Ginger is a flowering plant native to several Asian countries, as well as West Africa and the Caribbean. It has been used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries and has been applied to treat a range of conditions from motion sickness to digestive problems.
- Studies have shown that ginger can have a positive impact on reducing inflammation and discomfort in people with arthritis when compared to control groups.
- The medicinal properties of ginger are derived from the root or rhizome of the plant, and its stem.
- Ginger is best consumed raw but is available in powder form, capsules, and oils, or as juice.
How does ginger work?
Inflammation is an essential immune response that allows the body to heal wounds and fight infections. The capacity for ginger to reduce inflammation is what underlies many of its medical uses.
Inflammation describes the self-protective process by which the body releases white blood cells to combat infection and clear out harmful organisms, such as bacteria.
Inflammation can cause discomfort, particularly when it is chronic. Inflammation is common in many types of arthritis and contributes towards pain around the affected joints.
The primary therapeutic goal of treating arthritis is to minimize the discomfort it causes, as there are currently no cures for the condition.
What does the evidence say?
Ginger is generally considered beneficial for treating the symptoms of arthritis, not the cause.
One study included 247 participants with a common type of arthritis called osteoarthritis. The study found that those given ginger capsules twice a day for 6 months had a significantly greater reduction in pain than a control group. However, these participants were also more likely to experience side effects, such as heartburn, than the control group.
Other studies have indicated that ginger may be comparable to ibuprofen in terms of effectiveness.
A recent review concluded that people with osteoarthritis experienced a 30 percent greater pain reduction than a control group, and they were twice as likely to discontinue their treatment compared to a control group.
The benefits of consuming ginger are not restricted to osteoarthritis but can also reduce inflammation in other common forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
These pain-relieving properties of ginger have been extended to the treatment of muscular pain. A 2010 study found that consuming either raw or heated ginger caused a moderate to a large reduction in muscular pain, following an injury.
The overall consensus
The majority of current studies indicate the benefits of ginger, but some studies have also found no effect of ginger on relieving pain or reducing inflammation in arthritis.
While more research is needed to provide any definitive answers, ginger is not considered harmful and is more likely to be useful in managing the symptoms of arthritis.
How to take ginger
Ginger can be consumed raw or in powdered form. It can be consumed on its own and can be readily bought, as a capsule for oral consumption.
People use ginger in cooking, particularly in Asian dishes, such as stir-fry or curry. Alternatively, it can be brewed, as a tea, or made into syrup to flavor cold drinks.
Ginger can also be applied directly to inflamed areas of the body in the form of a cream or oil.
Dosage should be kept around 2-4 grams (g), taken up to 3 times per day. However, it is recommended not to exceed 4 g per day.
Is it safe?
To avoid the risk of an allergic reaction when taking ginger, test a product containing ginger oil on the skin. If a reaction occurs, it may be a sign of a ginger allergy.
The consumption of ginger is considered to be safe in small doses. Side effects are mild and rare, typically only occurring when more than 4 g are consumed per day.
If ginger is consumed orally, these side effects are usually gastrointestinal issues, for example, heartburn or indigestion.
Applying ginger to the skin can result in other side effects, including irritation and rashes.
It is important to consult with a doctor before taking ginger, as it may not be appropriate for everyone. Caution is used with individuals who have:
- blood disorders
Ginger can also interfere with certain medications, including blood-thinning drugs.
Furthermore, it is possible to be allergic to ginger. This can be determined by applying a small amount of ginger cream to the skin. If any side effects, such as skin irritation or rashes appear within 24 hours, it may be a sign of an allergy.
Is it worth taking?
Assuming there are no allergies, adding ginger to a person’s diet is the safest way to introduce the medicinal effects of ginger to the body.
Supplements, herbs, and topical creams with ginger in them are not monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and there may be concerns with safety, purity, or quality.
Using up to 4 g of ginger per day could be beneficial for managing symptoms of arthritis, and this quantity is relatively safe to consume. Ginger is easy to ingest as a capsule, apply to skin or incorporate into a healthful diet.
For most people, it is worth trying ginger and seeing how the body responds. However, it is sensible to seek advice from a doctor before taking ginger, to check it is appropriate.
There are also several notable alternatives to ginger. Examples include turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne or garlic. These spices have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may be useful in treating arthritis.
Other methods of arthritis relief
One way of stopping the discomfort of arthritis is to reduce inflammation around the joints.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can be used to reduce inflammation. NSAIDs operate by disrupting the production of enzymes that cause inflammation and discomfort.
The compounds in ginger have also been found to inhibit these troublesome enzymes and may function in a similar way to NSAIDs.
Similarly, it is possible that ginger is able to turn off certain genes that cause inflammation, thus making it a powerful alternative to NSAIDs.