Ginger for Nausea, Menstrual Cramps, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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A Highly Effective, Cheap, Easy-to-Use, Safer Treatment for Heavy Periods

Ginger is most famous for its role in preventing and alleviating nausea and vomiting. There are now so many studies that there are reviews of reviews. Just a half teaspoon of powdered ginger “is associated with a 5-fold likelihood of improvement” in morning sickness in early pregnancy. (See my video Natural Treatments for Morning Sickness for more on this.) Ginger has also been shown to help with motion sickness, improve postoperative nausea and vomiting, prevent antiretroviral-induced nausea and vomiting during HIV treatment, and was said to be a “miracle” against chemotherapy-induced vomiting.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of ginger for breast cancer chemotherapy, chemo-induced vomiting was relieved in all phases—the acute phase within 24 hours of the chemo, two to three days after, and even before chemo sessions with what’s known as anticipatory vomiting. (After a few chemo treatments, the body knows what’s coming and starts throwing up at just the thought of the next session.) Anticipatory nausea can’t seem to be controlled by drugs, even the fancy new ones that can cost 10,000 times more than ginger, which comes in at about two pennies per dose and may work even better in some ways.

Ginger can also help with pain. One-eighth of a teaspoon of powdered ginger, which costs just one penny, was found to work as well as the migraine headache drug Imitrex, without the side effects. (See my video Ginger for Migraines for more.)

Speaking of pain, my video Ginger for Nausea, Menstrual Cramps, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome discusses that it may also be as effective as ibuprofen for alleviating menstrual cramps. Painful periods are exceedingly common and can sometimes cause severe suffering yet have been “virtually ignored” by pain management researchers and practitioners. Four randomized controlled trials, however, have been published on ginger for menstrual pain, and all four showed significant benefit when ginger was taken during the first few days of periods. Effective doses ranged from about a third of a teaspoon a day to a full teaspoon a day, but because they all seemed to work, one might as well start out with the penny-a-day dose.

As a side benefit, ginger can dramatically reduce heavy flow, which is one of the most common gynecological problems for young women. We know there are pro-inflammatory foods that may contribute to heavy menstrual bleeding, so how about trying an anti-inflammatory food like ginger? Heavy menstrual bleeding is defined as more than a third of a cup (80 milliliters), but all the study subjects started out much higher than that. Just an eighth teaspoon of powdered ginger three times a day starting the day before their period cut their flow in half, and it seemed to work better each month they tried it, providing a highly effective, cheap, easy-to-use, safer treatment for menstrual blood loss and pain.

So, ginger works for migraines and menstrual cramps, but just because it may be effective for many types of pain doesn’t mean it’s necessarily efficacious for all pain. For example, what about intestinal cramps? Is ginger effective for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? The answer is yes, dropping IBS severity by more than 25 percent. But, so did the placebo. So, the real answer is no—it is not effective for the treatment of IBS, yet “[g]inger is one of the most commonly used herbal medicines for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).” Silly people, don’t they know it doesn’t work any better than a sugar pill? Or, from another perspective, are they smart for using something that offers relief 53 percent of the time and doesn’t risk the adverse effects of some of the drugs with which doctors may harm one person for every three they help?

If placebos are so safe and effective, should doctors prescribe them? I discuss the pros and cons in The Lie That Heals: Should Doctors Give Placebos?.

What does work for IBS? See my videos:

What else can women do to make their periods more tolerable? See:

For more on ginger, check out:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations:


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

35 responses to “A Highly Effective, Cheap, Easy-to-Use, Safer Treatment for Heavy Periods

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  1. Boy, if I had known this when I was younger, that could have made such a big difference in my life.

    I wonder if it would work for the even heavier flow many women have at menopause.

    As far as the end sentences, I am thinking that when the placebo effect works that well, choose the placebo effect.

    Bob at the PEMF site said that he knows researchers in one instance where the placebo effect was closer to 73%. He didn’t give the details to the study.

    What came to mind was the hormonal response to the different milkshake names – the indulgence versus guilt-free description and the effect on the ghrelin.

