Benefits of Ginger for Menstrual Cramps

Benefits of Ginger for Menstrual Cramps
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An eighth of a teaspoon of ground ginger power is tested head-to-head against the leading drug for the alleviation of painful periods.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

I previously described how ginger works as well as the leading drug in the treatment of migraines, described as “one of the most common…pain syndromes,” affecting as much as 12% of the population. You call that common?

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

So, can ginger help? A quarter-teaspoon of ground ginger—ginger powder—given three times a day during the first three days of menstruation, and pain dropped from like a seven on a scale of one to ten, down to a five—whereas, in the placebo group, there was no significant change. 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 eight to a six. But then, the second month—down to a three. “[T]he alleviation of menstrual pain was more remarkable during the second month of the intervention.” And, they’d only been taking the ginger for four days, not the whole month—suggesting that it might work even better if women use ginger every period. 

What about the duration of pain? A quarter-teaspoon of ground ginger, three times a day, not only dropped the severity of pain from about seven down to five, but decreased the duration, from a total of 19 hours in pain, 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 to ibuprofen? An eighth of a teaspoon, four times a day, of ginger, for three days—or 400 milligrams of Motrin. And, the ginger worked just as well as the drug of choice.

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

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: brenkee via pixabay. Image has been modified.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

I previously described how ginger works as well as the leading drug in the treatment of migraines, described as “one of the most common…pain syndromes,” affecting as much as 12% of the population. You call that common?

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

So, can ginger help? A quarter-teaspoon of ground ginger—ginger powder—given three times a day during the first three days of menstruation, and pain dropped from like a seven on a scale of one to ten, down to a five—whereas, in the placebo group, there was no significant change. 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 eight to a six. But then, the second month—down to a three. “[T]he alleviation of menstrual pain was more remarkable during the second month of the intervention.” And, they’d only been taking the ginger for four days, not the whole month—suggesting that it might work even better if women use ginger every period. 

What about the duration of pain? A quarter-teaspoon of ground ginger, three times a day, not only dropped the severity of pain from about seven down to five, but decreased the duration, from a total of 19 hours in pain, 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 to ibuprofen? An eighth of a teaspoon, four times a day, of ginger, for three days—or 400 milligrams of Motrin. And, the ginger worked just as well as the drug of choice.

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

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: brenkee via pixabay. Image has been modified.

39 responses to “Benefits of Ginger for Menstrual Cramps

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  1. Thank you so much for posting this topics! You have gave me such great ideas and new things to try next. I have been suffering with this pain since 5 years ago and I have to stand it and cry in bed 1 day every month. I am taking ginger during my periods now and also during the whole month, to see if it works better.




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    1. Annie, I know what you’re going through. I hope the ginger works well for you. If I had known about it, I would have taken that instead of ibuprofen.




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    2. Do you eat lots of leafy greens? If not, they could help because they are rich in magnesium. Where calcium makes muscles contract, magnesium relaxes muscles. I’ve always wondered if my magnesium intake kept me from having cramps all those years. I took it as a supplement, but food is better. Still, if I were suffering any kind of cramps – menstrual or otherwise – I would increase my magnesium intake.

      Magnesium citrate is inexpensive and well absorbed.




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  2. Wow, wish I had known this information when I was younger! I suffered from Dysmenorrhea 1-3 days every month for years & refused to take the codeine or opiates that various doctors wanted to prescribe. The pain was so bad I would vomit and a few times it made me so delirious that I nearly passed out (& I’m not a fainter). When it was finally over, the horrible pain would be gone, but I felt totally exhausted. Then I discovered Ibuprofen, & it changed my whole life. I could finally function but I had to take it in time or else I’d just throw it up.

    One of the many downsides to the Ibuprofen is that it increases menstrual flow. A lot. And even though I didn’t feel completely exhausted afterward, I still felt really drained. I imagine that ginger is not a blood thinner & wouldn’t increase the flow. And it wouldn’t have deleterious effect on the liver.




