PAINFUL menstruation for women comes with discomfort every month. It is one of the leading reasons why women miss work. This regular monthly pain is also one of the leading reasons for regular use of painkillers.
Painkillers like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or the contraceptive pill have been used but more women are looking for non-drug therapies, including herbal and dietary treatments.
But scientific evidence suggests that ginger was as effective as mefenamic acid and ibuprofen, both NSAIDs, in relieving pain in women with primary dysmenorrhoea (the medical term for menstrual pain). Mefenamic acid and ibuprofen are the drugs of choice for treating primary dysmenorrhoea, with up to 80 percent efficiency.
In a study, researchers compared the effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in 150 students (18 years old and over) with primary dysmenorrhoea at two medical universities in Iran.
Students in the ginger group took 250 mg capsules of ginger rhizome powder four times a day for three days from the start of their menstrual period. Members of the other groups received 250 mg mefenamic acid or 400 mg ibuprofen capsules, respectively.
A verbal multidimensional scoring system was used for assessing the severity of menstrual pain. The severity of disease, pain relief, and satisfaction with the treatment was compared between the groups after one menstruation.
At the end of treatment, the severity of menstrual pain decreased in all groups and no differences were found between the groups in severity of dysmenorrhoea, pain relief, or satisfaction with the treatment. No severe side effects occurred.
Considering this evidence, the researchers in the 2009 publication of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, suggested that ginger had anti-prostaglandin effects similar to those of mefenamic acid and ibuprofen, and gingerols may be the therapeutic substance for these effects.
Prostaglandin is a class of pro-inflammatory chemicals involved in triggering the muscle contractions that help the womb shed its lining. And the onset of menstrual cramps appears to be linked to excessive production of prostaglandins.
They declared that painful menses is sometimes associated with nausea and vomiting and that ginger also works to alleviate these symptoms.
The efficacy of ginger in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced delayed nausea and nausea and vomiting in pregnancy and after surgery has been reported, with minor side effects.
Experts have previously warned that the dosage of dry powder of ginger should be limited to less than 6 grammes on an empty stomach. More than 6g of dry powder of ginger can cause affect the stomach lining of humans. It can also result in sensitivity reactions, dermatitis and, at high doses, in the depression of the nervous system.
Furthermore, in 2014, another randomised clinical study in the Archives of Gynaecology and Obstetrics from Iran demonstrate that lower doses of ginger similarly resulted in reduced pain intensity in the first and second months; it was not different from mefenamic acid.
In the clinical trial, 250mg ginger was prescribed every six hours from the onset of menstruation until pain relief lasted two cycles, suggesting ginger as an alternative treatment without any adverse effect, including diarrhoea and heartburn. It involved 120 students with moderate to severe painful menses.
In addition, there’s some evidence that ginger may help control heavy menstrual bleeding. In a clinical trial published in Phytotherapy Research in 2015, for instance, 92 women struggling with heavy menstrual bleeding were treated with either ginger or a placebo for three menstrual periods.
At the end of the study, researchers found that levels of menstrual blood loss dramatically declined among study participants who received ginger.
So far, scientific support also supports the claim that increased intake of Omega-3-fatty acids that are present in fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines is also helpful.
At least eight studies involving a total of 1,097 women have investigated the relationship between diet and menstrual cramps and have found that fish oil intake seemed to have a positive effect on menstrual cramps.
In 2001, researchers with the Cochrane Collaboration in a review of three small studies submitted that magnesium was more effective than placebo for pain relief and the need for additional medication was less with magnesium use.
Furthermore, pure honey consumption in women, who suffer from menstrual pain, reduces significantly the severity of pain and amount of bleeding.
The study in the 2012 Evidence-Based Care edition involved 60 female students. It compared the effect of pure and impure honey on the severity of pain, amount of bleeding, and the duration and interval of menstrual cycles in female students with menstrual pain.[logo-slider]