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What to Take for Menstrual Cramps

In my video Ginger for Migraines, I described how ginger works as well as the leading “drug” in the treatment of migraines, “one of the most common causes of pain syndromes,” affecting as much as 12 percent of the population. Twelve percent is “common”?

How about menstrual cramps, which plague up to 90 percent of younger women? You can tell this study was written by a guy because he emphasizes the absenteeism and all the “lost productivity” for our nation. Menstrual cramps also just really hurt.

Can ginger help? As I discuss in my video Benefits of Ginger for Menstrual Cramps, women took a quarter teaspoon of ground ginger powder three times a day during the first three days of menstruation, and pain dropped from seven on a scale of one to ten down to a five, whereas there was no significant change in the placebo group, as you can see at 0:56 in my video. Most women in the placebo group said their symptoms stayed the same, whereas those unknowingly in the ginger group said they felt much better.

A subsequent study found that even just an eighth of a teaspoon three times a day appeared to work just as well, dropping pain from an eight to a six and, in the second month, down to a three. The “alleviation of menstrual pain was more remarkable during the second month of the intervention,” and study participants had only been taking the ginger for four days, not the whole month, suggesting it might work even better if women use ginger every period. 

What about the duration of pain? As you can see at 1:52 in my video, a quarter teaspoon of ground ginger powder three times a day not only dropped the severity of pain from about a seven down to a five but also decreased the duration of total hours in pain from 19 hours down to about 15 hours, indicating that three quarters of a teaspoon of ginger powder a day for three days is a safe and effective way to produce pain relief in college students with painful menstrual cramps, compared to placebo, capsules filled instead with powdered toast. But women don’t take breadcrumbs for their cramps. How does ginger compare with ibuprofen? An eighth of a teaspoon of ginger powder four times a day for three days versus 400 milligrams of Motrin were put to the test, and the ginger worked just as well as the drug of choice, as you can see at 2:40 in my video.

If you do take the drug, though, I was surprised to learn that it may be better to take drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen on an empty stomach because that may speed up the pain relief and help keep people from taking higher doses.


I’ve touched on this effect before in Ginger for Nausea, Menstrual Cramps, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. What else can this amazing plant do? See, for example:

What else can really help with cramps, PMS, and cyclical breast pain? 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 presentations:

Discuss

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.


18 responses to “What to Take for Menstrual Cramps

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  1. My cramps really eased up when I removed gluten from my diet (this also reduced PMS symptoms like breast soreness). Then cramps completely disappeared when I added a DHA/EPA supplement.

  2. Boy, I wish I had concepts like that when I was a young person.

    I was always doubled-over, seriously doubled-over in pain.

    My friends, too. I remember getting emergency phone calls only to come over and find one of them curled up in balls on the bathroom floor.

    Dr. Barnard talked about going off of dairy and going low fat for endometriosis. I am wondering if that also goes for menstrual cramps.

  3. This may be a silly question, but will any ol’ ground ginger do the trick? Or should I buy something special? I have a cheap thing of ground ginger that’s been sitting in my pantry for years…

    1. I would absolutely recommend buying a brand new jar, at the very least. Buying organic ginger would also be a better route to go, but as with anything, don’t let that stop you from using it.

  4. I’m also curious about what kind of ginger to use specifically. Just plain old ground ginger from the pantry? Thanks for your help!

  5. I’m sure if it requires a special kind of ginger, the good doctor would have mentioned it is the blog. Having read his books, I can say that it appears that any old ground ginger is good for us in multiple ways. So go for the ginger you’ve got, but if it’s not working, I would suggest buying some fresh stuff since, if you’re like me, you have stuff in your pantry that even a raccoon would turn its nose up at.

  6. I didn’t have crazy cramps but I did have really bad menstrual migraines that I’ve struggled with for years. I’ve been doing celery juice for a few months now and I now have zero cramps and zero migraines!!! I’ve even splurged on a little bit of sugar without backlash and a little bit of booze. Both were major migraine triggers in the past. I will swear by juicing celery every morning.

    1. I have terrible menstrual migraines, I’ve never heard of this idea! What is it about celery that is supposed to help? I’m so glad you found something that works for you. I am incapacitated for 2-3 days a month, and have been on a WFPBD for years now :( Nothing seems to work.

  7. We are about to pass 300,000 deaths worldwide from COVID-19.

    If the perspective site had the months right for 1918, we are still on-pace for deaths from back then.

    Yes, 1918 should pull ahead soon, but this is how 1918 started.

  8. It is nice to see Dr Greger planning for his Summer speaking dates.

    Does that mean he thinks this will be dormant in the Summer?

    Wondering if he thinks it will be like 1918 and Swine flu and have an even worse second wave?

    I am also wondering about whether things like Covid can be spread by things like mosquitoes.

    Honestly last year was a nightmare mosquito closing everything around here year.

    I just ended up buying bug mosquito traps. It doesn’t zap them or kill them. It does trap them and prevent them from laying 20 eggs or so three times.

    It costs $75 for the small one and $125 for the acre size.

    It seems like preparing for mosquito season has to be art of this.

    My relative’s good friend had relatives die last year.

    So, yes, I am not a vegan with regards to mosquitoes.

  9. I tried taking 1/4 tsp ground ginger a day to try to help with my chronic shoulder pain. For some reason though, it felt like it was causing a strange heartburn-like feeling each time, so I eventually stopped. I don’t know if this is a common reaction.

  10. I’ve been doing the 1/8th of a tsp 3-4x/day for 3 months now and am really hoping to see some changes soon. Fingers crossed! As for the Advil on an empty stomach – definitely do NOT do this if you have ulcers or related stomach issues

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