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  3. I heard that ginger can reduce nitric oxide in the body. I’m eating my greens and exercising to increase my nitric oxide for a healthy endothelium. Is taking ginger counteracting my efforts???




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    1. Brad – I was curious about your comment. Surely, I thought, ginger doesn’t reduce nitric oxide. So I did a quick search. Here is a 2015 PubMed abstract stating just exactly what you questioned. Ginger appeared to reduce the CRP inflammatory marker after 3 months of supplementation, but it also – as the abstract appears to state – reduces serum nitric oxide. So that is of great interest.

      This does not necessarily mean that this result is a “bad” thing however. It could also be that ginger’s antiinflammatory effects may reduce the need for circulating NO. (I don’t know – I am just presenting a possible hypothesis). Perhaps the NF team could take a look at this topic.
      Here is the PubMed abstract:
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27419081

      I thought I’d take a minute to post about another point. While I was searching for nitric oxide info reduction resulting from ginger consumption, I came across an “article” on gingers benefits and uses stating this:
      “The antioxidants in ginger suppress cellular production of nitric oxide, a compound that produces toxic free radicals that promote tissue damage and inflammation. ” This is a completely erroneous statement. Nitric oxide does no such thing and, in fact, does just the opposite. Per Esselstyn – THE expert on this topic – “The key to our vascular health is the innermost single layer of endothelial cells which line our blood vessels. Those cells produce nitric oxide molecules, which smooth blood flow, enlarge blood vessels on demand, inhibit inflammation in the blood vessel wall, and most importantly prevent the formation of blockages or plaque. ”

      I bring up the above because the first, completely erroneous, quote was from this site:
      http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/the-benefits-of-ginger-how-it-can-help-relax-your-muscles.html
      The second, completely scientifically accurate quote, was from Esselstyn’s site:
      http://www.dresselstyn.com/letterman.htm

      It is important to be careful about what we read and what our sources are. The first site cited no scientific publications for its information at all. That’s usually a good clue. Esselstyne, as we all know, conducted the research itself. Big difference.

      This, to me, is why this site is so important and necessary.
      Thank you, as always, to Dr. G. and all the staff and volunteers for teasing out the facts as we know them today and continue to learn about our biological world.




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      1. Agree Rachel.  Really hoping Dr. Greger or a moderator chime in on this.  For now, I’m just not putting ginger in my morning tea.  I’m eating lots of greens to promote the NO and until I see further proof of ginger not inhibiting NO, I see no need to take it.  I’m eating plenty of other wonderful WFPB things.




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        1. Not moderator, not dr Greger, but I will chime in and hopefully successfully explain this misinformation, because what Rachel wrote is misleading.

          Firstly: there is a tremendous difference between nitric oxide as a messenger in blood which dillates blood vessels and nitric oxide as in nitroxidative stress. This nitroxidative stress is even worse than oxidative stress.

          Secondly: it’s clear and simple that the less nitric oxide as in nitroxidative stress the better.
          But also with nitric oxide as a messenger you have to be careful. Too much is not that good for you.
          Take me for example… I started eating beets and spinach (it was unfortunately on the same day) per dr Greger’s advice and guess what… it ended with a terrible headache because my blood vessels were too dillated…
          so…
          everything in moderation… I bet that even some degree of nitroxidative stress is necessary…




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      2. Nitric oxide is a free radical. If it forms in excess or is not recycled effectively, it could be harmful, like any other free radical in the body.




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    2. Brad – I found this as well:
      “A study published in the November 2003 issue of Life Sciences suggests that at least one reason for ginger’s beneficial effects is the free radical protection afforded by one of its active phenolic constituents, 6-gingerol. In this in vitro (test tube) study, 6-gingerol was shown to significantly inhibit the production of nitric oxide, a highly reactive nitrogen molecule that quickly forms a very damaging free radical called peroxynitrite. ”
      Here is the link:
      http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?pfriendly=1&tname=foodspice&dbid=72

      I’m with you . .. I am under the impression that we WANT nitric oxide production from our endothelial cells. And am now also in question. Thank you.




