Period pain is common: three in four girls and women experience pain during their periods. Every tenth person suffers from very severe cramps in the abdomen.
Many girls and women want to get their period pains under control without medication and try home remedies. A common tip is ginger. We researched whether the Asian bulb can actually relieve period pain.
1- Small effect possible
To do this, we searched three research databases for scientific answers. In summary, the best studies currently available suggest that ginger might help. However, the pain relieving effect is likely to be minor.
The study participants took the ginger as a powder in the form of capsules for a maximum of 2 months. Then they rated their pain on a scale from 0 (none) to 10 (extreme pain):
- Without ginger , menstrual pain was around 5.5 on this scale.
- With ginger , the pain was on average 4 .
The period pain has improved by 1.5 points on a scale from 0 to 10.
However, these results are not well supported because the studies are inadequate. For a clear answer, larger studies are necessary that are carried out more strictly according to scientific requirements.
According to the authors, undesirable side effects did not occur more frequently than with placebo capsules without an active ingredient. This suggests that it should be safe to take.
2- What helps with menstrual pain?
The effectiveness of anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen or diclofenac is well established. However, these drugs can cause side effects such as stomach upset, nausea, or headache and drowsiness.
The birth control pill can prevent menstrual pain because it reduces the amount of menstrual bleeding.
Among the dietary supplements, we took a closer look at magnesium: Period pain: Does magnesium help ?
3- Painful rejection
The lining of the uterus rebuilds itself cycle by cycle. If a woman does not become pregnant, the body sheds this mucous membrane with the menstrual period.
The uterus contracts again and again. The mucous membrane separates from the wall of the uterus to flow away mixed with blood. Some women hardly feel this contraction. Others get painful cramps.
The studies in detail
Two research groups wanted to know independently whether ginger could relieve menstrual pain. To do this, they looked for all randomized controlled studies that had been carried out to date. This type of study can best clarify whether a treatment is effective.
The two research groups found three such studies with a total of 266 participants, randomly divided into two groups. One group took ginger capsules regularly, the other took placebo capsules without active ingredient. At the end it was compared whether the pain differed significantly in the groups.
In their analyzes, they came to the same conclusion: the combined results of the three studies carefully suggest that ginger capsules can reduce pain by an average of 1.5 points on a scale from 0 to 10.
The fact that the effectiveness is not well established is due to the limited informative value of the individual studies evaluated in the reviews. The group assignment in a study should not have been random. So perhaps the two groups already differed in important characteristics before the start of the study, such as age, period length or the amount of bleeding. So comparing the two groups wasn’t exactly fair.
It is also unclear whether the participants and study directors were always blinded – i.e. they did not know who got the real ginger capsules and who got the placebo capsules. Perhaps because of the lack of blinding, the expectations associated with the knowledge have distorted the result.
The authors of the studies did not always publish all data. This makes the study results difficult to understand for other researchers.
The three studies were conducted in very different ways. Still, ginger showed little pain relieving effect in all three.
Questionable comparison with pain relievers
In addition to the three studies with the placebo comparison, we also found three other studies that compared ginger with anti-inflammatory pain relievers. Even if their results suggest it: They cannot reliably prove that ginger works as well as pain relievers. Because they have deficiencies that are too severe for that.
In two studies, ginger capsules seemed to work just as well as the pain reliever mefenamic acid in a dose of 250 mg. However, the standard dosage of this drug is 500 mg. One of the two studies also has major flaws: the group allocation was neither random nor were the participants blinded. In the other study, at least these deficiencies cannot be ruled out.
The third study compared ginger capsules with a combination of ibuprofen, acetaminophen and caffeine. The study is a crossover study in which half of the test subjects received ginger in the first month and pain medication in the second month. With the rest it was exactly the opposite. The order was determined by chance.
There were no differences between the two groups in this study either. So this would suggest that ginger works just as well (or badly) as the combination agent. However: The significance of these results is very poor.
The data from the first and second month have been added up, although the severity of the symptoms can vary greatly from period to period. In addition, there were differences between the groups that made a comparison unfair even before the study began. The data on the severity of the pain are also incomplete.