Ginger root has been used as a folk remedy. Now researchers have found evidence that daily ginger consumption reduces muscle pain caused by exercise.
The study, which will be published in the September issue of the Journal of Pain, was funded by the McCormick Science Institute — yes, an offshoot of the company that makes and sells spices.
While ginger had been shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects in rodents, its effect on experimentally-induced human muscle pain was largely unexplored, said University of Georgia researcher Patrick O'Connor. It was also believed that heating ginger, as occurs with cooking, might increase its pain-relieving effects.
O'Connor directed two studies examining the effects of 11 days of raw and heat-treated ginger supplementation on muscle pain.
Participants in the studies, 34 and 40 volunteers, respectively, consumed capsules containing two grams of either raw or heat-treated ginger or a placebo for 11 consecutive days. On the eighth day they performed 18 extensions of the elbow flexors with a heavy weight to induce moderate muscle injury to the arm. Arm function, inflammation, pain and a biochemical involved in pain were assessed prior to and for three days after exercise.
The studies showed that daily ginger supplementation reduced the exercise-induced pain by 25 percent, and the effect was not enhanced by heat-treating the ginger.
The study involved a small number of individuals, however, and further study would be needed to confirm the results.
"The economic and personal costs of pain are extremely high," O'Connor said. "Muscle pain generally is one of the most common types of pain and eccentric exercise-induced muscle pain specifically is a common type of injury related to sports and/or recreation (e.g., gardening). Anything that can truly relieve this type of pain will be greatly welcomed by the many people who are experiencing it."