For centuries, Eastern medicine has embraced ginger for its healing properties, and current research has revealed why it works. The root may act as an anti-inflammatory by blocking prostaglandins—hormone-like compounds that cause muscle contractions—which quell post-workout soreness, says Christopher Black, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the University of Oklahoma.
It’s the same pathway that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin take. Having ginger before exercising may make it even more effective. The root contains the compound gingerol, which “binds to a certain nerve receptor and lessens the pain signal,” Black says. (It’s similar to capsaicin, the chemical that makes chili peppers hot and is also used as a painkiller.) Raw ginger is intense, so buy it juiced to blend into smoothies, cook the powder into curry, have the pickled kind with sushi, or try a ginger capsule. A Moscow Mule might make you feel better, too, but it has little to do with the ginger beer in the classic cocktail’s recipe.