Ginger root has been used for centuries as a folk remedy for ailments ranging from colds to upset stomachs. To add to the root’s healing resumé, this month The Journal of Pain will unveil a study by researchers at the University of Georgia showing that daily ginger consumption also reduces muscle pain caused by exercise.

While ginger had been shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects in rodents, its effect on experimentally induced human muscle pain was largely unexplored, said Patrick O’Connor, a professor in the College of Education’s department of kinesiology and one of the study’s four authors, in a press release. Prior to the study, it was also believed that heating ginger, as occurs with cooking, might increase its pain-relieving effects.

O’Connor and colleagues directed two studies examining the effects of ginger supplementation on muscle pain. Participants in the studies—34 and 40 volunteers, respectively—consumed capsules containing 2 grams (g) of either raw or heat-treated ginger or a placebo for 11 consecutive days. On the 8th day they performed 18 extensions of elbow flexors with a heavy weight to induce moderate muscle injury to the arm. Arm function, inflammation, pain and a biochemical involved in pain were assessed prior to and for 3 days after exercise.

The studies showed that daily ginger supplementation reduced the exercise-induced pain by 25%. The effect was not enhanced by heat-treating the ginger.

“The economic and personal costs of pain are extremely high,” said 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 (e.g., gardening). Anything that can truly relieve this type of pain will be greatly welcomed by the many people who are experiencing it.”

The study is available online at www.jpain.org/home.