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      1. I wonder if the nitric oxide problem develops when people take it as a supplement instead of getting it from whole foods. I’m sure Dr Esselstyn says something about the danger of taking supplemental nitric oxide.




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    1. Thanks, Robert. I just looked it up and saw that ginger is a blood thinner. Even if it’s on par with ibuprofen in that regard, I would still rather take the ginger because it wouldn’t damage my liver.




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    1. Chloe, I would think that eating a WFPB diet would help abundantly in that regard. When I suffered from dysmenorrhea, I ate lots of meat & dairy. None of it was organic. I’m sure it was one of the main causes of my hormone imbalance.




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      1. I was raised eating a plant based diet. I have had horrible cramps and week long periods. Like an earlier poster if I don’t get the ibuprofen soon enough I am either going to throw it up or be really miserable on the floor for a few hours. I’ve tried cramp bark extract with valerian and that seemed to help, bit again I needed to take it in time. I’m looking forward to trying​ out the ginger to see how well it works. The ibuprofen route is beginning to be problematic for my poor stomach and the other over the counter drugs are not as effective.




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  4. OK, so I have a problem with ginger. I used to take powdered ginger for rheumatoid arthritis and it surely looked like it worked… but my stomach’s condition got terrible… always after ginger ingestion – acute pains in the vicinity of stomach. Now I’ve been diagnosed (endoscopically) with gastritis (stomach inflammation and morphological changes, overgrowth that reflect that inflammation) so it’s a confirmation of what I felt. Of course ginger was only one of many things that irritated my stomach but one of the most prominent. So I had to stop it and it’s a pity.
    I started spreading all of my supplements over the food, including the contents of all capsules. Effective, but not in case of ginger whose taste is unbearable.
    So I have a problem with it and it would probably be good to restart it but how do I do that?

    One more thing comes to my mind – completely unrelated to ginger but related to pouring out the contents of your supplement capsules and how I actually started pouring out these.
    I used to take butyrate, specifically sodium butyrate, microencapsulated in coconut oil. This microencapsulation was advertised as something great, when in fact it was a BS. First off, microcapsules were supposed to be dissolved in the contents of your gut then butyrate was supposed to be released gradually over your entire gut. In fact the microcapsules used to compact themselves to form clumps (as I saw in the fecies) and perhaps butyrate was released gradually over your entire gut but as a matter of fact it was not something that good. This is because when I supplement with butyrate I expect it to help me in the stomach and small intestine and not the large intestine where the bacteria produce it in a great aboundance. Though there is no bacteria in small intestines to produce butyrate in the small intestine, it still reacts greatly to it, and the cells within it feed on butyrate. And that’s the whole point of taking butyrate… Manufacturers other than the one in my country figured it out long time ago and provide with enteric coated tablets… and so I order butyrate from abroad…
    In order to use this supplement up I started spreading it all over the food…
    Anyways, as you can see, you have to be very careful with the supplements you take because it’s easy to waste your money. And in my case WFPB diet will not help (it will help but only after my gut heals) – I have to at least help myself with supplements and/or drugs.




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  5. I have similar painful reaction to ginger as Mick has described. Although I use grated ginger frequently in indian dishes I cook, I am conscious of the amount and will leave it out sometimes. It feels like intense burning.. I cant understand how people can use it regularly for upset stomach or nausea! The other substance that does this is aloe vera ,even organic etc.. I have seen citric acid on ingredient labels for bottles of aloe vera so maybe that is partly the cause.




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    1. I grind ginger, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, toasted sesame seeds, flax seed, and chia seed together in a magic bullet, then add the mixture to applesauce, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds (and usually blueberries).




