After reading about ginger's digestive benefits and its potential to ease my plaguing PMS, I began sipping on a cup of ginger tea most nights after dinner. My positive experience thus far sent me on a deep-dive Google search, where I came across claims that ginger could help with symptoms associated with headaches and migraines — namely nausea.
When I'm in the midst of a migraine, I want to trust that the solution I've turned to actually works. To get the full picture of ginger and its association to easing migraine symptoms, I reached out to a doctor for a professional opinion. Dr. Rachael Gonzalez, MD — a doctor with a modern holistic medical practice, Parsley Health — confirms that ginger can, in fact, help with alleviating the nausea and stomach issues that sometimes accompany a bad migraine.
"Migraine headaches are often associated with poor gastric motility — or slow digestion, in layman's terms. Because ginger helps with motility — keeping digestion moving through the digestive system at the proper pace — it also helps with migraines," Dr. Gonzalez says.
So, what makes ginger so capable of aiding with motility? According to Dr. Gonzalez, ginger contains what's called "gingerols." This specific family of chemicals has "been shown to work on serotonin receptors in the stomach to improve gastric motility, which reduces pain in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract."
Dr. Gonzalez says it's the painful stimuli in the GI tract that can lead to nausea — and ginger aids in interrupting the pain. What's more, ginger could help other treatments work more effectively. "Many studies have also shown that ginger and other antinausea treatments can improve the response to anti-inflammatory medications and migraine-specific medications used for acute migraine attacks," Dr. Gonzalez says.
When it comes to taking ginger for this purpose, consider reaching out to your doctor for their specific recommendations, to ensure it's safe for you and doesn't conflict with any medications you're currently taking. "Ginger is generally considered safe for most people in low to moderate doses. But when consumed in high doses (greater than 5 grams in a day), it can be dangerous to pregnant women and carries a risk of inducing miscarriage," Dr. Gonazalez says.
Some patients might also have a sensitivity to ginger, while those who take blood thinners or have hypertension or diabetes should be especially careful and should consult their doctor before adding it to their routine. "Ginger may lower blood pressure and blood sugar, and may interact with medications for those conditions," Dr. Gonzalez says. "Patients with acute ulcers may not tolerate the astringent qualities of ginger."
Your doctor can help you figure out the best way for you to incorporate ginger into your diet, however Dr. Gonzalez says that all preparations could be helpful. "Typical doses that work for acute migraines range from 500 mg - 2 grams of ginger per day."
However, depending on how the ginger is processed, the potency of the gingerols could be affected. "Dried ginger is purported to be the strongest, followed by fresh ginger, and then ginger tea, which may be 1/10th as potent as dry powdered ginger. Common dosing is 500-750 mg dried powder capsules, which can be taken in divided dosing up to 2 grams/day," Dr. Gonzalez says.
When it comes to me, I'll be sticking to my early evening tea — because on top of easing my stomachaches, this hot bevi helps satiate my hankering for sweet, sugary snacks. That's a win-win as far as I'm concerned.