    Also, the reality that when people get their DNA tests done and see what their “dirty genes” are they have a negative hormonal response to the negative news.

    I wonder how much hormonal response has to do with the placebo effect.

    The part of the body in charge of the hormones is easily tricked.

    1. Deb,

      You just hit on the key to EVERYTHING.
      Our thoughts & beliefs guide & control everything in our lives.
      A few days ago, Dr. Greger was talking about how the placebo effect was more
      effective than pomegranate extract, and a pharma drug, by a good margin. Over the
      years, the ‘placebo effect’ (the power of belief) has always been assumed at around 30%,
      pretty consistently. And your comments here give some of the latest proof we’ve been given
      of its effectiveness.
      Our thoughts, and our belief & expectation, if they are unshakable, hold more power and magic
      than anything in this physical world.
      Yes, we do need to eat the kinds of foods that nourish our bodies, not degrade or poison them.
      And our bodies were not meant to ingest certain foods and substances.
      But I truly believe if the human race would take this idea and run with it, and more & more deeply
      study & explore this power of placebo (which is nothing more than the power of human belief), we
      would start learning how awesome & powerful the human mind is. ‘Miracles’ are performed every day on this planet; and the power of placebo gives us a hint as to how this is so. Thoughts, belief, expectation, if unshakable, can do anything. This is how ‘miracles’ are performed.
      But yet we don’t want to accept our own power, or take responsibility for our own thoughts. So we keep looking for the next super-food, or the next fruit extract… when the truth is staring us right in the face: there is nothing in this universe more powerful than US – this infinite mind of which we all are a part!
      In that pomegranate blog a few days ago, Dr. Greger said “The power of the placebo effect can slow the growth of cancer cells.” Since the placebo effect is basically the power of human belief, we could re-state that truth in the following way: “The power of human belief can slow the growth of cancer cells.”
      If we could ramp up that belief, until it’s unstoppable, until it’s absolute, unshakable, we could quickly resolve ANY unwanted condition in our body; and keep these bodies in perfect balance & perfect health.

      1. Yes but the placebo effect has its limits.I know someone who chose placebo & believed it would work over cancer treatment,the cancer spread and they died a horrible unnecessary death a long time ago.Their prognosis if they had taken treatment would have been very high said the specialist refering to the studies done .Good luck reversing death with a placebo.If you get poisoned would you take a placebo over going to the ER? Why do they test drugs against placebos in the 1st place.The answer is to find the treatment that works best.Please don’t encourage this type of suicide,too many people have died unnecessarily to this type of thing whether it be Christian science or placebo or any other type of belief.. the impact it leaves on those left behind being heartbroken about the preventable death is immense.If a condition has no treatment then trying a placebo is a smart thing to do.It’s about comparing risks and benefits.

  2. We often accuse big pharma of reductionist thinking but maybe we’re somewhat guilty of it ourselves or maybe it’s human nature. Here we are talking about ginger itself and how it can do this or that but ginger has been used by various peoples for thousands of years in conjunction with other botanicals to increase their efficacy. Why don’t we look at that? It appears to increase the effectiveness of curcumin and cordycepts. What else?

  3. I may give ginger go next menstrual cycle.
    I’m 53, I believe I’ve entered perimenopause, my periods are becoming somewhat irregular, but they can be pretty heavy. Like, I’ll saturate an ultra absorbency tampon (15-18g) in 5 hours, several times the first couple days. Ugh. It’d be nice to not bleed so heavy. But I don’t have cramps, yay!

    My husband tried the ginger powder for his migraines, but didn’t find it effective.

    1. Good luck!

      A few of us breezed through Menopause and we were talking about how horrible our periods were and how easy our Menopause was.

      Eating healthy really does help things. I feel like soy helped.

  4. Thank you so much. Can’t wait to try it. A plant based whole food diet can completely cure endometriosis, reducing the painful cramps, and it does seem to reduce the heavy periods. Ginger with a good diet might be a really good combination for endometriosis.

    I hate to say this, but another miracle I have found for painful cramps is THC. I cringe when people go on and on about marijuana this or that, and no I don’t “partake,” but it does work in a spray or taken at an extremely low amount so that it does not make you high. It’s not the high that works to kill the pain, there’s something else about it that relaxes the cramping. But THC is just temporary. I only tried this for 2 months before a healthy diet cured the problem and I didn’t need it anymore.

