Groove with Glorious Ginger
to ease your pain!
Are you ready to take control of your pain? Perhaps it’s time to harness the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of ginger.
Ginger has been used all over the world as folk medicine for centuries, but there is now a plethora of research proving its benefits for supporting pain in a number of conditions, including muscle pain, menstrual pain and aches and pains associated with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. In my nutrition practice, among other steps, I encourage my clients to eat a variety of anti-inflammatory foods to support with their pain management - with ginger being top of the list.
In this article, I explore how ginger can help to reduce inflammation, and how best to incorporate it into your diet so that you too can reap the benefits and ease your pain.
What is ginger?
Ginger is a flowering plant known as a rhizome which grows primarily in Asia, but it is actually the root that is most commonly harvested for culinary use. Ginger root is thick, knobbly and pale in colour and can be eaten fresh, steeped in tea or dried and ground - the type you may have sitting in the cupboard at home! You can also find ginger in crystalised and pickled form.
What’s so great about ginger?
As well as boasting a number of essential nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins, there are several compounds within ginger that have been found to have biological effects on the human body, including gingerol (which gives ginger its pungent smell and flavour), shogaol, zingerone and paradol. These compounds have not only been shown to reduce nausea, but also have anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and anti-tumourigenic properties (1).
How can ginger reduce my pain?
Pain, whether it be caused by a condition like arthritis, or from something as regular as your monthly cycle, can often be made worse by systemic inflammation in the body. One source of inflammation is the production of free radicals; free radicals are unstable molecules which damage nearby healthy cells, which in turn causes inflammation. Antioxidants, like those found in ginger, stabilise free radicals so that they can no longer cause damage – thus reducing inflammation and inflammation-related pains (2).
Ginger has also been shown to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines; these are biochemical markers which indicate systemic inflammation and are often raised in inflammatory conditions such as obesity, diabetes and arthritis (3). In fact, in a study of 120 people with osteoarthritis, it was found that supplementation with ginger over 3 months significantly reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines, suggesting ginger may be a useful tool to reduce arthritic pain (4).
Several studies have also been conducted investigating the effectiveness of ginger on menstrual pain. A systematic review of six studies found ginger supplementation to be superior to a placebo in treating menstrual pain, and just as effective as a non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It was also suggested that ginger may be a safer treatment option due to exhibiting fewer gastrointestinal side effects than NSAID (5).
How much ginger should I be consuming?
In the studies discussed, doses of500-1000mg a day were used and found to be effective. It is also worth noting that reduction in pro-inflammatory cytokines were most pronounced in those who took ginger for more than 80 days so if supplementing, I would suggest trying it for 3 months initially to allow time to notice the effects. High doses may interact with blood-thinning medications, so be sure to check with your healthcare professional before supplementing if you are taking these. High doses can also cause heartburn in some people, so you may want to begin with a lower dose and increase with tolerance (6).
What’s the best way to use ginger?
Other than supplementation, you can also incorporate ginger root into your diet through food. There are numerous ways to use ginger and it can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Try adding to your next curry, blend into a smoothie, add to a chicken stir fry or even bake some low-sugar gingerbread biscuits! Keep an eye out for my next article whereI’ll be sharing a recipe packed full of soothing ginger...
Lowering inflammation in the body is key for reducing muscle aches and pains, menstrual aches and pains associated with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Due to its potent anti-inflammatory properties, ginger can make a fabulously tasty, therapeutic addition to your diet.
I’d love to hear how you enjoy ginger in your diet...are you a lover of fiery ginger tea? Or perhaps you like to add a zingy ginger kick to your morning smoothie? Please comment below or send me an email.
1. Alsherbiny, M.A., Abd-Elsalam,W.H., El badawy, S.A., Taher, E., Fares, M., Torres, A., Chang, D., Guang, C.2019. Ameliorative and protective effects of ginger and its main constituentsagainst natural, chemical and radiation-induced toxicities: A comprehensivereview. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 123, 72-97
2. Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak,A., Chandra, N. 2010. Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impacton human health. Pharmacognosy Review, 4 (8), 118-126
3. Askari, G., Aghajani, M.,Salehi, M., Najafgholizadeh, A., Keshavarzpour, Z., Fadel, A., Venkatakrishnan,K., Salehi-sahlabadi, A., Hadi, A., Pourmasoumi, M. 2020. The effects of gingersupplementation on biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in adults: Asystematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journalof Herbal Medicine, e100364
4. Mozaffari-Khosravi, H., Naderi,Z., Dehghan, A., Nadjarzadeh, A., Huseini, H.F. 2016. Effect of GingerSupplementation on Proinflammatory Cytokines in Older Patients withOsteoarthritis: Outcomes of a Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. Journalof Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriactrics, 35 (3), 209-218
5. Chen, C.X. 2016. Efficacy ofOral Ginger (Zingiber officinale) for Dysmenorrhea: A Systematic Review andMeta-Analysis. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2016,e6295737
6. Terry, R., Posadzki, P.,Watson, L.K., Ernst, E. 2011. The Use of Ginger (Zingiber officinale) for theTreatment of Pain: A Systematic Review of Clinical Trials. Pain Medicine, 12,1808-1818