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
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
1.5 to 3.0 milliliters of a tincture made from ginger
add a drop of ginger oil to massage oil and rub it directly into your
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
http://jama.ama-assn.org on January 17, 2000.
Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs
& Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications;
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.
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