Foods & Health

Using Ginger Root for Pain Relief

Ginger root is more than just a tasty cooking herb, it is also excellent for pain relief.

Ginger root is more than just a tasty cooking herb, it is also excellent for pain relief.

You may already know about some of the ways ginger root helps in healing. For example, used fresh it is an excellent choice for relieving nausea. You will also see it in formulas for helping with indigestion, cough and early stage cold symptoms.

But one of the best uses for ginger root is in relieving pain. Its uses for pain relief cover many different kinds of pain. Here are some of the documented uses for it:

  • Abdominal cramps from diverticulosis or Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Alleviating exercise-induced muscle pain
  • Reducing joint pain from osteoarthritis & rheumatoid arthritis
  • Alleviating migraine headaches
  • Toothache relief
  • Reducing menstrual pain

One study showed the power of ginger for reducing pain. The Journal of Pain published the results of this study in April 2010. Participants in this study were people who exercised regularly. The 74 subjects received either ginger or a placebo for 11 days. Some of those receiving ginger got unheated ginger and some go heat-treated ginger.

After the 11 days, they did a set of 18 arm ‘curls’ with a heavy weight. These exercises caused minor muscle injury to the arm. Over the next three days, subjects underwent tests for arm function, inflammation and pain.

Results showed that people taking ginger had 25% less pain than the placebo group. The reduction was the same for both heat-treated and unheated ginger. That means if you exercise and get sore muscles, ginger will help reduce the soreness. Notably, it does this without the side effects of NSAID drugs.

If this natural herbal pain remedy works for so many types of pain, how, exactly does it do this?

Recent research shows that ginger reduces the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. This is similar to how non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs work. However, unlike NSAIDs, ginger also counteracts some of the side effects seen in NSAID use. It does this by lowering production of Leukotriene B4. This means ginger has fewer side effects than drugs.

Ginger also decreases the action of a number of genes that add to the inflammatory response. That means it reduces chronic pain at a deeper level. This is probably part of why ginger helps reduce joint pain.

In addition, for people who still feel the need for anti-inflammatory drugs there is an extra bonus. At least one study shows that ginger protects the stomach from the toxic effects of NSAIDs.

You can find ginger in capsules, liquid tinctures and pill form. Ginger is also available fresh in the produce section of most grocery stores.

All the best to you for your health and happiness,

Dr. Bruce Eichelberger

Dr. Bruce



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Ginger – the herbal aspirin? Part 2. Mediherb Professional Newsletter. 53:1-2, 1996.

Hadley, S. K., et al. Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. American Family Physician. 72(12):2501-2506, 2005.

Cady, R. K., et al. Gelstat Migraine (sublingually administered feverfew and ginger compound) for acute treatment of migraine when administered during the mild pain phase. Med Sci Monit. 11(9):PPI65-PI69, 2005.

Butlin, J. The use of herbs and phytonutrients in pain and inflammation. Positive Health. 60, 2001.

Ozgoli, G., et al. Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 15(2): 129-132, 2009.

Grzanna, R., et al. Ginger – an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions. Journal of Medicinal Food. 8(2):125-132, 2005.

Christopher D. Black, Matthew P. Herring, David J. Hurley, Patrick J. O’Connor. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Reduces Muscle Pain Caused by Eccentric Exercise.” The Journal of Pain, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.12.013

5 replies on “Using Ginger Root for Pain Relief”

This post was such a great find for me, as I was just discussing what role ginger root may play in alternative medicine. I was not prepared for exactly how useful it can be! It alleviates pain from IBS. Fascinating!

Ginger works as well or better than prescription dugs for me, without the annoying side effects of ear ringing (ala Celebrex and such), and less expensive as well. I have had severe pain in my right knee and hip (as well as other bits that come and go 🙂 for over four years, as well as chronic red eyes and sinus problems. Since beginning to take ginger capsules, I have days when I am almost pain free. My sinuses have mostly cleared, my stomach never gives me grief and I sleep better. The only other drug that I have tried that worked better was a limited course of Prednisone given for a sinus infection (and that drug is very powerful and has aweful side effects when taken too long)

I started when I realized I had a craving for root beer and ginger ale. Hmmm… Both are made with extracts from root plants. I did a bit of net research and ginger is easier to find than Sassafras, so I started taking several 550 mg caps of powdered ginger root a day. It started working within a day, no longer than any other prescription NSAID I have tried, and since there seems to be little danger from taking too much, I have gradually increased my daily intake over the last several months to the point that taking more has little or no effect.

I take 4 to 6 (depending how I feel) upon waking, with plenty of water. Two before lunch and two after, then 2 to 4 more in the late afternoon. At home after work I take another two before and after dinner and some before bed. It sounds like a lot, I know, and I regulate how many I take depending on how much pain I have. The only physical side effects I have noticed are a slight jittery feeling (similar to drinking to much coffee) and a very slight ear ringing (similar to taking Celbrex, but an order of magnitude less severe).

My initial symptoms, besides pain, at it worst, were the inability to walk and also navigate stairs, either up or down. I still have instability walking down stairs, but I have not needed to use a cane to walk since I started using ginger. I was actually able to beat the light at a crosswalk last week. Yay. Small victories, I know, but important milestones in recovery for me 🙂

thanks for all your words. I have chronic upper back pain and the doctors can’t find a reason for it….may be polymyalgia rheumatica. I will try ginger and see what happens.

Hi Paula,

Ginger is definitely worth a try. I’ve also found many people reduce or eliminate chronic pain by making dietary adjustments.

All the best,

Dr. Bruce

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