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Table of Contents > Articles > Ginger: An Effective Remedy for ...
Ginger: An Effective Remedy for Osteoarthritis?

At least 20 million Americans suffer from the joint disease known as osteoarthritis, a condition characterized by the breakdown of cartilage. Cartilage is the substance that cushions and protects the ends of bones. As it is worn away, the bones rub against each other, causing pain, tenderness, swelling, and limited movement. The most commonly affected joints are those in the hands, feet, knees, and hips. Conventional medications help to relieve symptoms; however, they may also have undesirable side effects. But there is good news on the complementary and alternative medicine front. The natural remedies glucosamine and chondroitin look promising and are being further researched. Many people have also turned to ginger to combat the pain of osteoarthritis. Science has already shown several health benefits to adding ginger to the diet, but does research support using ginger for osteoarthritis?

In a recent clinical trial, ginger (Zingiber officinale) extract was evaluated for the treatment of knee and hip osteoarthritis. Participants in the study received ginger, ibuprofen, or placebo for three 3-week periods. The ginger and ibuprofen treatment groups had less pain than the group taking placebo during the first period. However, no significant differences were observed between ginger and placebo when the results of all three periods were tallied. No serious side effects were associated with taking ginger. In another medical journal, two researchers reported on a study of people taking ginger to treat the pain of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Of 46 people, more than three-quarters experienced some relief from arthritic pain and swelling. None of the people in the study reported adverse side effects. In animal studies, ginger has been shown to reduce joint swelling and inflammation.

The bottom line: ginger appears to help reduce the pain and swelling of osteoarthritis, with few or no side effects. It may not be, however, as effective as other conventional medications. More clinical trials with a greater number of participants and longer testing periods are needed. If you choose to try ginger therapy, consider adding one of the following to your daily routine:

  • ginger tea: 2 to 4 grams of fresh root, steeped covered 10 to 20 minutes, two to three cups
  • ginger capsules: follow manufacturer's label recommendations
  • 1.5 to 3.0 milliliters of a tincture made from ginger extracts
  • add a drop of ginger oil to massage oil and rub it directly into your painful joint(s)

If you are pregnant, be sure to talk to your doctor before taking ginger supplements. Since supplements are not currently regulated by the FDA, choose a standardized product from a company you trust.As always, work with your doctor to determine which osteoarthritis treatments are right for you.


Tincture: A preparation made from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent.


Bliddal H, Rosetzsky A, Schlichting P, et al. A randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study of ginger extracts and ibuprofen in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2000;8(1):9-12.

Friedrich, MJ. Steps toward understanding, alleviating osteoarthritis will help aging population. JAMA Web site. Accessed at on January 17, 2000.

Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Sharma JN, Srivastava KC, Gan EK. Suppressive effects of eugenol and ginger oil on arthritic rats. Pharmacology. 1994;49(5):314-318.

Srivastava KC, Mustafa T. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in rheumatism and musculoskeletal disorders. Med Hypotheses. 1992;39(4);342-348.

Review Date: May 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.


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