Ginger to Reduce Nausea from Chemo
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is derived from the root of the ginger plant. It can be taken as a supplement, or used as a food, a drink or as a spice added to your favorite foods. As a food, ginger may be used fresh, dried or crystallized.
Ginger contains oleoresins, substances that have an effect on the muscles of the digestive system. Ginger also has anti-inflammatory effects in the body.
A 2012 study to evaluate the best dose of ginger also found a significant reduction in nausea among people who used ginger. In this study, patients were given a placebo or 0.5 grams, 1 gram, or 1.5 grams of ginger divided twice a day for 6 days, and beginning 3 days prior to the chemotherapy infusion. The most effective dose in this study was 0.5 to 1.0 grams.
Chemotherapy can cause nausea immediately, or over several hours and days following infusion. Another 2012 study done with breast cancer patients found that ginger was most effective in alleviating nausea that occurred between 6 and 24 hours following chemotherapy. Yet another study performed on children and young adults with cancer found that ginger helped with both acute (within 24 hours) and delayed (after 24 hours) nausea associated with chemotherapy.
While ginger appears to help with nausea, a 2015 study found that ginger helped with nausea and episodes of vomiting, but did not decrease the episodes of retching experienced by women with breast cancer.
Results of a 2017 study published in the Annals of Oncology suggest that the effect of ginger on chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting may vary between men and women, by cancer type, and by drug, making previous studies somewhat difficult to interpret. In this study, ginger did not seem to provide a protective effect for many people in the study (people with lung cancer and head and neck cancer), but did appear to be of benefit, particularly for females and those who had head and neck cancer. Of note is that this study looked specifically at the role of ginger in people receiving the drug cisplatin.
Studies done to evaluate how ginger may reduce nausea suggest that it is the rhizome that holds the active ingredients. Both gingerol and shogaol compounds appear to affect gastrointestinal motility and gastric emptying rate but also affect neurotransmitters in the brain that may affect nausea.
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