Ginger Is a Promising Remedy for Chemo-Induced Nausea, Vomiting

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A recent review of research found that ginger is an effective non-drug way to manage chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Ginger root, candied and ginger powder in wooden spoon over grey concrete background | Image credit: © DIA - © stock.adobe.com

Ginger may be an effective, non-pharmacological way to manage chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, research showed.

Research supports the use of ginger (a type of spice that is commonly used to flavor food and teas) to prevent or treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), according to a poster presentation from the Oncology Nursing Society Annual Congress.

Nhani Tran, a gerontology acute care nurse practitioner student at Columbia University, analyzed research pertaining to the use of ginger for CINV that was published within the last five years. The studies all found that ginger was a plausible and safe method for treating the condition.

In fact, one small study found that acute nausea and vomiting was decreased by 60% after patients started using oral ginger in the form of capsules or drinks. Similarly, this study also showed that fatigue decreased by 80%. The American Cancer Society stated that vomiting can cause fatigue, as well as trouble concentrating, slower wound healing, weight loss and loss of appetite.

Other studies found that ginger decreased the rate or severity of nausea, though not all of them had an effect on the frequency of vomiting.

Finding a way to manage CINV is extremely important, explained Tran, as it has been associated with treatment discontinuation, decreased quality of life, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and increased costs of care. Further, despite pharmaceutical drug available — such as Zofran (ondansetron) and palosetron — the majority of patients still experience the side effect.

READ MORE: Can a Skin Patch Effectively Control Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea, Vomiting?

Tran explained that ginger has bioactive compounds that target 5-HT3 receptors, which, according to the National Institutes of Health, are a part of the central and peripheral nervous systems that are key in transferring information in the gastrointestinal tract. Medications that treat CINV also work, in part, by targeting these same receptors.

“These receptors have a high therapeutic index for prevention of CINV, and despite significant progress in CINV (prevention) with standard pharmacological treatments, approximately 70 to 80% of patients with cancer still experience CINV,” Tran said while presenting her findings.

Of note, Tran said that there is no standardized route or dosing for ginger to treat CINV.

“I felt it was important to review the current published research on efficacy of different formulations and routes of administration for adjuvant ginger therapy and adult oncology patients who have CINV,” Tran said.

Different administrations of ginger that were included in the research review were:

  • Oral powders
  • Oral capsules
  • Fresh slices placed under the tongue
  • Liquid tea
  • Aromatherapy
  • Inhalation

Regardless of the way that ginger was administered, there were no major side effects seen with the use of ginger, and it seemed to be most effective in patients with acute CINV, which occurs soon after chemotherapy administration (within an hour or two) and lasts for approximately 24 hours. This is most common in patients who are receiving chemotherapy intravenously or orally, according to the American Cancer Society.

For patients wondering how to incorporate ginger into their diet who prefer to have it as part of a meal or snack, the spice was featured in the carrot and ginger salad recipe found in the Spring 2023 issue of Heal®.

Ultimately, Tran wrote in her presentation, “Ginger is a valuable adjunctive treatment for acute CINV in adult oncology patients.”

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