Both raw and heat-treated ginger reduced pain associated with muscle injury by about 24 percent.
According to NutraIngredients:
"The rhizome of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale) is a rich source of antioxidants, including gingerols, shogaols, zingerones and other ketone derivatives ... 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."
Ginger has a long history of medicinal use, primarily for soothing nausea and easing stomach upset and dizziness. But it's also a natural immune system booster with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties -- as this latest study confirms -- and has even been found to promote cardiovascular health.
Ginger as a Natural Pain Reliever
In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study, the participants were given either two grams of raw or heat-treated ginger supplements, or a placebo, for 11 consecutive days. They then performed a strenuous exercise with a heavy weight to induce "moderate muscle injury" to the arm. Pain- and inflammation levels were assessed prior to the exercise and for three days afterward.
While both types of ginger produced good results compared to the placebo, the raw ginger was slightly more effective, reducing exercise-induced pain by 25 percent within 24 hours. The heat-treated form reduced pain by 23 percent.
Part of the explanation for ginger's pain relieving properties is its potent antioxidant content, which includes gingerols, shogaols and zingerones. It is believed that these compounds have particular anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties similar to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Co-author Patrick O'Connor is quoted as saying:
"The economic and personal costs of pain are extremely high. 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."
Yes, knowing that there are far safer options out there that cost a fraction of conventional painkillers is indeed a very valuable piece of information.
I've written extensively about the health dangers of NSAIDs such as Vioxx, Celebrex, and even common over-the-counter painkillers. The short- and long-term side effects of these types of drugs can cause far more suffering than the pain you're trying to get rid of.
Other Natural Pain Relievers
Aside from ginger, there are several other natural products and strategies that can offer pain relief, including:
- Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients.
- Krill oil: The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA found in krill oil have been found, by many animal and clinical studies, to have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce joint inflammation and promote joint lubrication.
- Bromelain: This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful.
- Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have also used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
- Evening Primrose, Black Currant and Borage Oils: These contain the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is particularly useful for treating arthritic pain. I personally prefer the use of GLA supplements from evening primrose oil but borage oil contains a higher concentration of GLA, which means you need fewer capsules, and it tends to be less expensive.
- Cayenne Cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
Another pain relieving strategy that includes neither drugs nor supplements or creams of any kind, is to use an energy tool such as the Meridian Tapping Technique/Emotional Freedom Technique (MTT/EFT).
Many types of pain, especially chronic pain, can be the result of a disruption in your body's subtle energy system, caused by unresolved emotions or emotional trauma.
Granted, emotional trauma may have little to do with the pain you experience after straining your muscles from vigorous exercise. However, if you suffer from chronic or other hard-to-treat pains, MTT/EFT may be something you'll want to look into as this simple do-it-yourself technique has been shown to provide effective pain relief about 80 percent of the time -- on everything from headaches to cancer pain.
Ginger – The BEST Therapy for Nausea and Morning Sickness!
Getting back to ginger, one of the most common traditional uses of this medicinal tuber is for nausea, including the morning sickness experienced by about 80 percent of pregnant women.
Ginger has been proven to be more effective in reducing nausea and vomiting in pregnant women than a placebo, and it also works just as well as vitamin B6, which can also improve morning sickness symptoms in pregnant women.
I believe it's one of the absolute best therapies for nausea of any kind, and can even work on motion sickness as well.
However, last year NutraIngredients reported that the Finnish food safety agency, Evira, "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 fetal development if consumed in great enough quantities." [Emphasis mine]
The warning label issued in Finland was not necessarily due to scientific evidence of harm, but rather implemented as a precaution.
I've previously stated that ginger is safe for consumption during pregnancy, and I still believe it is safe in moderation.
It's worth considering that whole ginger root contains a variety of synergistic compounds. This natural synergy typically ensures that one compound in the food doesn't "overtake" the others to inflict harm. It is rare for any type of whole food to be dangerous enough to not eat during pregnancy.
That is typically only a concern that arises when you extract individual ingredients or compounds from a food or plant source, which is done in drug development, and to a more limited extent for certain supplements.
That said, whole ginger can be consumed in a variety of ways, including:
- My favorite way of using it is to cut off about a teaspoon worth, dicing it very fine and swallowing it with water. This is far more potent, inexpensive and effective than any other way I know of.
- Cooking with it: Ginger tastes great lightly sautéed with other vegetables, meat, sesame oil, and a pinch of natural, unprocessed salt.
- As a tea: Simply put a couple of thin slices into hot water. A little bit of raw honey can sweeten the otherwise "hot and spicy" flavor of the tea.
I've previously also recommended ginger syrup, which you can easily make on your own or purchase in most health food stores. However, knowing what we now know about the massively negative health ramifications of fructose consumption, I'd recommend avoiding this alternative and just stick to eating or drinking the ginger without loading up on unnecessary sugar.
Using a ginger syrup, which consists of about twice the amount of sugar to ginger, doesn't make much sense in terms of overall health – especially if you're drinking it regularly.
Added Boon: Ginger May Also Help Prevent Heart Disease
In the past decade, researchers have also discovered that ginger may benefit your cardiovascular health, including:
- Preventing atherosclerosis
- Lowering cholesterol levels
- Preventing oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL)
One animal study found that mice who received 250 micrograms of ginger oil daily experienced:
- 44 percent reduction in aortic atherosclerotic lesion
- 27 percent reduction in triglycerides
- 29 percent reduction in cholesterol
- 53 percent reduction in VLDL cholesterol
- 33 percent reductions in LDL (bad) cholesterol, and
- Reduced LDL oxidation and aggregation
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to make sure you're eating (or drinking) fresh herbs and spices such as ginger on a regular basis.
Want even more tips on how to use ginger in your cooking?
Check out About.com's Home Cooking section for a long list of recipes that include ginger.