Is the best headache treatment a vegetable?

Most of us reach for the medicine cabinet when a headache comes on. Especially if it is a throbbing, painful migraine.

But are headache pills the only solution? It turns out that ginger – the vegetable – can be just as effective for migraine treatment as prescription medicine.

Ginger has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years, particularly for joint pain and inflammation. More recently, studies continue to show ginger can help reduce the frequency and duration of strong headaches.

However, it’s the latest study that’s really making headlines.

Researchers directly compared the effects of two different treatments: ginger extract (a supplement) vs sumatriptan, a common prescription drug for migraines.

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The study looked at 100 adult participants with a history of migraines, over a one month duration. Participants took either a 250 mg ginger extract (as a capsule) or a 50 mg dose of sumatriptan at the first sign of a migraine.

But what makes this study so useful is that both the participants and researchers did not know who was receiving the ginger or sumatriptan. As patients have to record and rate the severity of symptoms themselves, this eliminates any bias from the results.

Both the single dose of sumatriptan and the dose of ginger decreased migraine severity by more than 60%, within two hours. In other words, the ginger capsules were just as effective as sumatriptan.

Interestingly, 20% of participants taking sumatriptan suffered side effects including dizziness, drowsiness and heartburn. The only side effect of ginger use was indigestion, experienced by just 4% of users. In fact, those taking ginger were so satisfied and impressed by the results that many reported they would continue ginger use after the study.

This certainly does not mean you should discontinue any of your headache or migraine medications without first discussing with your doctor… But it does mean you should consider ginger as an alternate remedy if you want to try something different.

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How much ginger to use?

The typical dose for treating headaches or nausea is 1 gram of ginger extract. Of course, ginger can be ingested via several ways, with the following equal to 1g of Ginger Extract:

  • A teaspoon of fresh, grated, rhizome (the vertical part of ginger root)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) of syrup
  • 2 droppers (2 mL) of liquid extract
  • 236 mL ginger tea, steeping 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger for 5–10 min
  • 2 pieces crystallised ginger, each 2.5 cm square, ½ cm thick

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