Ginger for Menstrual Cramps

ginger for menstrual complaints
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For relief of menstrual problems, many women turn to the herb ginger (Zingiber officinale). Found to possess anti-inflammatory properties, ginger is thought to help alleviate the pain associated with menstrual cramping and premenstrual syndrome.

Why Is Ginger Sometimes Used for Menstrual Troubles?

Research shows that compounds found in ginger may help inhibit the body's production of prostaglandins (a class of pro-inflammatory chemicals involved in triggering the muscle contractions that help the uterus shed its lining).

Because the onset of menstrual cramps appears to be linked to excessive production of prostaglandins, it's thought that consuming ginger in dietary supplement or tea form can help reduce menstrual pain.

Related: Ginger Tea Recipe

Research on Ginger and Menstrual Problems

Several studies published in recent years suggest that ginger may be helpful for relief of dysmenorrhea (the medical term for menstrual pain).

These studies include a clinical trial published in Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics in 2014, in which 122 female students with moderate to severe menstrual pain were randomly split into two groups. For two menstrual periods, one group received 250 mg of ginger extract every six hours, while the other group received 250 mg of mefenamic acid (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug often used to treat menstrual cramps) every eight hours. Results revealed that ginger and mefenamic acid were equally effective as pain-reducing agents.

Related: Natural Remedies for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

In an earlier clinical trial (published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2009), researchers assigned 150 women with menstrual pain to treatment with ginger extract, mefenamic acid, or ibuprofen for one menstrual period.

At the end of treatment, pain severity had decreased in all groups. What's more, there was no difference between the groups in pain relief or satisfaction with treatment.

In addition, there's some evidence that ginger may help control heavy menstrual bleeding. In a clinical trial published in Phytotherapy Research in 2015, for instance, 92 women struggling with heavy menstrual bleeding were treated with either ginger or a placebo for three menstrual periods. At the end of the study, researchers found that levels of menstrual blood loss dramatically declined among study participants who received ginger.

Since heavy menstrual bleeding can lead to complications like iron-deficiency anemia—and because it can signal underlying health problems such as uterine fibroids and cervical polyps—it's important to talk to your doctor if you're experiencing excessive bleeding.

Side Effects

Ginger is likely safe for most people, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, it may cause a number of mild side effects, including diarrhea and heartburn.

Alternatives to Ginger for Menstrual Cramp Relief

Self-care strategies such as massaging or applying a heating pad to your lower abdomen; limiting your intake of salt, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine; practicing stress-management techniques; and exercising regularly can help protect against menstrual pain.

In addition, taking dietary supplements containing vitamin B6, calcium, and/or magnesium may help fight menstrual problems. Some research shows that increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids or using herbs like dong quai and red raspberry leaf may also help soothe menstrual pain to some degree.

You can learn more about herbal remedies for menstrual cramps here.

For further relief of menstrual pain, try using aromatherapy. There's some evidence that massaging with a blend of essential oils of lavender, clary sage, and marjoram may help ease menstrual cramps. Go here for tips on safe use of essential oils. 

Beyond Menstrual Pain: More Uses for Ginger

Not only a possible solution for menstrual complaints, ginger has also been found to quell post-surgery nausea, relieve osteoarthritis pain, and aid in the prevention of morning sickness.

Sources

Grzanna R1, Lindmark L, Frondoza CG. "Ginger--an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions." J Med Food. 2005 Summer;8(2):125-32.

Jenabi E1. "The effect of ginger for relieving of primary dysmenorrhoea." J Pak Med Assoc. 2013 Jan;63(1):8-10.

Kashefi F1, Khajehei M, Alavinia M, Golmakani E, Asili J. "Effect of Ginger (Zingiber officinale) on Heavy Menstrual Bleeding: A Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Clinical Trial." Phytother Res. 2015 Jan;29(1):114-9.

Kashefi F1, Khajehei M2, Tabatabaeichehr M3, Alavinia M4, Asili J5. "Comparison of the effect of ginger and zinc sulfate on primary dysmenorrhea: a placebo-controlled randomized trial." Pain Manag Nurs. 2014 Dec;15(4):826-33.

National Institutes of Health. "Ginger: MedlinePlus Supplements." June 2014.

Ozgoli G1, Goli M, Moattar F. "Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea." J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Feb;15(2):129-32.

Rahnama P1, Montazeri A, Huseini HF, Kianbakht S, Naseri M. "Effect of Zingiber officinale R. rhizomes (ginger) on pain relief in primary dysmenorrhea: a placebo randomized trial." BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Jul 10;12:92.

Shirvani MA1, 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. 2014 Nov 16. 

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen. 

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