Ginger's ability to calm an upset stomach is well known. But more recently, scientists have wondered whether its soothing effects might extend to sore muscles.
Ginger, a member of the same plant family as turmeric, contains anti-inflammatory compounds and volatile oils — gingerols — that show analgesic and sedative effects in animal studies. So last year a team of researchers looked at whether ginger might do the same in humans.
In the study, published in The Journal of Pain in September, the scientists recruited 74 adults and had them do exercises meant to induce muscle pain and inflammation. Over 11 days, the subjects ate either two grams of ginger a day or a placebo. Ultimately, the ginger groups experienced roughly 25 percent reductions in exercise-induced muscle pain 24 hours after a workout.
In a similar double-blind study, scientists compared what happened when subjects consumed either two grams of ginger or a placebo one day and then two days after exercise. The ginger appeared to have no effect shortly after ingestion. But it was associated with less soreness the following day, leading the researchers to conclude that ginger may help "attenuate the day-to-day progression of muscle pain."
Other studies have shown that consuming ginger before exercise has no impact on muscle pain, oxygen consumption and other physiological variables during or immediately after a workout, suggesting that if ginger does have any benefits, they may be limited to reductions in soreness in the days after a workout.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Ginger may help ease pain and soreness, but only a day or more after a workout.
Anahad O'Connor • Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company