Will Ginger Help Reduce My Nausea From Chemotherapy, And Is It Safe To Take This Herb During Cancer Treatment?

Linda A. Lee, M.D, Hopkins

Question: Will ginger help reduce my nausea from chemotherapy, and is it safe to take this herb during cancer treatment?

Answer:Ginger has been used for centuries for the treatment of nausea, and in fact there is a whole body of literature where ginger has been used for the treatment of nausea related to pregnancy. In general, ginger is felt to be fairly safe, and a recent study was released just this past May that garnered a lot of press and attention. This was an NIH-sponsored clinical trial in the use of ginger for the treatment or prevention and treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea. It's important to remember that all patients enrolled in this trial also received pharmacologic therapy – the standard therapy that patients typically get for treatment of nausea -- while they were getting the ginger. This study demonstrated that there were individuals who received 500mg or 1,000mg of ginger capsules that seemed to help prevent or reduce the amount of nausea they experienced with chemotherapy. The trouble is with ginger is that there are many types of ginger capsules available on the market, and unlike pharmacologic agents, supplements are not regulated in the same way by the FDA. So, therefore, it is very hard as consumers or as health care practitioners to really recommend a particular brand. There was a study that was published several years ago looking at the amount of active ginger compound present in these capsules, and it turned out three out of the 13 products that they examined did not even have active ginger compounds in them. So, I guess if you really want to be on the safe side, one thing you could consider is using grated ginger. It's been estimated that if you use a quarter teaspoon or half teaspoon twice a day that this may help with your nausea. The great thing about ginger is that it's very safe.

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