The researchers, from the Department of Community Nutrition in the School of Nutrition and Food Science at Iran’s Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, conducted two recent clinical studies of young women athletes – the first with 60 athletic women and the second one with 49 women athletes.
Both studies were published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The women studied were trained in competitive martial arts.
The women of both studies were divided into three groups. One group was given three grams of powdered Ginger per day. Another was given powdered Cinnamon per day. The third was given three grams of a placebo powder per day.
In the first study, the women were tested for immune cytokines and muscle soreness over the period of six weeks. Muscle soreness was evaluated using the peer-reviewed Likert Scale of Muscle Soreness.
The researchers found that both the Ginger and Cinnamon groups had significantly decreased muscle soreness following exercise compared to the placebo group.
The researchers identified the mechanisms as being related to the ability of the constituents of these spices – each has hundreds – curbing inflammation and reducing oxidative stress in the body.
The second study done by the same researchers – this using 60 women athletes – focused on athletic performance, oxidative stress levels and body weight/composition among the athletes after taking Ginger and Cinnamon.
Again the women were randomly divided into three groups, one taking three grams of Ginger powder, another taking three grams of Cinnamon powder, and the third taking three grams of a placebo powder every day over a six week period. The study was conducted over an eight week period.
The women were tested for plasma levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) – which measures a person’s oxidative stress levels – along with body mass index, body fat and other components. Athletic performance was also graded through the period, using a 360 meter run after running at low velocity for a warmup.
The researchers found that there was a significant lowering of MDA levels among the Ginger group compared to the placebo group during the six weeks. And there was a significant increase in athletic performance among the Ginger group compared to the other two groups during the six weeks.
In terms of body composition, there was an increase in skinfold – possibly reflecting body fat but this test is not so reliable for athletes – amongst the Cinnamon group. The Ginger group also showed an increase in body mass index during the six weeks.
None of these results – including the athletic performance – continued after the six week intervention was completed.
These results indicate clearly that these two herbs effectively change the body’s metabolism, and are useful not only for increasing athletic performance and decreasing muscle performance, but a myriad of other metabolic-related functions within the body.
Both of these medicinal herbs have been used for thousands of years amongst numerous ancient medicines.
In modern research, over 400 compounds have been found in Ginger. These include gingerols and shogaols. Cinnamon also contains many constituents, including cinnamic aldehyde and cinnamyl aldehyde. Both “spices” have been shown to have significant antioxidant and immune-stimulating properties.
Perhaps our steroid-loving professional athletes and their trainers might consider revisiting these medicines of our ancestors.
Written by Case Adams, Naturopath
Mashhadi NS, Ghiasvand R, Hariri M, Askari G, Feizi A, Darvishi L, Hajishafiee M, Barani A. Effect of ginger and cinnamon intake on oxidative stress and exercise performance and body composition in Iranian female athletes. Int J Prev Med. 2013 Apr;4(Suppl 1):S31-5.
Mashhadi NS, Ghiasvand R, Askari G, Feizi A, Hariri M, Darvishi L, Barani A, Taghiyar M, Shiranian A, Hajishafiee M. Influence of ginger and cinnamon intake on inflammation and muscle soreness endued by exercise in Iranian female athletes. Int J Prev Med. 2013 Apr;4(Suppl 1):S11-5.