The advent of drugs that treat pain and inflammation by inhibiting the COX-2 enzyme has brought to the fore many natural compounds with similar activity, such as ginger (Zingiber officinalis). Constituents of ginger have shown strong inhibitory effects on COX-2 in the test tube, with 10-gingerol, 6-shogaol and 8-paradol demonstrating the most potent effects.

A recent clinical study of subjects with osteoarthritis tested a proprietary ginger extract combined with a proprietary extract of Alpinia galanga, another member of the ginger family. The results were not impressive, showing no significant evidence that ginger works as a pain-reliever. Furthermore, the researchers found a notable number of gastrointestinal upsets. An earlier study using the same ginger extract alone showed no effect on subjects with osteoarthritis. So, although ginger may have COX-2 inhibitory effects, it may not be effective enough to qualify it as a natural panacea for the aches and pains of life.

Nutrition and exercise biochemist Anthony Almada, MS, has collaborated on more than 45 university-based studies. He is cofounder of Experimental and Applied Sciences (EAS) and founder and chief scientific officer of IMAGINutrition.