Ginger may not be the first culinary herb you think of to help ease your menopausal symptoms, but maybe it should be due to its ability to reduce acute symptoms such as nausea and hot flushes as well as chronic issues like painful arthritis and bone loss.
Ginger has such an interesting history. What really fascinated me is that it doesn’t grow anywhere in the wild, it's all cultivated and its origins are unknown, but we have been using it across the globe for a very long time.
The earliest mention I could find was around 5000 yrs ago when the Indians and Chinese are believed to have first started producing a medicinal ginger-based tonic. It is thought the Indians started trading this with Europe around 3000 yrs ago and its global expansion had begun.
Its official Latin name Zingiber Officinale means horn root. But it actually not the root we use for medicine. It’s the rhizome, think of this as an underground stem.
In November 2022, a really interesting study was published, titled “The Impacts of Zingiber Officiale on symptoms and hormonal changes during the menopausal period.” This study involved 70 women between the ages of 45 and 60. This double-blind placebo trial lasted for 12 weeks and participants in the treatment group were given 1000mg of organic powdered ginger capsules. They collected data via blood tests, face-to-face interviews, and questionnaires - including the globally recognized menopause rating scale. The menopause rating scale looks at 11 complaints divided into 3 categories. Physical which included hot flushes, night sweats, angina, insomnia, muscle, and joint pain. Psychological issues included depression, irritability, anxiety, and mental exhaustion. The last section urogenital included bladder, sexual issues, and vaginal dryness. The ginger group experienced improvement across all these areas but the area that had the most dramatic improvement was seen with the reduction of physical symptoms including hot flushes and night sweats. This study also noted a change in hormone levels with the ginger group experiencing higher estrogen readings and lower FSH readings.
This study isn’t the only one looking at ginger for hormonal health. Ginger has also been recognized for its ability to reduce menstrual cramps and it may help reduce flow in heavy bleeding. For the peri-menopausal women amongst us that are still menstruating you may be interested to hear about a study that found ginger to be as effective as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory in relieving menstrual cramps. In clinical practice, I have seen ginger improve flow in general, by reducing clot size and numbers and by freshening up the flow with women experiencing brighter, red bleeds instead of darker brown bleeds.
It may even help the most commonly experienced symptom of the menopausal transition, which is fatigue!
Possibly one of ginger's most well-established health benefits is its ability to reduce nausea. Just ask a pregnant woman, it's also useful for motion sickness.
Another digestive benefit includes its ability to break up and expel intestinal gas, helping to reduce flatulence while regulating bowel movements. It may also help ease indigestion.
Ginger has a gentle ability to decrease inflammation, swelling, and pain. Being in the same family as turmeric they share quite a lot of the same medicinal constituents. So it wasn’t surprising to find studies indicating its effectiveness in reducing joint pain, muscle pain, and migraines. One study found it to be as effective as ibuprofen in reducing pain associated with osteoarthritis.
Keep in mind ginger can be absorbed via the skin, some women find relief using a warm ginger compress directly over their area of concern.
Did you know your immune response drops in line with lowering hormones and your allergic response increases? Ginger can help here too, it is one of the strongest anti-histamine foods helping to ease allergies while also boosting the immune system with its anti-microbial and anti-oxidant qualities. Ginger contains one of the highest amounts of anti-oxidants only surpassed by pomegranate and some berries.
Ginger may even enhance your cardiovascular health by lowing platelets, triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood pressure while enhancing peripheral circulation. But this is also where taking a concentrated ginger supplement might be risky. If you are having surgery stop taking it 7 days prior, as it has a blood thinning quality and you don’t want to encourage bleeding with surgery. There is also a small risk of medicinal interactions if you are taking antiplatelet or anti-coagulation medications such as warfarin.
Blood sugar issues become more pronounced in midlife and ginger can help here too. By potentially lowering blood sugar levels, reducing insulin resistance and may even act as a thermogenic agent to support weight loss.
Are you worried about your bones? Constituents in ginger have been found to increase osteoblastic activity (bone building), and reduce osteoclastic activity (bone breakdown) while also reducing levels of inflammation in and around your bones.
Finally, I want to touch on its neuroprotective benefits. Constituents of ginger have been found to help with mood, by reducing depression and anxiety while also providing protection against neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia and Parkinson's.
Just to recap…
Ginger may help improve menopausal symptoms like hot flushes, improve digestion, and reduce nausea, it acts as an anti-inflammatory to ease pain and cramping, its cardioprotective, neuroprotective, bone protective, and immune regulating. It covers both the short-term and long-term health considerations of the menopausal transition. And I personally think it tastes great too.
But let's get real for a minute if your primary concern is hot flushes the gold standard of treatment is MHT, but not all women can take hormones or want to take them. For these women, ginger may be a real consideration especially if clotting factors or other cardiovascular issues prevented their eligibility for MHT treatment in the first place.
Where possible I love including food as medicine in my recommendations and many of the women working with me have heard of my morning ginger drink. This drink includes a knob of freshly grated ginger, 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon, and either a dose of electrolytes or a pinch of salt, depending on your personal preference this can be drunk with either hot or room temperature water.
To get the dose used in the clinical trial (1000mg), you can consume a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger or 1/2 teaspoon of powdered ginger. Heads up this dose is too much to consume in one sitting. Ginger has a fairly safe record and is considered a low-risk remedy. But in high doses, it may cause digestive upsets and interact with medications. You can always ask your healthcare team to help look it up for you. This is something I check in all my initial consultations.
If you would like to learn more about functional foods for the menopausal transition, please join my email list as I’m in the process of updating and expanding my Functional food webinar and when it's ready to go my list will be the first to know.
Impacts of Zingiber Officinale on symptoms and hormonal changes during the menopausal period. https://jnsbm.org/menuscript/index.php/submissions/article/view/147
Ginger and dysmennohea https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19216660/
The Amazing and Mighty Ginger https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/
Ginger on Human Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019938/#B28-nutrients-12-00157
Ginger and dysmennohea https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19216660/
Effects of ginger extract on osteoarthritis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11710709/
Ginger on lipid levels https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18813412/
Nutritional implications of ginger https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0955286320305180?via%3Dihub#bb0830