received 250 mg capsules every 8 hours and the ginger group received 250 mg capsules (zintoma) every 6 hours from the onset of menstrual pain, until amelioration of pain, for 2 cycles. Pain intensity was assessed using visual analog scale. Subsequent data analysis showed a significant difference in pain intensity as time progressed but no differences in pain intensity between groups. Therefore suggesting that ginger was as effective as mefenamic acid at treating primary dysmenorreha.2
Most recently, a systematic review and meta-analysis was completed on the existing clinical trials published evaluating the efficacy of ginger for the treatment of dysmenorrhea. Analysis was complicated as many of these trials are at risk for bias due to lack of randomization, blinding investigators and subjects, etc. Of 29 clinical trials identified, 7 randomized, controlled clinical trials met the inclusion criteria which permitted analysis. The authors note that the small sample sizes of the trials, average methodological quality and limited number of trials prevent us from making definitive statements of effect. However, there was a consistent benefit and statistically significant effect of ginger for treating menstrual pain. Effective doses used were 750 – 2000 mg per day for the first 3-4 days of the menstrual cycle.3 More rigorous scientific study is necessary, but the cure to your dysmenorrhea just might be in your kitchen!
Dr. Natalie Bozinovski ND MSc., is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, Master of Nutrition, published author, speaker, and founder ofwww.healthandthecity.com, a web-based resource designed to provide fresh insights, tools and guidance to busy professionals on how to make wellness a daily habit.
Known for her personal warmth, comprehensive knowledge across multiple disciplines and an unwavering commitment to her patient’s success, Dr. Natalie’s ultimate ambition is to help individuals achieve optimal energy and lifetime wellbeing.
In clinical practice, her approach is based on a personalized evaluation of the patients physical, emotional and lifestyle goals. By blending an integrated knowledge of complementary medicine and biomedical science with specialties in nutrition, Chinese medicine, acupuncture and botanical medicine, Dr. Natalie believes high-quality health care must be evidence based and individualized.
With a practice focused on patients overwhelmed by stress and experiencing depleted energy, Dr. Natalie treats a variety of concerns including insomnia, weight optimization, skin issues, mood changes and anxiety, digestive complaints as well as a range of female-specific health concerns.
Dr. Natalie has an Honours B.Sc. with Distinction in Biomedical Sciences and Economics from the University of Waterloo, a Master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Toronto and a Doctor of Naturopathic degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. She is trained in First Line Therapy®, live blood cell microscopy, and cosmetic mesotherapy and facial acupuncture for anti-aging.
Having grown up with a Naturopath/Chiropractor father, Dr. Natalie has both a personal appreciation and direct experience of the benefits of complementary medicine to both a healthy body and a healthy mind.
- Coco AS. Primary Dysmenorrhea. Am Fam Physician. 1999; 60(2):489-496.
- Shirvani MA, Motahari-Tabari N, Alipour A. The effect of mefenamic acid and ginger on pain relief in primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized clinical trial. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2015; 291(6): 291(6):1277-81. doi: 10.1007/s00404-014-3548-2
- Daily JW, Zhang X, Kim DS, Park. Efficacy of Ginger for Alleviating the Symptoms of Primary Dysmenorrhea: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Pain Med. 2015; doi: 10.1111/pme.12853. [Epub ahead of print]