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Ginger is an aromatic spice, but people also use it in traditional and modern medicines. It has anti-inflammatory properties that may help manage the inflammation and pain of arthritis. Ginger is a flowering plant native to several Asian countries, West Africa, and the Caribbean. It is related to cardamom and turmeric. People have used it in traditional Asian medicine for centuries. It may help with health issues ranging from cardiovascular disease to motion sickness, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
How does ginger work?
Ginger may help prevent and manage arthritis due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger contains a wide range of nutrients, including vitamin C; vitamin B6; the minerals magnesium, potassium, and copper; gingerols, shogaols, paradols, and other phytonutrients and polyphenols; Gingerol, shogaol, and paradols all have antioxidant properties, and gingerol and paradols are also anti-inflammatory.
Antioxidants help the body get rid of free radicals, which can lead to cell damage and inflammation. Inflammation occurs when the immune system tries to prevent damage to the body. It can lead to pain and swelling. Pain and inflammation are elements of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and some other types of arthritis. Consuming antioxidants helps prevent the cell damage involved in these conditions.
Doctors often recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as a treatment for arthritis. Ginger may be an additional option to help manage these symptoms.
What does the evidence say?
One older study looked at 247 people with osteoarthritis. The researchers found that those who took 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 (Advil) in terms of pain relief.
A 2015 review concluded that ginger was “modestly effective and reasonable safe” for people with osteoarthritis.
The anti-inflammatory effects of ginger may also make it useful for people with rheumatoid arthritis, according to some scientists. They call for more investigation into whether ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties could play a role in future drug treatments.
Ginger may also help reduce muscle pain.
Overall, many studies conclude that ginger is likely beneficial, but identifying its precise benefits and the best way, if any, to use it will require further research.
How to take ginger
Anyone interested in using ginger for health reasons should consult a healthcare professional first. This is important in preventing possible interactions between ginger and any medications.
People can use ginger in various ways. A person might try:
adding ginger root or powdered ginger to sweet or savory dishes
making ginger tea
taking it in capsules
sucking on lozenges
applying it to the skin in creams or oils
The maximum recommended intake is 4 grams (g)Trusted Source of ginger a day — and less if the person experiences adverse effects.
Is it safe?
Experts consider consuming small amounts of ginger to be safe. Adverse effects are mild and rare and typically only occur when a person consumes more than 6 g per day.
Consuming more than this can lead to: heartburn, indigestion, gastrointestinal reflux, diarrhea
bleeding problems in people taking warfarin (Coumadin), low blood pressure, a higher risk of gallstones, changes in heart rhythm, in rare cases.
There is a risk of other adverse effects, such as an allergic reaction, a rash, or irritation. Anyone who may be experiencing this should contact a healthcare professional.
It is important to consult a doctor before increasing the intake of ginger, as it may not be appropriate for everyone, and it may interact with some drugs, such as blood thinners.
Dosage and how to use ginger
Experts say that using up to 4 g of ginger per day could help manage arthritis symptoms, and this quantity is relatively safe to consume.
Ginger is easy to ingest in capsules. Alternately, a person might try adding it to their diet or using a ginger cream.
The Arthritis Foundation (AF) suggests taking ginger as a powder, extract, tincture, capsule, or oil. They recommend having a maximum of 2 g a day, divided into three doses, or drinking up to 4 cups of ginger tea daily.
Supplements, herbs, and topical creams with ginger in them are available for purchase online.
Importantly, the AF reports that only half of the products reviewed in one survey met quality requirements. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor supplements, including ginger products, and there may be concerns about their safety, purity, or quality.
Anyone interesting in using ginger should speak with their doctor, who may be able to recommend a suitable option.
Is it worth taking?
Assuming that a person does not have a ginger allergy, consuming ginger or applying a ginger cream or a similar product to the skin may help manage arthritis pain and inflammation and is likely safe, a 2020 review concludes. However, more research is needed, and not everyone may experience the benefits.
For anyone who is unsure, it may be worth trying ginger and seeing how the body responds. However, it is best to seek advice from a healthcare professional before taking ginger to ensure that it is safe.
People have used ginger in medicine for thousands of years. Experts say that consuming up to 4 g of ginger a day may help manage pain and inflammation and is likely safe.
A person might consume ginger in foods and drinks, take ginger capsules, or use a cream that contains it. However, speak with a healthcare professional first. Ginger may not be suitable for everyone, and there is a risk of interactions with medications, including blood thinners.
Medically reviewed by Kim Rose-Francis RDN, CDCES, CNSC, LD, Nutrition — By Aaron Kandola (medicalnewstoday).