Dysmenorrhea is the occurrence of painful menstrual cramp of uterine origin. It is a common gynecological condition in women regardless of age and nationality. It is divided into two categories based on the cause; primary and secondary dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea are menstrual pain without organic diseases while secondary dysmenorrhea are menstrual pain associated with an identifiable disease. Common causes of secondary dysmenorrhea are fibroids, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory diseases and the use of intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUCD).
Absenteeism from work and school as a result of dysmenorrhea is very common. Most women have resorted to the use of Non Steroidal Anti inflammatory Drugs (NSAID) e.g. Aspirin, Piroxicam etc. These drugs have useful effects such as anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and analgesic. Moreover studies have indicated that the conventional treatment for primary dysmenorrhea has a failure rate of 20% to 25%. Given the side effects of NSAIDs as well as their limited efficacy, an investigation of alternative treatments with low toxicity such as herbal product is needed. Previous studies so far have emphasized mainly on the medicinal management of dysmenorrhea. But, medicines always have unwanted side effects with rising frequency as a result of an exponential increase in the quantum of medicine use. However in most cases, the drugs are taken without prescription thus multiplying the risks of consuming a banned or even a wrong drug. Also, girls have a higher incidence of adverse effects than men. Thus a person may become the victim of a complication which is more serious than the original disease and may even be fatal. Potentially serious gastrointestinal, liver, central nervous system and kidney adverse effects have occurred.
In terms of non pharmacological treatments, there is large body of studies conducted, evaluating the effectiveness of non pharmacological interventions on dysmenorrhea. They include acupunctures, specific exercises, use of dietary ginger, hot water bottle and a few dietary modifications. It is popularly thought that exercise decreases the frequency and severity of the symptoms. Also ginger has a long history of traditional use. It contains gingerol, gingerdiol, gingerdione, beta-carotene, capsaicin, caffeinic acid and curcumin. All these constituents of ginger, acts as an inhibitor of prostaglandin synthesis. Therefore ginger has been used as an anti-inflammatory, making it worthy of consideration as an analgesic in primary dysmenorrhea.