CANCER
June 2, 2009

Ginger Eases Chemo's Nausea

Ginger has been a folk medicine for a long time. Its benefits now appear to extend to the nausea experienced by those receiving chemotherapy.

The longtime tradition of consuming ginger to relieve nausea now has scientific backing from a study out of the University of Rochester's James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. The researchers found that cancer patients suffering from the ill−effects of chemotherapy reported significantly less nausea if they took ginger supplements rather than Placebo.

Cancer patients suffering from the ill−effects of chemotherapy reported significantly less nausea if they took ginger supplements rather than placebo.

The study followed 644 cancer patients, many of whom suffered from breast cancer. All participants had already experienced nausea following chemotherapy, and they also had at least three rounds of chemotherapy left to undergo. They were randomly assigned to take ginger or placebo for three days before and three days after start of the next round of chemo. Head researcher Julie Ryan points out that nausea is typically most severe on the first day of chemo.

Those in the ginger group received 0.5, 1.0, or 1.5 grams of ginger (these doses are equivalent to about ¼, ½, and ¾ of a teaspoon of ginger, respectively). All 644 patients also received antiemetic (anti−nausea) drugs to take for the completion of the study.

Consuming ginger at any dose alleviated nausea considerably, but the 0.5 and 1.0 gram doses appeared to provide the greatest effect — patients in these two groups reported a 40% reduction in nausea compared to controls.

Ryan concludes that taking ginger supplements — at a daily dose of 0.5−to−1 gram significantly aids in the reduction of chemotherapy−related nausea on the first day of chemotherapy, and reduced nausea will lead to improved quality of life in many cancer patients." The authors also note that without the use of ginger, up to 70% of chemo patients still experience nausea even when taking antiemetic medications.

It is still unclear whether a similar effect would be seen if patients consumed foods containing ginger (like teas or cookies), or what the exact mechanism behind ginger's antiemetic effects might be.

The study is expected to be presented later this month at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Orlando, FL.

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