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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 8:28 EDT

Ginger Prevents Nausea in Cancer Patients

May 15, 2009

Ginger, frequently used to help a sour stomach, is now being used to fight the side effects of cancer treatment: nausea caused by chemotherapy, says a large, new study.

People who took ginger capsules days before chemo had less of a chance of nausea than others given placebos, the federally funded study discovered.

“We were slightly beside ourselves” to discover the success of the ginger, said study leader Julie Ryan of the University of Rochester.
Results were announced Thursday by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

However, stay away from the ginger ale. Sodas tend to have only flavoring and not real ginger. Still, ginger capsules may provide an inexpensive, easy way to stay away from nausea, which is a monumental find, doctors say. Many cancer patients stop treatment altogether due to severe nausea, affecting their chances of fighting the disease.

Medicines can stop vomiting, but about three-fourths of chemo patients suffer from nausea, which is at times worse, Ryan said.

“Patients ask all the time, ‘What else can I do?’” said Dr. Richard Schilsky, a cancer specialist at the University of Chicago.

The study took 644 patients from cancer centers around the US who with nausea caused by chemotherapy. They were broken up into four groups and administered either three doses of ginger or placebos along with anti-sickness medicines.

The ginger considerably reduced nausea. Those taking placebos reported zero change.

Timing may affect the success of the ginger. A previous study discovered that ginger was not effective if taken the day before chemo. The researchers wanted to test the ginger to see, if taken days before chemo, it was effective.

“It was just a different way of thinking to treat nausea, to try and pre-empt it,” Ryan said.

There were no side effects of taking the ginger, but doctors think that people should discuss it with their doctors because it can hinder blood clotting, particularly during chemo or if taken along with the blood thinners. It is also risky for those having surgery, the American Cancer Society states.

As a dietary supplement, 50 to 100 ginger capsules can run for $6 to $30, Ryan noted.

“We can’t specifically say if any other form besides the form in our study would work,” she added.

The researchers feel that it is amazing to know that ginger may give hope as an inexpensive and easy way to help those taking chemo, said Dr. Durado Brooks of the Cancer Society.

“It’s difficult to watch someone suffer, to watch someone be miserable. So anything we can do to help alleviate chemotherapy symptoms is very welcome,” he said.

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University of Rochester

American Society of Clinical Oncology