    Something else that helped me was water fasting or the fast mimicking diet during my period in combination with the whole food plant based diet. It also helped to only eat easily digested foods during the difficult days.

    1. Glad things have worked out for you.

      I didn’t get to try WFPB for my period. Never tried THC either. Orgasm was the only thing I found back then which really did work. I know that it will sound like a bad joke saying that, but it is just the truth.

        1. Laughing.

          Yes, it actually does work, too, but I did the eating junk food and wanting to kill myself every PMS and doubled over in pain the first day or two of my period – resolved only by orgasm route.

          Sounds a lot more fun than it actually was.

    2. My dog is currently doing a water fast.

      Tonight will be 48 hours.

      I haven’t decided whether to stop at 48 hours or 60 hours or go 5 days.

      Last time, I went 14 days and he has been doing exceptionally well since then. Not one symptom since then, until this week.

      It is so hard to do this to him. He looks up at me with those sweet eyes and I know my poor dog is saying, “Not this again.”

      1. I have never heard of having dogs fast. I hope it helps. Too bad they don’t have a fast mimicking diet for dogs. It is much easier. Poor dog.

        1. My dog was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma over a year ago and was given a 100% chance of death within a few weeks diagnosis.

          I was told if I did the $10,000 surgery to have his spleen removed, he might either die on the table or live 2 weeks to 35 days. Maybe 20 days longer if I combined the surgery with chemo, but once the organs are compromised they don’t tend to live longer than a month and he has a lot of wealthy clients and has never seen the dogs live longer that.

          I am a pesky person who is open to alternative ways of doing things and I tried vegan and turkey tail mushrooms and superfoods, but 5 months into the process my dog looked really bad and I thought he was doing to die, but I tried water fasting for 14 days and he went from slipping around the floor like Bambi on ice to me having to retrain him to stay out of the neighbors yard. He had really coughing and lung sounds problem before the fast and it all went away after the two weeks and didn’t return until this week. I am not sure if this is 8 months later or how that all works. I lost track.

          The coughing and lung sounds coming back made me tear up, but my dog is an old guy and the vet told me straight out that he thought he would be dead by this age and he said that before the cancer.

          There is a Purdue University study where if you feed your dog raw vegetables even with kibble it lowered the rate of cancer by 90%. I say that because that or water fasting or mimicking fasting sounds more fun for the dog than just having water.

          I think the fact that my dog doesn’t want to water fast is a good sign.

          I don’t know where we are in the process. I did pay a few thousands extra at the beginning for a real diagnosis, rather than “It looks like cancer” but the vet didn’t want me to do second scans to see if it had shrunk, so I just know that water fasting really, really, really helped the first time.

          It will be interesting to see what happens.

          1. Oh Deb, I pray your dog does well on this fast! Recurrence of symptoms has to be very hard on you. Poor little puppy.

              1. Thanks, Marylin,

                I haven’t given him any supplements since the water fast.

                Yes, I am aware of the study, but my dog stopped taking any of the supplements that week before the fast. I had to literally shove them in the back of his throat with his teeth clenched together. It would take 20 minutes to get one in and they were using quite a few and it was very expensive.

                He wouldn’t eat the mushrooms by themselves and turned his nose away from the powder.

                This past week, I had been noticing that whenever anything fell on the floor, like baby carrots or a baby tomato or cauliflower, he would get so happy and pounce on it and whenever a slice of mushroom fell on the floor, he would just look at it. He doesn’t mind broccoli sprouts or beets. He doesn’t mind leafy greens, which I tear up and put in his food. If I put a mushroom in his food, he leaves it in the dish.

                  1. Marylin,

                    Turkey tail mushrooms and vegan and the superfoods did help. He was staying alive months longer than predicted and the study did have some dogs live a year, but they weren’t using them on dogs who were as advanced in the condition as my dog was, so I feel like I understand that the mushrooms and other things can help.

                    Water fasting was in its own category and I don’t say that lightly.

