Ginger is a spice that comes from the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale and is in the same plant family as turmeric and cardamom. It is available as a fresh root, dried spice, candied, as a liquid extract, in pill form or as a tea. Though it’s not part of the typical American diet, ginger has been included in traditional Asian, Indian and Arabic dishes and used as a medicine to treat stomach upset, nausea, headache, arthritis pain and a source of anitoxidants since ancient times. New research even supports the use of ginger for pain relief.
A recent study in the Journal of Pain looked at the effectiveness of ginger on muscle pain. Participants consumed either raw ginger, heat treated ginger or placebo for 11 consecutive days. On day 8 of the study subjects performed a weight-lifting exercise designed to strain elbow flexor muscles, thereby inducing pain and inflammation. Pain intensity, perceived effort, plasma prostaglandin E2, arm volume, range-of-motion, and isometric strength were assessed prior to and for 3 days after exercise (days 9 to 11).
Results indicated that daily consumption of raw or heat-treated ginger did result in moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain (about 25% and 23%, respectively) following exercise-induced muscle injury. This effect is not enhanced by heat treating the ginger. According to researchers, “our findings agree with those showing hypoalgesic effects of ginger in osteoarthritis patients and further demonstrate ginger’s effectiveness as a pain reliever.”
Other herbs and spices such as turmeric, green tea and boswellia have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and pain relieving benefits. There are also anti-inflammatory products that combine several herbs and spices to offer a more complete pain managing formula such as Zyflamend.
–Nicole Elias, RD, LD