The ginger pill is cheaper than and superior to all other anti-nausea drugs, a new study proves.
Ginger, the common household herb, can offer a cheap and simple way to cut down nausea –the tendency for vomiting — in patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
Though ginger has been used as a home remedy to a number of ailments related to the digestive tract over hundreds of years, the latest one is the first large study to give a scientific basis for the tall claims of efficacy for ginger.
A randomized clinical trial has confirmed that not only can ginger decrease nausea caused by chemotherapy, but its effects go beyond that provided by standard anti-vomiting drugs.
The large scale human trial involved involved 644 patients who were undergoing chemotherapy at 23 oncology practices in the United States.
Two-thirds had breast cancer and the rest, other forms of the disease. They were placed in four groups and given one of three doses of ginger (the equivalent of one-half, 1 or 1 1/2 grams of ginger per day) or dummy capsules in addition to standard anti-sickness medicines.
Patients took the capsules for six days, beginning three days before chemo treatment. They rated their nausea symptoms on a seven-point scale on the first day of each of three treatments.
All of the ginger doses significantly reduced nausea, and the middle and lowest doses gave the best results. Patients taking ginger scored their nausea an average of two or more points lower on the nausea scale, about a 40 percent improvement over their previous chemo treatments without ginger. Those given dummy pills (placebo) reported hardly any difference.
The best results corresponded to a quarter to a half teaspoon of ground ginger, said Julie L. Ryan of the University of Rochester, the lead author of the study. Either the ginger that comes in spice bottles or the ginger capsules sold in health food stores would probably work, she said.
However, she was less sure about ginger cookies, ginger tea or ginger ale, though they might if they contained real ginger in the proper amount. “It’s a higher dose than you would get in one cookie,” Ryan said.
The ginger caused no side effects in the new study, but doctors say people should talk with their doctors before trying it because it can interfere with blood clotting, especially during cancer treatment or if taken with the blood thinner Coumadin or other commonly used medicines. It’s also a risk for people having surgery, the American Cancer Society warns.
The trial was financed by the National Cancer Institute.
Currently, the US based Aphios Corp makes ginger capsules. The company sells a different type of ginger capsule as a dietary supplement.
Named SuperCool Gingerol is an enhanced ginger product, which is standardized by the bioactive constituents, gingerols and shogaols. Ginger, Zingiber officinale Roscoe (Family Zingiberaceae).
But Aphios hopes to seek federal Food and Drug Administration approval to sell its new ginger formulation as a drug to treat nausea, said chief executive officer Trevor Castor.
As dietary supplements, 50 to 100 ginger capsules sell for $6 to $30, Ryan said.
Ginger is used in many countries as a medicinal ingredient which many believe in. Some say it can help cure diabetes, head aches, colds, fatigue, nausea and the flu when used in tea or food. The list of properties associated with ginger include: antiemetic/antinausea, anticlotting agent, antispasmodic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, antitussive, nalgesic, circulatory, stimulant, carminative, expectorant, hypotensive, increases blood flow, promotes weating, relaxes, peripheral blood vessels etc.
The study will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which begins May 29 in Orlando, Fla.