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Ginger Eases Chemo Nausea

May 18, 2009

People with cancer can reduce post-chemotherapy nausea 40% 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% of cancer patients in 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, assistant professor of dermatology and radiation oncology at Rochester's James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. “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 to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in the Patient and Survivor Care Session on May 30 in Orlando, Fla. This is the largest randomized study to demonstrate the effectiveness of ginger supplements to ease the nausea. Previous small studies have 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 before 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% reduction. Ginger is readily absorbed in the body and has long been considered a remedy for stomachaches.