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Ginger Relieves Muscle Pain Caused by Exercise


If you take ginger to settle an upset stomach, you might want to keep some around for the next time you experience muscle pain. Researchers at the University of Georgia discovered that consuming ginger every day relieves muscle pain associated with exercise.

Although ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties have been valued for centuries, it was not until the 1970s that scientists uncovered the mechanisms that make ginger an effective anti-inflammatory agent. That discovery identified ginger as an herbal remedy that shares pharmacological properties with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, which are so popular today. Subsequent research revealed that ginger reduces inflammation in an additional way, beyond that of NSAIDs, which means it has dual powers to reduce inflammation and by extension, pain.

At the University of Georgia, investigators conducted two studies to identify the impact of both raw and heat-treated ginger supplements on muscle pain. It has been proposed that heating ginger may increase its ability to relieve pain. If this is true, cooking with ginger may enhance its healing properties.

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Thirty-four volunteers enrolled in the raw ginger study and 40 entered the heat-treated study. In each group, the subjects consumed capsules that contained 2 grams of either raw or heat-treated ginger or placebo for 11 consecutive days. On day 8 of the study, the volunteers used heavy weight while performing 18 extensions of the elbow flexors to induce moderate muscle injury.

The investigators assessed arm function, pain, inflammation, and a biochemical involved in pain both before and for three days after the subjects performed the exercise. They learned that participants who consumed ginger supplements experienced a 25 percent reduction in exercise-induced pain, and the benefit was not improved by using heat-treated ginger.

Patrick O’Connor, a professor in the College of Education’s department of kinesiology, noted that their findings concerning ginger are significant because given that muscle pain, including exercise-induced muscle pain, is so common, “anything that can truly relieve this type of pain will be greatly welcomed by the many people who are experiencing it.” These latest findings agree with previous results showing the pain-relieving effects of ginger in patients with osteoarthritis.

Black CD et al. Journal of Pain 2010 Apr 23.
Grzanna R et al. Journal of Medicinal Food 2005 Summer; 8(2): 125-32