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  6. I used to find ginger too strong tasting. Then I made thin slices, like for sushi, and then I minced them. Now I spread it out over the salad or casserole dish. Tastes great and is not too strong.
    John S




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    1. Yes. Not only ibuprofen but also all other NSAIDs. Even meloxicam which is inhibitor only for COX-2 is supposed to irritate stomach lining. A few weeks ago I visited rheumatologist and he wanted me to start taking antiacid esomeprasole because I take meloxicam… I said “but it’s only COX-2 inhibitor”, he said “Yup, but even so one should take antiacid protection”. Despite the prescription I still don’t take this esomeprasole because first you’d need to have any acid in your stomach and I don’t. I base my antiacid protection on Zinc-Carnosine complex, glutamine, curcumin and a few other supplements. All these were incredibly effective until yesterday I ate some candies and 1) my stomach started hurting, 2) my joints started hurting…
      I guess I’ll need to better stick to the plan that I set up for myself… :-(
      Why on earth even such a small amount of sugar has such terrible effects…




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  7. I have a similar question as Anne. In the study presented in this video, how were the participants in the study consuming the ginger? In what form — powder, capsule, freshly ground, etc.? Does it make a difference?




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  8. I only eat meat and meat products during the weekend. I started adding 2 tsp of ginger powder to my daily cup of green tea . After 3 months, the pain intensity reduced such that I only need 1 or 2 200 mg pills of ibuprofen for the first two days of my period. Before the WFPB and the ginger,the cramps were so bad I used to take 2 pills daily in the 2 days before my period and 6 pills daily for the first 2 days during my period . It was either ibuprofen or the contraceptive pill (which my body never worked well with). So heavy ibuprofen was the only way to remain functional. So my case report is that ginger + WFPB diet works.
    Now the only issues I have are the PMS symptoms. Two days before and during 3 days of my period, I become irritable, lack energy and experience brain fog. These affect my job performance and those who know me well, can tell when I am at the mercy of these hormones ! I eat beans every single day , 3 times a day and green leafy vegetables 3 times a day. But I think I could still be anemic. Dr G has talked extensively about how inflammatory iron is so I do not want to supplement or go back to eating red meat . Does anyone have any tips of how to manage these symptoms?




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  9. I would love some more information about the relevance of a completely plant based diet for children. Is it possible they have different dietary requirements for their body and brain growth? Or do they also benefit equally from avoiding meat and dairy completely?




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    1. jodi: It’s a great question! Below is some information that I usually share with people who are interested in feeding children an ultra-healthy diet, but aren’t sure if a whole plant food based diet would work. I hope this answers your question.
      *************************

      First, note the following quote from a position paper from the ADA: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
      .
      Also note this quote from Dr. Greger’s book, How Not To Die, page 411-412: “Vitamin B12-fortified plant-based diets can offer health benefits for all stages of the life cycle. [When] Dr. Benjamin Spock, the most esteemed pediatrician of all time,…died at ninety-four, he advocated children be raised on a plant-based diet with no exposure to meat or dairy products. … ‘Children who grow up getting their nutrition from plant foods have a tremendous health advantage and are much less likely to develop health problems as the years go by.’ ”
      .
      But having said that, there are some ‘gotchas’ when it comes to young children and whole plant food diets (just like there are gotchas with children and any diet). So, it really is worth spending some time reviewing accurate, evidence-based information on the topic. Here’s some ideas for specifics:
      .
      PCRM is the Physician’s Committee For Responsible Medicine, headed up by Dr. Barnard. Dr. Greger has mentioned Dr. Barnard and PCRM favorably in posts and his book. Here are two articles from PCRM that I think contains the type of information you are looking for:
      http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/vegetarian-diets-for-children-right-from-the-start
      http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/info_children.pdf
      http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/info_advchild.pdf
      .
      I’ll also refer you to a site called the Vegetarian Resource Group, VRG. Their articles are usually very well researched and Dr. Greger has mentioned VRG favorably at least once. VRG has a whole section on kids on their website.
      Here’s the main page. Scroll down to the Nutrition section:
      http://www.vrg.org/family/kidsindex.htm
      This is one of my favorite articles on that page. which starts with babies and goes on up:
      http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/kids.php
      .
      Finally, I highly recommend getting a book called, Becoming Vegan, Express Edition. That book is a great over-all reference book for the whole family. It also has an entire chapter on children and what to feed. The authors of that book have been guest bloggers here on NutritionFacts. They are very well respected and extremely knowledgeable about nutrition science and how it applies to all ages.




