Background. Zingiber officinale (Z. officinale), commonly known as ginger, has been widely used traditionally for a variety of medicinal purposes, one of which is for the treatment of pain. The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the evidence from all human participant clinical trials that have assessed the efficacy of ginger for the treatment of any type of pain.
Methods. Following a protocol, multiple databases were sought using comprehensive search strategies for Z. officinale and pain together with a trial filter for randomized or controlled clinical trials. Trials testing the efficacy of Z. officinale, used as a sole oral treatment against a comparison condition in human adults suffering from any pain condition, were included.
Results. Seven published articles, reporting a total of eight trials (481 participants), were included in the review. Six trials (two for osteoarthritis, one for dysmenorrhea, and three for experimentally induced acute muscle pain) found that the use of Z. officinale reduced subjective pain reports. The methodological quality of the included articles was variable. When assessed using the Jadad scale, which allows a score of between 0 and 5 to be given, included articles obtained Jadad ratings ranging from 2 to 5.
Conclusion. Due to a paucity of well-conducted trials, evidence of the efficacy of Z. officinale to treat pain remains insufficient. However, the available data provide tentative support for the anti-inflammatory role of Z. officinale constituents, which may reduce the subjective experience of pain in some conditions such as osteoarthritis. Further rigorous trials therefore seem to be warranted.