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Ginger After a Run May Help Recovery

ginger and running

Although regular moderate exercise boosts your immunity, making you less susceptible to colds and flu, an intense workout actually can temporarily compromise the system. As part of your post-workout recovery plan, you may want to consider ginger.


Iranian researchers publishing in the Central European Journal of Immunology studied 28 well-trained male runners for a 12-week period of time. The subjects were young (average age 23), lean, and fit (average VO2 max of 67, a level found in national-class competitors). The runners all did the same training schedule and at the end of six weeks, completed a treadmill run to exhaustion. The researchers measured cytokine levels, which are markers of inflammation. As expected, levels of these proteins were elevated.

For the second six weeks, the runners were split into two groups. Half took 500 milligrams of powdered ginger three times a day while the other half took a placebo. All then completed the same treadmill test they completed at six weeks.

In the placebo group, cytokine levels in the placebo group were 32% greater, suggesting that the immune system had been further challenged by the intense training. However, in the ginger group, cytokine levels were 18% lower than six weeks earlier. The researchers note that this would lessen the risk of becoming sick right before a key race.

There may be another potential benefit of taking ginger as a post-recovery supplement. Some studies have suggested that it may be beneficial to relieving muscle pain after a workout. Some types of ginger may also reduce hip and knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.

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The researchers attributed their findings to ginger's anti-inflammatory properties, which they said mimic those of common anti-inflammatory medications but without the drugs' side effects.

Ginger is widely available as a supplement in capsule or powdered form. A 1-inch piece of crystallized ginger contains about 500 milligrams of ginger, while a cup of strong ginger tea contains about 250 milligrams.

Ginger is LIKELY SAFE for most people. Some people can have mild side effects including heartburn, diarrhea, and general stomach discomfort. Some women have reported extra menstrual bleeding while taking ginger.

As always, before taking any supplement, check with your doctor, especially if you are taking other types of medicines, to avoid any drug-herb interaction.

Journal Reference:
Farzad Zehsaz, Negin Farhangi, Lamia Mirheidari. The effect of Zingiber officinale R. rhizomes (ginger) on plasma pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in well-trained male endurance runners. (Centr Eur J Immunol 2014; 39 (2): 174–180) DOI: 10.5114/ceji.2014.43719

Additional Resource:
Medline Plus: Ginger