Does ginger really have medicinal properties?

Ginger is a flowering plant. Its root is often used for cooking. Its sharp, distinct flavor is unmistakable, and many people appreciate its aromatic taste.

In addition to its culinary uses, ginger has served as a folk medicine for centuries.

Ginger has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer properties. Because of this, it’s thought to boost your overall immunity.

For people with arthritis, its anti-inflammatory properties are of particular benefit. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory compounds that function in the same way as COX-2 inhibitors. COX-2 inhibitors are drugs used to treat pain and inflammation.

Keep reading to learn more about how ginger is used for arthritis, its other benefits, and potential side effects.

What the research says about ginger and arthritis

To date, studies exploring ginger’s potential as an effective treatment for arthritis have had mixed outcomes. More specific research involving ginger as a medicine for humans is needed.

One 2000 study found that ginger extract was as effective as ibuprofen in the first treatment period of a cross-over study. Researchers in a 2016 study found that ginger and echinacea supplements effectively reduced inflammation and pain after knee surgery.

Researchers in one 2001 study found that highly concentrated doses of ginger extract were effective in treating people with osteoarthritis of the knee. Before beginning the study, the participants experienced moderate-to-severe knee pain. Taking ginger extract helped to reduce knee pain upon standing and after walking. Overall, reported side effects were primarily limited to mild abdominal discomfort.

The results of one 2002 animal study using rats suggest that ginger can help to relieve joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis. Ginger was shown to reduce inflammation when taken in high doses for four weeks.

Researchers in one 2010 study found that ginger was an effective pain reliever for human muscle pain resulting from an exercise-induced injury. Participants who ingested two grams of either raw ginger or heated ginger experienced reduced pain and inflammation. Heat-treated ginger was thought to have a stronger effect, but both types of ginger were found to be equally helpful.

Applying a cream or gel containing ginger directly onto the affected area may also be beneficial. According to the results of one 2015 study, ginger extract is able to improve osteoarthritis in knees when applied topically. Participants applied ginger extract three times per day for 12 weeks. During this time, they experienced reduced levels of pain and other symptoms.

Other benefits of ginger

Ginger has numerous other benefits that can help to improve other aspects of your health as well.

For example, drinking ginger tea may help fight off a cold. Researchers in one 2016 animal study gave fish a daily ginger supplement for 60 days. They found that the fish were able to better fight certain infections. The fish also experienced a boost in overall immunity and growth rates.

Ginger may also help with nausea, vomiting, and other abdominal issues. Researchers in one 2017 study found that ginger was effective in lessening the frequency and severity of vomiting after cataract surgery. Ginger worked best when it was taken in two separate 500 milligram doses before the surgery.

Overall, a 2014 review of studies shows the therapeutic potential of ginger to be very promising.

The research presented shows that ginger may help prevent, fight, or treat:

More research is needed to determine its efficacy in humans for certain symptoms or conditions.

Check out: Natural home remedies for osteoarthritis »

How to take ginger for inflammation and pain

Depending on your individual needs, ginger can be used as a:

  • topical cream, gel, or essential oil
  • capsule
  • tincture
  • tea

Concentrated forms generally provide the best benefit.

Whatever form you choose, take care to select a high-quality supplement that uses organic ginger. If possible, look for a brand that uses supercritical fluid extraction. You should also try to avoid products that contain additives.

If you opt for supplements, be sure to take them with food. If you ingest concentrated ginger without food, it can cause an upset stomach. You may also drink it as a tea or add it to various dishes to slightly boost your intake.

Learn more: 9 herbs to fight arthritis pain »

Risks and warnings

Although ginger is generally safe to consume, some people may experience mild side effects.

This includes:

  • gas
  • bloating
  • heartburn
  • nausea

Your risk for side effects increases if you ingest more than the recommended dose.

Talk to you doctor before ingesting ginger if you:

  • have diabetes
  • take blood thinners or blood pressure drugs
  • have a blood disorder
  • are pregnant
  • are underweight
  • have gallstones

If you opt to apply a ginger cream or gel, do an allergy test. Apply a dime-sized amount to your forearm. If you don’t experience any irritation or inflammation in about 24 hours, it should be safe to apply elsewhere.

If you’re using an essential oil, be sure to mix it with a carrier oil before applying directly to skin. You should also do an allergy test before doing a full application.

Read the packaging for information about potential side effects for ready-to-use products.

Check out: Best natural remedies for psoriatic arthritis »

The bottom line

For many people, ginger is an excellent addition to an arthritis treatment plan. In addition to relieving your arthritis symptoms, it can boost your overall immunity.

Be sure to check with your doctor before adding a ginger supplement or other ingested form to your regimen. They can confirm that ginger is safe for you to ingest and whether it will interact with any other medications you may be taking.

After you add ginger to your regimen, pay attention to how your body responds. You may even want to take a few simple notes each day once you begin to use it. This can help you assess whether you’re experiencing any positive changes or new side effects.

If you begin experiencing any adverse side effects, discontinue use and see your doctor.

Keep reading: Exercise and other natural remedies for arthritis »