Does Ginger Help Arthritis?
People swear by ginger to help an upset stomach. But what about arthritis?
A staple in some of the world’s great cuisines, ginger is also a proven remedy for nausea and vomiting due to pregnancy, motion sickness, chemotherapy or stomach flu, especially in kids. Some studies suggest it may also help arthritis pain and inflammation, although findings can be contradictory — even when researchers use the same data.
Ginger and Osteoarthritis
A case in point: Three studies from a systematic literature review found that ginger relieved osteoarthritis (OA) pain better than placebo. Yet researchers who performed a similar review didn’t find enough quality evidence to support that conclusion.
Ginger came out better in a 2020 trial that pitted the commercial pain reliever naproxen against a combination of ginger, black pepper and curcumin (the anti-inflammatory ingredient in turmeric). Black pepper enhances the absorption of curcumin, and the researchers thought adding ginger might help even more. They were right. The herbal combo was just as effective as naproxen in reducing inflammation and pain in knee OA when taken twice a day for four weeks.
Ginger and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Studies of ginger and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are few and far between — and not always top quality. Worth noting:
- In a 12-week randomized controlled trial, 70 participants who had RA received a daily dose of 1,200 mg ginger or placebo. Results showed that the ginger group had a significant increase in the expression of FOXP3 genes, which help regulate the immune system, and a considerable decrease in pro-inflammatory genes.
- A study comparing a daily dose of 1,500 mg ginger to placebo in 66 patients with active RA reported that the ginger group had a significant reduction in C-reactive protein (CRP, a marker of inflammation) and in interleukin (IL)-1, an inflammatory protein targeted by arthritis drugs like anakinra (Kineret) and canakinumab (Ilaris).
Ginger comes in capsules, tinctures, teas, powders, oils and foods made from the dried or fresh root of the plant. While ginger-containing foods are delicious, capsules give you the most bang for your buck. Look for brands that use “super-critical extraction,” which preserves the active ingredients for the greatest benefit. If you subscribe to consumerlab.com, you can find out more about brands that passed and failed their independent tests.
For arthritis, experts recommend about 250 mg of ginger three or four times a day. Although that’s less than what’s used in studies, it’s best to start out with a smaller dose, maybe 200 mg a day, and go up gradually. Don’t take more than four grams (4,000 mg) a day.
Try to take ginger capsules in divided doses with food. Although small amounts of ginger can help settle a sour stomach, concentrated doses may cause heartburn and diarrhea.
Avoid ginger if you take blood thinners. Use caution if you have low blood pressure or low blood sugar or are pregnant.
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