                    I can go to the topic of ringworm with my dog and I tried everything the vet suggested and all sorts of natural products and then I used chlorine dioxide shampoo from jkat and he stopped scratching after 1 shampoo. After months of trying everything one shampoo and one spray got rid of it and I fogged the room and was astounded.

                    That is still how I feel about what happened with the water fasting. I was trying everything, including essential oils and every superfood and supplement I could find, and they all may have worked a little bit and then I water fasted him for 14 days and suddenly the floor wasn’t slippery to him again and suddenly he wanted to eat again and suddenly he wasn’t coughing and had no lung sounds.

                    Having me not feel guilty about the water fasting is the hardest part.

                    I was reading studies yesterday and two 48-hour water fasting sessions were as effective as chemo for slowing tumor growth. I feel like I can handle things better in 48-hour sections.

                    But one tumor stopped responding to the water fasting and that part is scary. Cancer seems to be good at adapting. It is like a ridiculous chess game against a computer.

  5. Very nice to see this addressed ,but research still has an extremely looong way to go.
    Is there any new research on viagra for treating period pain Dr.G? (if anybody is willing to fund the study)

    If you want to learn more about the data bias in medical research among other biases (slight warning if you like women or are one you may get rather ticked off)
    Caroline Criado Perez has written a book,but long podcasts about her talking about the book and data biases are available for free on Spotify and other free streaming podcast sites,might be some videos aswell..
    Her book is called Invisible Women Data Bias in A World Designed For Men. I cant afford the book but the podcasts were eye opening.

    On the topic of Anti inflammatory foods.Has Dr.G ever put a comparison of which foods are better? I guess antioxidants play a role but some other biochemicals probably enhance that effect,so I am very curious as to which foods come out on top (at servings one can typically eat,so not like 3cups of ginger..)
    If such a video exists I would be very grateful if you could post a link to it! (I have already watched the other videos on inflammation with nuts,spices etc…)
    If not maybe this could be a topic for a new video perhaps ,if others are also curious about this?

    1. Hi, Vegan pal! Thanks for sharing your information. I am well aware of male bias in research. I don’t know about viagra for period pain, (I certainly wouldn’t want to try it!) but there is a lot of information on this site about inflammation and anti-inflammatory foods. I think it is less about specific foods than about the overall diet. Berries, greens, and spices, and other plant foods all have anti-inflammatory effects, and it is important to eat them while avoiding foods that contribute to inflammation. The Daily Dozen is a model for an anti-inflammatory diet. More on that here:
      You can find everything on this site related to inflammation here:
      I hope that helps!

  6. I just tried this out (eating a tiny piece of raw ginger) and even now, 7 hours later, I am still painfree – did not have to take ibuprofen.

    Thank you so much for this helpful article.


  7. Can you use the ground ginger you can buy in the spice section of a supermarket or does it need to be a specific quality like turmeric to be affective?

  8. Okay, I just got out of the hospital and while I was there I had really bad headaches, which is common for me, and they gave me Imitrex. I was impressed with how good it works. They let me have six doses when I left. So I was in the process of trying to decide whether or not my current headache was Imitrex worthy when I read the blog. So I looked on my spice rack and found an ancient bottle of ground ginger and I put a teaspoon into some hot water stirred it up and drank it (yuck) however very quickly my headache disappeared. Does it work as well as Imitrex? Not quite only 90% will I use it again-you bet.

  9. Prior to menopause, I suffered from excruciating cramps every month. Ibuprofen did nothing. With a little research I found a natural alternative regimen that worked for me. The miracle cures consisted of drinking green tea or pomegranate juice, taking turmeric supplements and snacking on pistachio nuts. While Googling my problem I found research that supported each of these normal products as natural anti inflammatory and/or pain relief foods. I didn’t need to take ibuprofen at all.

  10. I take ginger regularly in the here prescribed way before the start of my period and throughout, but although my blood loss has become less, it is still very high. No reasons have been found by my gynecologist. I have just come across a study testing vitamin b1 for reducing heavy menstruation and would like to ask for your opinion on it: Thank you very much in advance!

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