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, University of Georgia professor in kinesiology.
It was also believed that heating ginger, as occurs with cooking, might increase its pain-relieving effects.
O'Connor directed two studies examining the effects of 11 days of raw and heat-treated ginger supplementation on muscle pain.
Collaborators included Chris Black, University of Georgia assistant professor of kinesiology, its doctoral student Matt Herring, and David Hurley, its associate professor of population health.
Participants in the studies, 34 and 40 volunteers respectively, consumed capsules containing two grams of either raw or heat-treated ginger or a placebo for 11 consecutive days.
On the eighth day they performed 18 extensions of the 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 three days after exercise.
The studies showed that daily ginger supplementation reduced the exercise-induced pain by 25 percent, and the effect was not enhanced by heat-treating the ginger.
"The economic and personal costs of pain are extremely high," said O'Connor, according to a University of Georgia release.
"Muscle pain generally is one of the most common types of pain...Anything that can truly relieve this type of pain will be greatly welcomed by the many people who are experiencing it," O'Connor said.
The study is slated for publication in the September issue of The Journal of Pain and is currently available online at www.jpain.org/home."