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Can Ginger and Turmeric Help Fight Pain and Sickness?

Health + Wellness
IriGri8 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Ginger and turmeric are two of the most extensively studied ingredients in herbal medicine.


Interestingly, both have been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, ranging from migraines to chronic inflammation and fatigue.

Both have also been used to help relieve pain, decrease nausea, and enhance immune function to help protect against illness and infection (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).

This article looks at the benefits and side effects of ginger and turmeric, and whether they can help fight pain and sickness.

What Are Ginger and Turmeric?

Ginger and turmeric are two types of flowering plants that are widely used in natural medicine.

Ginger, or Zingiber officinale, originated in Southeast Asia and has long been used as a natural remedy for various health conditions.

Its medicinal properties are mostly due to the presence of phenolic compounds, including gingerol, a chemical thought to possess potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (3Trusted Source).

Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, belongs to the same family of plants and is often used as a spice in Indian cooking.

It contains the chemical compound curcumin, which has been shown to aid in treating and preventing several chronic conditions (4Trusted Source).

Both ginger and turmeric can be consumed fresh, dried, or ground, and added to a variety of dishes. They're also available in supplement form.

Summary

Ginger and turmeric are two types of flowering plants with medicinal properties. Both can be consumed in various ways and are available as supplements.

Have Properties That Help With Pain and Sickness

Though evidence is limited on the effects of ginger and turmeric when used together, studies show that both can help reduce pain and sickness.

Reduce Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is thought to play a central role in the development of conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

It can also worsen symptoms associated with autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (5Trusted Source).

Ginger and turmeric have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which could help decrease pain and protect against disease.

One study in 120 people with osteoarthritis found that taking 1 gram of ginger extract per day for 3 months effectively reduced inflammation and decreased levels of nitric oxide, a molecule that plays a key role in the inflammatory process (6Trusted Source).

Similarly, a review of 9 studies showed that taking 1–3 grams of ginger per day for 6–12 weeks decreased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker (7Trusted Source).

Meanwhile, test-tube and human studies indicate that turmeric extract can decrease several markers of inflammation, with some research noting that it may be as effective as anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and aspirin (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).

One review of 15 studies also observed that supplementing with turmeric could reduce levels of CRP, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and malondialdehyde (MDA), all of which are used to measure inflammation in the body (11Trusted Source).

Relieve Pain

Both ginger and turmeric have been studied for their ability to provide relief from chronic pain.

Studies show that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is especially effective at decreasing pain caused by arthritis (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).

In fact, a review of 8 studies found that taking 1,000 mg of curcumin was as effective at reducing joint pain as certain pain medications in those with arthritis (14Trusted Source).

Another small study in 40 people with osteoarthritis showed that taking 1,500 mg of curcumin daily significantly reduced pain and improved physical function, compared with a placebo (15Trusted Source).

Ginger has also been shown to decrease chronic pain associated with arthritis, along with several other conditions (16Trusted Source).

For example, one 5-day study in 120 women noted that taking 500 mg of ginger root powder 3 times daily reduced the intensity and duration of menstrual pain (17Trusted Source).

Another study in 74 people found that taking 2 grams of ginger for 11 days significantly reduced muscle pain caused by exercise (18Trusted Source).

Support Immune Function

Many people take turmeric and ginger at the first sign of sickness, hoping to enhance immune function and sidestep cold or flu symptoms.

Some research shows that ginger, in particular, may possess powerful immune-boosting properties.

One test-tube study indicated that fresh ginger was effective against human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), which can cause respiratory tract infections in infants, children, and adults (19Trusted Source).

Another test-tube study found that ginger extract blocked the growth of several strains of respiratory tract pathogens (20Trusted Source).

A mouse study also noted that taking ginger extract blocked the activation of several pro-inflammatory immune cells and decreased symptoms of seasonal allergies, such as sneezing (21Trusted Source).

Similarly, animal and test-tube studies have shown that curcumin possesses anti-viral properties and can help reduce the severity of influenza A virus (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).

Both turmeric and ginger can also decrease levels of inflammation, which can help improve immune function (25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).

However, most research is limited to test-tube and animal studies using concentrated doses of turmeric or ginger.

More research is needed to determine how each can affect human immune health when consumed in normal food amounts.

Decrease Nausea

Several studies have observed that ginger could be an effective natural remedy to soothe the stomach and help reduce nausea.

One study in 170 women found that taking 1 gram of ginger powder daily for 1 week was as effective at reducing pregnancy-related nausea as a common anti-nausea medication but with far fewer side effects (27Trusted Source).

A review of five studies also showed that taking at least 1 gram of ginger per day could help significantly reduce post-operative nausea and vomiting (28Trusted Source).

Other research indicates that ginger can decrease nausea caused by motion sickness, chemotherapy, and certain gastrointestinal disorders (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).

Though more research is needed to evaluate the effects of turmeric on nausea, some studies have found that it may protect against digestive issues caused by chemotherapy, which could help reduce symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source).

Summary

Some studies suggest that ginger and turmeric could help decrease markers of inflammation, relieve chronic pain, reduce nausea, and improve immune function.

Potential Side Effects

When used in moderation, ginger and turmeric are both considered safe and healthy additions to a well-rounded diet.

Still, some potential side effects need to be considered.

For starters, some research has found that ginger may decrease blood clotting and could interfere with blood thinners when used in high amounts (34Trusted Source).

Because ginger may impact blood sugar levels, those taking medications to lower their levels may also want to consult with their healthcare provider before taking supplements (35Trusted Source).

Additionally, keep in mind that turmeric powder is made up of only about 3% curcumin by weight, so you would need to consume a very large amount or use a supplement to reach the dosage found in most studies (36Trusted Source).

In high doses, curcumin has been associated with side effects like rashes, headaches, and diarrhea (37Trusted Source).

Finally, though research on the potential health effects of both ginger and turmeric is plentiful, evidence on how the two may affect health when used together is limited.

Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider before supplementing and decrease your dosage if you notice any side effects.

Summary

Ginger may decrease blood clotting and blood sugar levels. In high doses, turmeric can cause side effects like rashes, headaches, and diarrhea.

How to Use Ginger and Turmeric

There are plenty of ways to add ginger and turmeric to your diet to enjoy the many health benefits each has to offer.

The two ingredients work well together in salad dressings, stir-fries, and sauces to add a surge of flavor and health benefits to your favorite recipes.

Fresh ginger can also be used to make ginger shots, brewed into a cup of soothing tea, or added to soups, smoothies, and curries.

Ginger root extract is available in supplement form as well, which has been shown to be most effective when taken in doses between 1,500–2,000 mg daily (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).

Turmeric, on the other hand, is great for adding a pop of color to dishes such as casseroles, frittatas, dips, and dressings.

Ideally, you should pair turmeric with a dash of black pepper, which can help boost its absorption in your body by up to 2,000% (38Trusted Source).

Turmeric supplements can also help supply a more concentrated dosage of curcumin and can be taken in doses of 500 mg twice daily to reduce pain and inflammation (14Trusted Source).

Supplements that contain both turmeric and ginger are available as well, making it easy to get your fix of each in a single daily dose.

You can find these supplements locally or buy them online.

Summary

Turmeric and ginger are both easy to add to the diet and are available in fresh, dried, or supplement form.

The Bottom Line

Several promising studies have found that ginger and turmeric can have powerful effects on nausea, pain, inflammation, and immune function.

However, evidence is lacking on the effects of the two used together, and much of the available research is limited to test-tube studies.

That said, both can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet and can be consumed with minimal risk of adverse effects on health.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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