Ginger root, obtained from the underground rhizome, or root, of the ginger plant has a long history of use in Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern cultures as a medicine. Ginger root has been used as an anti-inflammatory and an anti-emetic, which means it reduces nausea and vomiting. Ginger, which has been used by some alternative practitioners to decrease heavy menstrual flow, has several effects on menstruation.
Prostaglandins are hormones released at the time of menstruation to cause the uterus to contract and expel the tissue that makes up the thickened uterine lining. They are responsible for cramping. Women who have more of prostaglandins called PGE2 and PGF2 alpha, which cause inflammation and uterine spasms, often have heavier than normal menstrual periods. This condition is known as menorrhagia.
Ginger may have anti-inflammatory effects similar to ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory medications often used to treat menstrual cramps and heavy menstrual flow. Ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory medications inhibit prostaglandin production. Ginger also inhibits the pathways that lead to prostaglandin production, which reduces the cramping and inflammation related to menorrhagia.
Other Menstrual Effects
Ginger is traditionally used to encourage delayed menstruation, an article in the July 1996 "Vegetarian Times states. In Chinese medicine, a large dose of ginger 5 g is used to start a delayed period. Do not take this dose without your doctor's approval; some scientists have expressed concern that ginger in high doses could cause miscarriage, according to author Judith Benn Hurely.
Ginger appears to have properties similar to anti-inflammatory medications, which can decrease heavy menstrual flow. However, ginger, like many herbs, also has blood-thinning properties that could increase bleeding in people who take medications that interfere with blood clotting, such as aspirin, or in women who have underlying bleeding disorders. Talk with your medical practitioner before using ginger to treat menstrual conditions.
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Ginger; Steven D. Ehrlich; November 2008
- "Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine;" Comparison of Effects of Ginger, Mefenamic Acid, and Ibuprofen on Pain in Women with Primary Dysmenorrhea; G. Ozgoli, et al.; July 2008
- "Vegetarian Times;" A Woman's Medicine Chest: Ten Herbs for Women Unique Needs - The Herbalist; Judith Benn Haurley; July 1996
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.