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Ginger in Relieving Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Ginger has been used throughout history as both a culinary herb and a medicinal agent. Ginger has gained attention in the United States because of its effect on motion sickness, nausea, as an aid in digestion, and its anti-rheumatic and anti-inflammatory effects.

Ginger is best known for its ability to lessen the nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness. In fact, studies have found that it may be more effective than drug alternatives for many conditions and situations that make the stomach feel unsettled. What's more, in the case of motion sickness, ginger may be preferred to antihistamines because it does not cause drowsiness. Ginger root preparations may also be useful in controlling nausea and vomiting in outpatient surgery, for lessening the nausea and loss of appetite associated with chemotherapy, and in the treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition of excessive vomiting and dehydration that occurs during early pregnancy.

Chemotherapy is the treatment of a disease with chemicals. It acts by killing cells that divide rapidly which is one of the main properties of most cancer cells. This means it also harms healthy cells resulting in side effects such as: nausea, vomiting, tiredness, pain and hair loss. After chemotherapy, healthy cells usually recover and side effects gradually go away.

Researchers decided to investigate the effectiveness of ginger as an additional antiemetic therapy in patients receiving chemotherapy. The scientists of this double-blind study randomly assigned patients with bone cancer to either ginger root powder capsules or placebo capsules as an additional antiemetic to ondensetron and dexamethasone. Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting were evaluated with the Edmonton’s Symptom Assessment Scale and National Cancer Institute criteria. The results were significantly more severe nausea and vomiting in the placebo group compared to the ginger group. These findings indicate that ginger root powder as an additional antiemetic was effective in reducing severity of nausea and vomiting in patients receiving chemotherapy.1

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This article was published on Saturday October 16, 2010.
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1 Pillai AK,Sharma KK, Gupta YK, et al. Anti-emetic effect of ginger powder versus placebo as an add-on therapy in children and young adults receiving high emetogenic chemotherapy. Pediatr Blood Cancer. Sep2010.