In this month’s edition of the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers compared the use of ginger to placebo for the treatment of menstrual cramps. For those given ginger, the dose was 500 milligrams three times per day starting two days before the onset of menstruation and continued for 5 days. Pain intensity decreased by an average of 22% while pain duration decreased an average of 24% in the ginger group. These changes were significantly greater than those for placebo.
Primary dysmenorrhea or painful menstrual cramping occurs in up to half of all menstruating females. This disorder can affect the performance of daily activities and contribute to lost work and missed school. One of the reasons for menstrual cramps may be the over production of prostaglandins (termed cyclooxygenase or COX-2) which can be inhibited by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, NSAIDs are not always effective for this disorder. Ginger is derived from the plant Zingiber officinale and contains compounds that also inhibit the COX-2 prostaglandins.
While the relative decrease in pain intensity and duration were only modest, this study suggests that ginger might be a safe supplement that might be added to other treatments for menstrual cramps.