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Ginger and turmeric are effective painkillers

Supplements containing extracts of ginger and turmeric can give pain relief, certainly when taken in higher doses, write researchers at the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation in Nutrition Journal.

In his meta-study, Shaheen Lakhan collated the results from eight previously published human studies and re-analysed them. All studies were on the analgesic effect of extracts from plants in the Zingiberaceae family. These include ginger [Zingiber officinale], turmeric [Curcuma longa], Java ginger [Curcuma zanthorrhiza] and galangal [Alpinia galangal].

Components of Zingiberaceae plants inhibit inflammatory reactions. One of the ways they do this is by sabotaging the enzymes that make prostaglandins, which play a role in the development of pain stimuli. Researchers have used extracts of ginger, turmeric and other members of the Zingiberaceae family in studies on the muscle pain that athletes experience after intensive training, but also in studies on pain caused by arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, post-operative recovery and radiation therapy.

Plants from the Zingiberaceae family had a pain-relieving effect in nearly all the studies that Lakhan used for his meta-study.

Ginger and turmeric are effective painkillers

The more recent the studies, the stronger the pain-relief effect of the extracts tested. This is probably because researchers started to use higher doses in more recent studies. The figure below shows the relationship between the doses used and the pain-relief effect.

Ginger and turmeric are effective painkillers

The studies that Lakhan re-analysed make no mention of side effects, but nevertheless Lakhan is cautious.

"Zingiberaceae extracts are generally regarded as safe in lower dosages of concentrated extracts", writes Lakhan. "At higher dosages, there may be an increased risk of bleeding secondary to impairment of the clotting cascade or platelet dysfunction, although this risk is not well defined."

"Turmeric supplementation has been associated with oxalate kidney stones. A toxicology analysis of curcumin and its derivatives showed there can be a hepatotoxic effect that is dose-related."

"Ginger and turmeric have an antiplatelet effect, and coupling either of them with NSAIDs can increase the risk of significant bleeding. The degree to which these supplements may increase bleeding risk is not well known, however it is recommended that they be stopped two weeks prior to any surgery or significant dental procedure."

Nutr J. 2015 May 14;14:50.

Two grams ginger reduces muscle soreness by a quarter 19.06.2010

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