As a book author, receiving a new book in the mail–the actual, physical version of the book I spent long, intense months researching and writing–is a very exciting event. Recently, I received my brand new copy of BOTTOM LINE’S BREAKTHROUGHS IN NATURAL HEALING 2012, a yearbook I write with my dear friends at Bottom Line Publications. (You can purchase the book and other Bottom Line products at www.bottomlinestores.com.)
BOTTOM LINE’S BREAKTHROUGHS IN NATURAL HEALING 2012 features a combination of new materials. I write 50 percent of the book: 100, 1,000-word reports about the previous year’s top studies on drugless health and healing. For the other 50 percent, I cull articles on natural health and healing from the previous year’s Bottom Line newsletters (Bottom Line Health, Bottom Line Personal, Bottom Line Natural Health, HealthyWoman from Bottom Line, and Daily Health News). This first blog post, at my new website, is an adaptation of one of the 1,000-word articles in the “Aches and Pains From Head To Toe” chapter in the book. It features a particularly fascinating study which found that USING THE HERB GINGER TO PREVENT MUSCLE PAIN from everday, strenuous activities like repainting the kitchen, or going on a long hike was MORE EFFECTIVE THAN ASPIRIN, IBUPROFEN OR NAPROXEN. If you’re a weekend warrior who often wishes on Monday morning that your muscles could be a little less sore–read this post!
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia. They divided 74 people into two groups, with one group taking a daily capsule containing 2 grams of ginger and one group taking a placebo. One week later, both groups were asked to repeatedly perform an exercise so intense that the researchers were certain it would trigger, painful inflamed muscles.
Not surprisingly, the next day both the ginger and non-ginger groups had very painful arm muscles. But the ginger group had 24% less pain. Two days after exercise, the ginger group still had a lot less muscle pain.
“The daily consumption of ginger resulted in moderate-to-large reductions in muscle pain following exercise-induced muscle injury,” concluded the researchers in the Journal of Pain.
How Ginger Works
I asked the study leader–Chris Black, PhD–to explain to me how ginger works to help prevent pain. “Ginger inhibits the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes that play a big role in the production of inflammation-causing compounds in the body,” he told me. “It’s the same mechanism of action as over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin that are commonly used to relieve muscle pain. But our study shows that ginger may work better than over-the-counter NSAIDs to prevent and reduce muscle pain.
That’s good news, because NSAIDs can be NASTY. Recent studies link OTC NSAIDs to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke–with the American Heart Association recommending people take NSAIDSs at the lowest possible dose for the shortest time possible.
Why Ginger Is Safer
Some medical experts say that since ginger has a mechanism similar to NSAIDs, regular use may carry the same risks, which includes bleeeding ulcers that kill thousands yearly. Not so, I was told by Amanda McQuade-Crawford, a medical herbalist in Los Angeles. “Ginger has been used as a medicinal herb and culinary spice for three to four thousand years, with almost daily use in many cultures,” she said. “It may have some similar modes of action to NSAIDs, but it is not a NSAID, which can have significant negative effects from repeated use.”
How To Use Ginger To Prevent Muscle Pain
If you know you’re in for some heavy lifting (or biking or hiking or any strenuous activity where it’s likely you’ll wake up the next morning with sore muscles), try taking a daily 2-gram ginger supplement for two or three days before the activity, says Dr. Black. “You’ll get better results if finger is in your system before the activity, as compared to treating symptoms afterward,” he told me. McQuade-Crawford says that if you’re generally healthy, a daily dose of 3 to 4 grams might produce even more dramatic pain-preventing effects.
So if you’re about to start a new exercise regimen…or you’re a veteran exerciser undergoing intense training or participating in an extended event, like a marathon…or if you know you’re going to spend the weekend painting that kitchen, her suggested regimen is:
- Start at 2 grams.
- After 2 or 3 days, increase to 3 grams.
- After another 2 or 3 days, increase to 4 grams.
- Maintain that dose.
You can also use fresh ginger, she says. A piece of ginger root about the size of the last digit of your thumb supplies a 2-gram dose. Juice the ginger, and add the juice to your favorite smoothie.
Try A Ginger Poultice
For sore muscles, you can also use a ginger poultice to increase circulation and ease the pain in the aching area, says McQuade-Crawford. Her recommendation: Mix freshly grated or dried ginger with hot water into a slurry, apply it to the sore area, and cover it with a cloth. Leave the poultice on for 15 to 20 minutes. After taking it off, you’ll have some redness and warmth in the area, which will dissipate in 15 to 30 minutes.
I’ve been typing for a long time today…maybe it’s time to take a break and make myself a cup of ginger tea!
Yours for better health,