Ginger for the treatment of migraine headaches: an introduction

Ginger, a commonly-used cooking spice, has been used for at least 2,000 years as a natural remedy for nausea, diarrhea, upset stomach and to aid digestion. Some research suggests that as early as the 1500’s ginger was used in Asian cultures. Ginger is well known for combating nausea. In fact, numerous supplements designed to combat nausea contain ginger extract.

It has also been used to treat headaches, including migraines. Because nausea and vomiting are common migraine symptoms, ginger is also helpful in offering some migraine sufferers relief of their stomach upset.

A 2002 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey found that 24% of the 30,000 people polled have tried ginseng.

How to find Ginger

Ginger is the underground stem of the plant with the Latin name Zingiber officinale. It grows in the tropics and has green and purple flowers. The thick, tan-colored underground stem is used as a spice and as a natural remedy.

Ginger root to stop migraine – how does it work

Ginger contains more than 200 substances in its oils, which is why it has so many different uses. It is believed that ginger may block prostiglandins, which stimulate some muscle contractions, control inflammation and impact some hormones. Therefore migraines may be prevented and stopped by ginger stifling the action of prostiglandins.

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Studies on Ginger and Migraines

One over-the-counter remedy containing ginger and feverfew is called GelStat Migraine. The product is applied and absorbed under the tongue, for faster delivery. GelStat’s makers say sublingual treatments take eight minutes to reach their peak level in the body, compared to 70 minutes for a tablet or capsule. One study of 40 migraine sufferers released at the 2006 American Academy of Neurology annual meeting compared GelStat with an inactive placebo. Here are the results:

  • Some pain relief after two hours : GelStat 65%, Placebo 36%
  • Complete freedom from pain at two hours : GelStat 19%, Placebo 7%

Formulations of Ginger available

  • Fresh, whole ginger root
  • Ground ginger root
  • Powder
  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • Topical formulations (to be applied to the skin)
  • Chewable wafers
  • Tea bags and liquid teas
  • Oil
  • Syrup
  • Liquid extract drops
  • Lollipops
  • Softgels
  • Time released supplements
  • Liquid tonic, elixirs and other drinks
  • Chewable tablets
  • Chewing gum

Side effects and other precautions

There are not many side effects linked to ginger when it is taken in small doses.

Powdered ginger and ginger supplements have been associated with:

  • Gas, belching
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Irritation or bad taste in the mouth
  • Heartburn
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Who should nottake Ginger root to stop migraine

Women who are pregnant, may become pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn’t take large doses of ginger nor should they take ginger for long periods of time. A doctor should be consulted before beginning to take ginger.

People with gallstones, ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease or blocked intestines as well as those taking medicines that weaken the immune system should check with their doctor before using ginger and should avoid large amounts of freshly cut ginger.

Ginger may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with blood thinners, although this has not been proven in clinical study. It may also increase the effects of medications that slow thinking or cause drowsiness. Ginger may interfere or interact with heart medications, vasodilators, any drugs that are broken down by the liver, as well as drugs for nausea, vomiting, arthritis, blood disorders, high cholesterol, blood pressure, allergies, cancer, inflammation, stomach acid or weight loss.

Ginger may have a negative impact if taken with large amounts of calcium.

As always, the best source for advice on treating your migraines is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or supplement without first checking with your physician. Again, this information should in no way substitute or be mistaken for medical advice.