A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research revealed that ginger is as effective as pain relief drugs in relieving migraine, but with fewer side effects. In this study, researchers from Zanjan University of Medical Sciences in Iran examined the effects of ginger on a typical migraine attack and compared it to the drug Sumatriptan, which is sold under the brand name Imitrex and is one of the top-selling, billion-dollar drugs for treating migraines.
For the double-blinded randomized clinical trial, the researchers recruited 100 participants who had acute migraine without aura, the most common type of migraine headache. Then, they randomly assigned the participants to receive either 250 mg of ginger powder or 50 mg of Sumatriptan.
At the time of a migraine attack, the participants recorded the time of the onset, severity, and time of treatment ingestion. They also completed a questionnaire on response self-assessments 30, 60, 90, 120 minutes, and 24 hours following the start of the migraine. After one month, they rated their satisfaction with the efficacy of their assigned treatment and their willingness to continue with their respective treatments.
After analyzing the data, the researchers found that two hours after using either treatment, the participants experienced significant reductions in headache severity. They reported that ginger is as effective as Sumatriptan in treating migraines.
However, those who took ginger powder experienced significantly fewer negative side effects than those who took Sumatriptan. The only side effect reported for ginger was an upset stomach, which occurred in only nearly one out of 25 people. On the other hand, those who took the drug reported dizziness, vertigo, heartburn, and a sedative effect.
From these findings, the Iranian researchers concluded that ginger can be used as a safer alternative to the migraine drug Sumatriptan. (Related: Migraine sufferers often given opioids at the ER even when there’s no proof they work.)
Another study conducted by researchers from the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil revealed that taking a 400 mg ginger extract supplement as an add-on treatment reduced migraine symptoms better than taking a pharmaceutical drug alone. The team published their findings in the journal Cephalalgia.
Combining ginger with other herbs also makes an effective, natural remedy for migraines. Researchers from the Headache Care Center in Springfield, Missouri examined the efficacy of ginger combined with feverfew or placebo on migraine with or without aura in 60 patients. They found that those who placed a gel containing ginger and feverfew under their tongues upon migraine onset experienced pain relief and had a shorter migraine duration than those in the placebo group.
There are many ways to use ginger for migraines. Based on the Iranian study, you can mix 1/8 teaspoon of powdered ginger in water and drink it as soon as you experience the first sign of a migraine.
You can also use ginger root to make ginger tea to soothe pain or reduce nausea caused by a migraine attack. Add sliced or chopped ginger to four cups of boiling water, and steep it for five to 10 minutes. You can add lemon juice or honey for flavor.
Massaging ginger oil to your temples may also help. Dilute one to two drops of ginger oil into a tablespoon of carrier oil, then massage on your temples, forehead, and the back of your neck.