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Ginger supplements may reduce pain after exercise: Study

By Stephen Daniells , 03-Jun-2010
Last updated on 03-Jun-2010 at 10:43 GMT2010-06-03T10:43:34Z

Ginger may reduce the pain associated with muscle injury after exercising, offering amateur and professional athletes a natural pain reliever, suggests new data.

Both raw and heat-treated ginger reduced the pain associated with muscle injury by about 24 per cent, compared with placebo, according to findings published in The Journal of Pain.

“The primary novel finding was that supplementation with both raw and heat-treated ginger attenuated muscle pain intensity 24 hours after eccentric exercise,” wrote the researchers, led by Chris Black, PhD, from Georgia College and State University.

“Consumption of raw ginger resulted in a 25 per cent reduction while heat-treated ginger resulted in a 23 per cent reduction in muscle-pain intensity 24 hours post-exercise,” they added.

The rhizome of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale) is a rich source of antioxidants, including gingerols, shogaols, zingerones and other ketone derivatives. According to Black and his co-workers from the University of Georgie, ginger’s pain reducing effects are biologically plausible with both in vitro and in vivo animal studies showing an effect of gingerols, shogaols, and zingerones on inflammatory compounds.

“[This suggests] ginger may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties akin to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,” stated the researchers.

In order to test this hypothesis, the researchers recruited 74 volunteers and randomly assigned them to consume two grams of raw or heat-treated ginger supplements for 11 days in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized design.

The subjects then performed 18 extensions of the elbow flexors with a heavy weight to induce moderate muscle injury to the arm. Arm function, inflammation, and pain were assessed prior to and for three days after exercise.

Results showed that exercise-induced pain was reduced by 25 per cent after daily supplements of raw ginger, and by 23 per cent after supplementation with the heat-treated form.

“The economic and personal costs of pain are extremely high,” said co-author Patrick O’Connor. “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, like gardening. Anything that can truly relieve this type of pain will be greatly welcomed by the many people who are experiencing it.”

The study was supported by the McCormick Science Institute.

Beyond sports

Ginger has long been used as a remedy for nausea, especially associated with morning sickness. However, the Finnish food safety agency, Evira, last year recommended warning labels for ginger supplements, after its Risk Assessment Unit highlighted dangers for consuming them for pregnant women.

The assessment found that ginger food supplements, teas and drinking powders should be limited in pregnant women because elements in ginger may be harmful to foetal development if consumed in great enough quantities.

Source: The Journal of Pain
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.12.013
“Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Reduces Muscle Pain Caused by Eccentric Exercise”
Authors: C.D. Black, M.P. Herring, D.J. Hurley, P.J. O'Connor