Is Ginger Better Than Advil?

fresh ginger
Courtesy of Creative Commons

I just spent a sunny Sunday afternoon pulling weeds up on my hillside, and now my lower back is complaining. I guess I overdid it. Normally I’d stretch for a while and take a couple Advil, but maybe I should take ginger instead?

University of Georgia researchers have found that ginger reduces muscle pain caused by exercise. Their results were recently published in the Journal of Pain. They compared the effect of taking ginger capsules to  ”dummy” placebo capsules on muscle pain. Volunteers took either raw ginger, heat-treated ginger or placebo capsules for 11 days. The volunteers performed strenuous arm exercises on the eighth day, and the researchers assessed their pain level and various measures of inflammation during the final three days.

This was a “double-blind, placebo controlled, randomized” study, which simply means that neither the volunteers nor the researchers knew who was getting the ginger capsules. This is particularly important for these kinds of studies. Rating your pain level is subjective and can be affected by whether you think you’re taking the ginger.

The strenuous arm exercises induced mild muscle pain 24 hours later. However, the muscle pain was rated to be 25% lower by the volunteers taking ginger than those taking the placebo — a moderate-to-large reduction in muscle pain.

The researchers claim that ginger consumption may be more effective than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin or ibuprofen), based on past studies performed by others. Ginger has also been shown to reduce hip and/or knee pain in osteoarthritis patients.

However, it is important to recognize that you have to take ginger for several days for it to work. Unlike ibuprofen, you can’t just take a couple ginger tablets (after overdoing it in the garden) and wait an hour to feel better. So if you know that you’re going to be a weekend warrior, you might want to plan ahead and take ginger capsules during the week.

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