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  10. Hello Al,
    Sorry to hear about your PMS. I will give a few suggestions, although you might prefer to hear from a female provider who has actually suffered from PMS! If you use the “Search” bar at the top of the web-page, and enter “PMS” you’ll come up with a number of videos Dr. G. has done on the subject:
    1) http://nutritionfacts.org/video/saffron-for-the-treatment-of-pms/ This one, from 10/17/2012, plus two others on the two subsequent days, all tout the benefits of saffron.
    2) http://nutritionfacts.org/video/fennel-seeds-for-menstrual-cramps-and-pms/. This one reports that fennel seeds can also help with the pain of menses, and says that ginger helps with the PMS symptoms. You’re already using ginger, so no extra help there, but it may give you some peace of mind that you’re doing the right thing.
    3) http://nutritionfacts.org/video/dietary-treatment-for-painful-menstrual-periods/. This one mentions Vitamin D as being helpful; also points out that simply eating a plant-based diet helps.

    If you try these things and get no help, you may want to consider seeing a good Ob/Gyn doctor. Sometimes taking a low dose of a diuretic for the last 10 days of your cycle can help. Finally, consider trying a plant estrogen such as black cohosh.

    I hope this helps. Dr. Jon (Volunteer moderator, and family doctor)




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  11. I have a full tear of my PCL which I have not had surgery on. I’ve read that some people, particularly athletes, who have this injury and do not get it operated on end up with a lot of arthritis pretty early in life in that knee. When I learned this I started making sure I got more ginger in my diet to try to help prevent problems. I was wondering though, do we know anything about the outcomes of arthritis in the knee with a PCL injury if the person is on a plant based diet? I have a consultation coming up soon with a surgeon to get their appointment because if the long term outcomes aren’t good I’d rather have the surgery while I’m still relatively young and can heal faster. But I also don’t want to have surgery if I don’t really have to have it. I’d appreciate any advice on how I can improve my outcomes and minimize the need for surgery, or help determining if the surgery if necessary even if I am compensating for arthritis with a plant based diet.

    Thanks!




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  12. I know low level dehydration can make night time leg cramps more likely, I’m not sure how this common problem affects menstrual cramping. Magnesium deficiency can help cause cramps also. I wouldn’t use a lot of ginger every day as it may inhibit iron absorption according to Phyllis Balch, CNC in her book about Herbal Healing.




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  13. i was starving when i was a teenager and now is few years later and i lost my period …. how can i get it back?? ( now i have normal body fat percentige )




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  14. The last sentence in this video was very irresponsible- sure, ibuprofen will work better on an empty stomach, but it might also give you an ulcer in the stomach and duodenum. I learned that from first-hand experience. You HAVE to eat before you take NSAIDs in order to protect your stomach.




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  15. Julia,

    I would encourage you to maximize your nutrient density for food…..what that means is really packing in the high quality PBWF’s and making a concerted effort to do this regularly.

    Couple this with a visit to your physician and ask that they evaluate both your hormone and iron (ferritin/etc.) levels along with other measures as a starting point. There are so many impacts of starvation, especially as a youngster, that a complete and thorough medical workup is in order. I suspect you will find the need for some specific supplementation in addition to the diet approaches and will not only regain your cycle but also find your energy and brainpower enhanced.

    Be patient as it may be from months to a year or so to address the underlying deficiencies and see great response. Good news….it’s probably changeable with some inputs so well worth the efforts. Dr. Alan Kadish moderator for Dr. Greger




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