You haven’t been training for a while, but you want to start pumping iron again. Or you want to experiment with a new training schedule, but you know it’s going to give you painfully sore muscles. Sports scientists at the University of Georgia have discovered that in both cases you are likely to benefit from taking ginger supplements. They write about their findings in an article that will be published soon in the Journal of Pain.
Ayurvedic healers have been using ginger for centuries as a painkiller. But molecular research has confirmed that the painkilling effect of ginger is not just due to the placebo effect. Test-tube studies have shown that ginger inhibits the inflammatory enzymes COX-1 and COX-2, and in immune cells ginger inhibits the production of the inflammatory factors interleukine-1 and 12, leukotriene and TNF-alpha. Somewhere along the way – or perhaps via different mechanisms – ginger inhibits the pain receptor TRPV1.
One gram of prepared ginger contains about 3 mg 6-gingerol, 1 mg 8-gingerol, 1.5 mg 10-gingerol and 2.5 mg 6-shogaol. These compounds are probably the active substances in ginger. Extracts contain these substances in higher concentrations. When it comes to painkilling, it’s the shogaols that are most interesting. These are formed by heating gingerols.
The researchers did two experiments. In one they gave about thirty test subjects supplements containing raw ginger. In the other experiment they used supplements in which the ginger had been cooked first for 3 hours. The test subjects took 2 g ginger daily, or a placebo, for 11 days. This is the kind of dose that some studies have shown is enough to prevent people with motion sickness from throwing up.
On day 8, the researchers got the test subjects – who did no strength sports – to train their biceps. In the days that followed the researchers measured the muscle soreness of the subjects.
The researchers were unable to work out exactly how ginger works. They noticed for example that the blood of the ginger takers contained less PGE2 – an inflammatory factor that is made by the COX-2 enzyme – but the reduction was too small be able to explain the painkilling effect.
Ginger is also a surprisingly interesting supplement for strength athletes for another reason. Animal studies have shown that ginger boosts testosterone production.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces muscle pain caused by eccentric exercise.
Ginger has been shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects in rodents, but its effect on human muscle pain is uncertain. Heat treatment of ginger has been suggested to enhance its hypoalgesic effects. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of 11 days of raw (study 1) and heat-treated (study 2) ginger supplementation on muscle pain. Study 1 and 2 were identical double-blind, placebo controlled, randomized experiments with 34 and 40 volunteers, respectively. Participants consumed 2 grams of either raw (study 1) or heated (study 2) ginger or placebo for 11 consecutive days. Participants performed 18 eccentric actions of the elbow flexors to induce pain and inflammation. Pain intensity, perceived effort, plasma prostaglandin E(2), arm volume, range-of-motion and isometric strength were assessed prior to and for 3 days after exercise. Results Raw (25%, -.78 SD, P = .041) and heat-treated (23%, -.57 SD, P = .049) ginger resulted in similar pain reductions 24 hours after eccentric exercise compared to placebo. Smaller effects were noted between both types of ginger and placebo on other measures. Daily supplementation with ginger reduced muscle pain caused by eccentric exercise, and this effect was not enhanced by heat treating the ginger.
This study demonstrates that daily consumption of raw and heat-treated ginger resulted in moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain following exercise-induced muscle injury. Our findings agree with those showing hypoalgesic effects of ginger in osteoarthritis patients and further demonstrate ginger’s effectiveness as a pain reliever.
PMID: 20418184 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]