Ginger Quells Cancer Patients’ Nausea From Chemotherapy

May 15, 2009

Capsules of ginger root can be used to ease the nausea that plagues people undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

People with cancer can reduce post-chemotherapy nausea by 40 percent by using ginger supplements, along with standard anti-vomiting drugs, before undergoing treatment, according to scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

About 70 percent of cancer patients who receive chemotherapy complain of nausea and vomiting. “There are effective drugs to control vomiting, but the nausea is often worse because it lingers,” said lead author Julie L. Ryan, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of Dermatology and Radiation Oncology at Rochester’s James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. The research will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in the Patient and Survivor Care Session on Saturday, May 30, in Orlando, Fla.

“Nausea is a major problem for people who undergo chemotherapy and it’s been a challenge for scientists and doctors to understand how to control it,” said Ryan, a member of Rochester’s Community Clinical Oncology Program Research Base at the Wilmot Cancer Center. Her research is the largest randomized study to demonstrate the effectiveness of ginger supplements to ease the nausea. Previous small studies have been inconsistent and never focused on taking the common spice before chemotherapy.

The Phase II/III placebo-controlled, double-blind study included 644 cancer patients who would receive at least three chemotherapy treatments. They were divided into four arms that received placebos, 0.5 gram of ginger, 1 gram of ginger, or 1.5 grams of ginger along with antiemetics (anti-vomiting drugs such as Zofran®, Kytril®, Novaban®, and Anzemet®.)

Patients took the ginger supplements three days prior to chemotherapy and three days following treatment. Patients reported nausea levels at various times of day during following their chemotherapy and those who took the lower doses had a 40 percent reduction. 

Ginger is readily absorbed in the body and has long been considered a remedy for stomach aches. “By taking the ginger prior to chemotherapy treatment, the National Cancer Institute-funded study suggests its earlier absorption into the body may have anti-inflammatory properties,” Ryan said.

Rochester’s Community Clinical Oncology Program Research Base is a national cooperative research group funded by the National Cancer Institute. The Wilmot Cancer Center team specializes in improving the quality of life of people who have cancer.

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