Within scientific circles, it has been documented that ginger helps mitigate the pain of arthritis by reducing inflammation. In this process, the active ingredients in ginger, compounds called gingerols, inhibit an enzyme that causes inflammation.
Furthermore, according to research by Professor Roufogalis at the University of Sydney, gingerols have been found to affect pain by blocking the pain pathways directly. The gingerols have a similar structure to capsaicin, the active ingredient of chili peppers, which is a known pain reliever. Gingerols, like capsaicin, act on specific receptors in the body called vanilloid receptors, or VR1, which sit on pain sensory nerve endings. However, unlike capsaicin, which dulls pain receptors only after initially causing pain, ginger can achieve the same effect but without the initial painful response.
Professor Roufogalis concludes that the gingerol structure may be used as a template for the development of new pain relieving drugs acting via the VR1 receptor for controlling pain. In addition to their direct affect on the VR1 receptors, gingerols prevent the aggregation of platelets thus helping to thin the blood, they reduce inflammation, and unlike aspirin, ginger has a calming effect on the intestinal tract.
Source: British Journal of Pharmacology