Ginger for Nausea Relief

Root ginger (Zingiber)
Getty Images/Steven Morris Photography

Ginger, a flavorful root used in many different cuisines, has long been a popular remedy for nausea, a type of stomach upset that often results from morning sickness, motion sickness, chemotherapy, food poisoning, migraines, and the use of certain medications. It is particularly popular in traditional Asian and Arabic medicines. Many people use ginger supplements when treating nausea, although fresh, dried, and crystallized ginger may also help soothe nausea when consumed as foods or spices.

While it's not known how ginger might ease nausea, some scientists suspect that certain chemicals found in ginger may influence the nervous system, stomach, and intestines to help reduce nausea.

The Science Behind Ginger and Nausea

A 2005 report from Obstetrics and Gynecology analyzed six clinical trials (with a total of 675 participants) and found that ginger was superior to a placebo and similar to vitamin B6 in relieving nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

In addition, in a 2006 report from the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, investigators sized up five clinical trials (with a total of 363 patients) and concluded that taking ginger is more effective than placebo for post-surgery nausea and vomiting.

In 2012, another study reported in Integrated Cancer Therapy found that ginger was effective in reducing nausea caused by chemotherapy. Ginger was administered to women being treated for advanced breast cancer; the study found that " A significantly lower prevalence of nausea was observed in the ginger group during 6 to 24 hours post chemotherapy."

On the other hand, according to a study published in 2014, ginger supplements are of little value in protecting against motion sickness.

Uses

Ginger is available in extracts, tinctures, lozenges, supplements, and teas. It can also be purchased in crystallized form and is included as an ingredient in ginger ale and ginger beer. Most of these products are available in ordinary grocery stores, though some may be harder to find.

While ginger is generally considered safe for most people, it may cause some mild side effects (including heartburn, diarrhea, and stomach discomfort). Also, some sources say there isn't enough information about the safety of ginger in pregnant women (in theory, ginger could inhibit an enzyme called thromboxane synthetase and possibly influence sex steroid differentiation in the fetal brain). 

It's important to take caution when using ginger in combination with other medications. For instance, combining ginger supplements with blood-thinning drugs may increase the risk of bleeding.

If you're considering the use of ginger supplements in the treatment of a health problem (or during chemotherapy), make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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  1. Borrelli F, Capasso R, Aviello G, Pittler MH, Izzo AA. Effectiveness and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting. Obstet Gynecol. 2005;105(4):849-56. doi:10.1097/01.AOG.0000154890.47642.23

  2. Chaiyakunapruk N, Kitikannakorn N, Nathisuwan S, Leeprakobboon K, Leelasettagool C. The efficacy of ginger for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting: a meta-analysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006;194(1):95-9. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2005.06.046

  3. Panahi Y, Saadat A, Sahebkar A, Hashemian F, Taghikhani M, Abolhasani E. Effect of ginger on acute and delayed chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: a pilot, randomized, open-label clinical trial. Integr Cancer Ther. 2012;11(3):204-11. doi:10.1177/1534735411433201

  4. Brainard A, Gresham C. Prevention and treatment of motion sickness. Am Fam Physician. 2014;90(1):41-6.

  5. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Ginger. Updated September 2016.