Ginger and Migraine
Ginger is a tropical plant. Its fragrant root has been used for cooking and folk medicine for centuries. It is an important herb in Indian, Chinese, and Japanese medicine.1
Testing shows that the ginger plant has chemical compounds that may have a wide range of health benefits. It is used for nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, arthritis, menstrual pain, weight loss, motion sickness, and morning sickness. However, research has not confirmed that ginger helps all of these conditions.2,3
Ginger has also been used to treat headaches, including migraine. Because nausea and vomiting are common migraine symptoms, many try ginger for relief.
Ginger and migraine research
Most research has focused on using ginger supplements in powder form in food or drink. One study found that ginger powder worked as well as the drug sumatriptan (brand name Imitrex) to relieve migraine severity after 2 hours. The ginger powder had fewer side effects than sumatriptan.4
Another study compared ginger to a placebo (fake pill) or an IV drug. Each person was given either 400 mg of ginger extract or a placebo, in addition to an IV anti-inflammatory drug called ketoprofen. Those who took ginger reported less pain and fewer migraine symptoms at 1, 1.5, and 2 hours after treatment.5
However, another study found ginger was no better than a placebo to prevent migraine.6
More studies are needed to determine whether or how ginger should be used for migraine.
Ways to get ginger into your diet
Side effects of ginger
Ginger has few side effects when it is taken in small doses, used on the skin, or cooked in food. Some people feel side effects, especially when taking large doses of ginger. These side effects include:1,2
- Stomach discomfort
- Mouth and throat irritation
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Heavier menstrual periods
- Skin irritation (if put on the skin)
These are not all the possible side effects of too much ginger. Talk with your doctor right away if you notice these signs and stop consuming ginger.
Who should not take ginger?
Ginger can increase your risk of bleeding and affect blood clotting. You should not use ginger if you have:2
- A bleeding or blood clot disorder
- Any heart condition
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before you take ginger.1,2
Things to know about ginger
You should not take different types of ginger at the same time. This means you should not add ginger to your food and take it in pill form too.2
Do not take ginger with other herbs that affect blood clotting. This includes angelica, clove, garlic, ginkgo, horse chestnut, and turmeric.2
You should not mix ginger with other herbs that can lower blood sugar. This includes garlic, fenugreek, and the fiber supplement psyllium.2
As always, the best source for advice on treating migraine is your own migraine specialist. Ginger may be “natural,” but it can affect your health and interact with other drugs you take.