Ginger ale, a folklore drink that has survived pharaohs (the famous Pharaoh ale), Shakespeare’s twelve nights …
… world wars (Vernors ginger ale was popularized before World War I and is still in the market), and the Big Bad Wolf from Lynn and David Roberts’ Little Red (Who knew serial killers could be bribed with ginger ale?), is nothing but carbonated water infused with ginger.
When a tormenting migraine overpowers your ability to think …
… or a muscle spasm sends your reasoning out the window, and more importantly, when you’re unprepared and desperate – that’s when you start googling for natural home remedies. It may be a forced nudge in the “natural” direction, but a nudge nonetheless. Ginger ale may become your go-to home remedy for blinding pain.
Ginger regulates biochemical pathways activated in chronic inflammation.
Damaged cells produce arachidonic acid. This is converted to prostaglandin (read: important chemicals) by two enzymes, cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 (COX-1 and COX-2). Prostaglandins then set off a cascade of reactions, causing inflammation (read: pain, swelling, redness). The active components of ginger – gingerol and shogaol – inhibit COX-1 and COX-2, attacking the prostaglandin problem at its root.1 So, prostaglandins are …
No prostaglandins means inhibited inflammation. This analgesic or pain-killing tactic followed by ginger is much like conventional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
To further foolproof its anti-inflammatory strategy, ginger also inhibits the synthesis of other immune system players such as leukotrienes, cytokines including TNF-α (nothing but chemical messengers that give the green signal for the inflammation process to start), and transcription factors like NfκB.23
All in all, it’s a suppressed immune reaction and stifled inflammation.
More than just a mere headache, migraines are a central nervous system disorder that affect the brain.
Triggered by bright lights, loud sounds, penetrating smells, weather changes, improper sleep schedules, or unwarranted stress, headaches are just one of the symptoms of a migraine (a major one though). Nausea, fainting spells, constipation, food cravings, neck stiffness, blurred vision, and maybe even slurred speech are other tagalongs. Though the exact cause and pathways of a migraine are uncertain, genetics and gender play a major role. And you thought a cute dimple was all you inherited from Mom!
Excited brain cells (excited by the above triggers) stimulate the neurotransmitter serotonin.4 One theory holds that serotonin dilates blood vessels, causing the intense, typically one-sided, throbbing pain migraineurs can irrefutably identify with.5 It is advocated by old wives of yon and ginger enthusiasts that ginger, in all likelihood, eases migraine pain by blocking out serotonin receptors. At the end of the day, ginger is pain-killing in nature.
The next time a migraine strikes its unmerciful pulsating blade, instead of locking yourself in your closet to block out the light and noise till the pain fades, consider taking a detour to the kitchen and quickly whipping up some traditional, pain-relieving ginger ale.67
Get on with it …
Ginger Ale Recipe
- Add 1 finely chopped ginger to 2 cups of boiling water.
- Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Strain to remove ginger pieces.
- Mix the ginger-infused water with sparkling water (carbonated water) in a 1:3 ratio.
- Add raw honey, stevia, or lemon juice for flavor.
- Add a few ice cubes and … Cheers!
Just to be clear (and disappointing), ginger ale is non-alcoholic.
- Make it at home the traditional way. Don’t drink the processed commercially available kind that is pumped with health abductors like high-fructose corn syrup and the toxic sodium benzoate.
- Avoid it if you suffer from bloating or excess gas or if you have high blood sugar levels or unable to consume sugary beverages.
Worried if a natural painkiller will really work?
Research has proved that ginger is as effective as sumatriptan (a conventional NSAID a.k.a. painkiller) – minus the side effects.8 Convinced yet? Well, you have nothing to lose.
The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger make ginger ale useful not only in the ablation of migraines but also in treating allergies, menstrual cramps, and muscle pain after intense physical activity (think: dancing all night or running after your indocile kid).
A heart-warming, trusting chug of ginger ale can desensitize your pain receptors. You’ll soon be asking – Pain? What pain?
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Nafiseh Shokri Mashhadi, Reza Ghiasvand, Gholamreza Askari, Mitra Hariri, Leila Darvishi, Mohammad Reza Mofi. Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger in Health and Physical Activity: Review of Current Evidence. Int J Prev Med. 2013.|
|2.||↑||Reinhard Grzanna, Lars Lindmark, and Carmelita G. Frondoza. Ginger—An Herbal Medicinal Product with Broad Anti-Inflammatory Actions. Journal of Medicinal Food. July 2005.|
|3.||↑||Shafina Hanim Mohd Habib; Suzana MakpolI; Noor Aini Abdul Hamid; Srijit Das; Wan Zurinah Wan Ngah; Yasmin Anum Mohd Yusof. Ginger extract (Zingiber officinale) has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects on ethionine-induced hepatoma rats. Clinics. 2008.|
|4.||↑||Hamel E. Serotonin and migraine: biology and clinical implications. Cephalalgia. 2007.|
|5.||↑||Dussor G. Serotonin, 5HT1 agonists, and migraine: new data, but old questions still not answered. Curr Opin Support Palliat Care. 2014.|
|6.||↑||Mustafa T, Srivastava KC. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) in migraine headache. J Ethnopharmacol. 1990.|
|7.||↑||Cady RK, Goldstein J, Nett R, Mitchell R, Beach ME, Browning R. A double-blind placebo-controlled pilot study of sublingual feverfew and ginger (LipiGesic™ M) in the treatment of migraine. Headache. 2011.|
|8.||↑||Maghbooli M, Golipour F, Moghimi Esfandabadi A, Yousefi M. Comparison between the efficacy of ginger and sumatriptan in the ablative treatment of the common migraine. Phytother Res. 2014.|