The Ginger Family & Chronic Pain Relief

Author: Gemma Shelton   Date Posted:31 May 2016 

“We are family. I got all my sisters with me. We are family. Get up everybody and sing” - Members of the Zingiberaceae family, also known as the ‘Ginger Family’ include turmeric, Javanese ginger, galangal and of course ginger.

The rhizome of these plants has been utilised traditionally for centuries in both culinary cooking and also for medicinal purposes. With chronic pain unfortunately becoming the ‘norm’ in our society, individuals are often searching for remedies to help alleviate their pain and improve their overall quality of life. 

Fortunately, the bioactive components abundant in the ‘Ginger family’ support their use in inflammatory conditions. This family stands above many other herbs, as their pungent taste is a reflection of their potent action in our bodies, most notably their anti-inflammatory and analgesic action. The bioactive components present in this family of herbs work to down-regulate inflammation through a number of mechanisms.

For example:

  • Turmeric’s principal anti-inflammatory component is curcumin which inhibits the inflammatory expression of NF-κB and COX-2.
  • Ginger’s primary anti-inflammatory component is gingerol and zingerone, both of which help to modulate leukotriene and prostaglandin synthesis, and also inhibit NF-κB.
  • Javanese ginger also contains curcumin, as well as zanthorrhizol to provide a COX-2 inhibitory effect.


A recent systematic review explored a number of studies utilising Zingiberaceae extracts for chronic pain (defined as pain lasting for more than 24 hours). When compared with placebo, an overall hypoalgesic effect of the Zingiberaceae extracts (including turmeric, ginger, and Javanese ginger) was found.

The hypoalgesic effect, meaning a decreased sensitivity to painful stimuli was observed in a number of conditions, including osteoarthritis, dysmenorrhea and post-exercise induced muscle soreness.

  • Osteoarthritis - Turmeric stood above ginger for managing pain associated with osteoarthritis in the knee. One study found a significant improvement in knee pain after 6 weeks supplementing with curcumin extract.
  • Dysmenorrhea - Also known as period pain, was alleviated in females supplementing with 500mg of ginger, 3 times per day for 5 days.
  • Post-exercise induced muscle soreness - Following exercise, individuals who supplemented with 6 capsules of 333mg ginger extract for 3 days experienced significantly lower pain when compared with placebo.

Are dietary sources enough?

Adding these herbs through cooking is a fantastic way to boost not only the flavour but also the beneficial compounds in your diet. However for a more potent therapeutic effect, it is the specific extracts (usually as a supplement) which have been scientifically evaluated for their therapeutic effect. So if you are suffering from chronic pain, the Zingiberaceae extracts including those from turmeric and ginger may be a useful tool for pain management and help to put the zing back into your step.

CAUTION: If you are on any medications, it is advised you seek advice from your medical practitioner first before initiating supplementation. 

Written by Gemma Shelton, Naturopath

Gemma BHSc (Naturopathy); BA (Public Communication & International Studies); is a qualified naturopath and believes in the importance of a balanced lifestyle. She places emphasis on eating nutritious foods, without depriving yourself of the occasional treat. Gemma spent some time living in Japan where she was immersed in traditional diet and kampo medicine (Japanese herbal medicine), and an interest in natural medicine was sparked. She holds a degree in Health Science majoring in Naturopathy, and previous experience consulting in nutrition communications. Gemma loves the sunshine, good quality chocolate and herbal teas.