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Lynne Eldridge MD

Ginger May Help With Nausea From Chemotherapy

By May 18, 2009

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Nausea is no party. Hence my internal celebration upon hearing that ginger -- that spice my friends hailed when I was green with morning sickness -- reduced the nausea from chemotherapy.


Nausea is one of the most feared symptoms of chemotherapy, and I know my green days of early pregnancy were a summer picnic compared to what many of you have experienced. The newer anti-nausea drugs are great for nearly eliminating vomiting, but 70% of individuals still experience some degree of nausea.

In this largest study of ginger to date, to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncologyís Annual Meeting on May 30th, 2009, over 600 patients were evaluated to see how a supplement of ginger would affect their nausea following chemotherapy. In addition to receiving 2 anti-nausea drugs, one group was treated with a supplement of ginger beginning 3 days before chemotherapy. The ginger group experienced significantly less nausea than the group that did not receive ginger.

The amount of ginger used was not like some studies we hear about Ė it didnít take a truckload of ginger to make a difference. The dose that actually worked best (more wasnít better) was equivalent to roughly a half-teaspoon of fresh chopped ginger root or a quarter-teaspoon of ground ginger. The amount I consumed as I voraciously devoured one of my grandmotherís Scandinavian ginger cookies.

We donít know why ginger works, perhaps it has an anti-inflammatory effect in the stomach that would explain it's use for stomach upset in Asia for centuries. The exciting part is that ginger has very few side effects. But before adding that ginger to your stir-fry before chemo, make sure to check with your oncologist. Ginger can act like a blood thinner, which could be a problem if you have a low platelet count (thrombocytopenia), or are taking medications that interfere with blood clotting.

Further reading:

Photo: flickr.com, user notafish


University of Rochester Medical Center. Research. Ginger Quells Cancer Patientsí Nausea From Chemotherapy. 05/15/09. http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/pr/news/story.cfm?id=2491

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