By Margarita Nahapetyan
A new scientific evidence confirms now what many people have suspected for a while - that ginger appears to reduce the often debilitating side effects of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy treatment of cancer. In addition, the experts found that the effect of a newer type of anti-nausea drug will be even more beneficial if used in the treatment along with standard medications.
The findings are significant, cancer experts say, because as many as 70 per cent of cancer patients who receive chemotherapy treatment, experience nausea and vomiting -- often severe -- during treatment, even though they may be taking anti-nausea drugs. "Chemotherapy has come to be the thing cancer patients fear the most," said Dr. Steven Grunberg, a professor of medicine at the University of Vermont. "We have made a huge amount of progress, but we have not completely solved the problem."
The ginger study involved nearly 650 cancer patients, most of them women, and two-thirds had breast cancer, from 23 oncology practices all across America. Patients received two standard anti-emetic medications at the time of chemotherapy. Some of them also were taking a capsule that contained either 0.5 gram, 1 gram or 1.5 grams of ginger root extracts, which are equal to half a teaspoon or one-quarter of a teaspoon of ground ginger. Other patients got just a placebo capsule. The patients took the capsules containing the placebo or ginger for three days before chemotherapy and three days after the treatment.
After that all the participants were asked to rate the severity of their nausea 4 times a day. The results revealed that those patients who were given the root extract of ginger had a reduction of about 45 per cent in nausea severity, when compared with a previous course of chemo treatment during which they were not using the ginger. Those who took capsules of ginger twice daily before starting a round of chemo felt less queasy on the first day of treatment. Patients in the control group who were taking placebo capsules did not show any noticeable changes, according to Julie L. Ryan, assistant professor of dermatology and radiation oncology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, the lead investigator of the research. All participants in the study also received standard anti-nausea medication on the first day of chemotherapy.
The study appears to be the largest of its kind to look at the effect of ginger, which is already very popular and regularly used by many people as a home remedy for an upset stomach. Previous studies have provided inconsistent results and Dr. Ryan said that her new study might have succeeded because the ginger was given before the chemo treatment. The best results were associated with a quarter to a half teaspoon of ground ginger, she said and added that either the ginger that comes in spice bottles or the ginger capsules that are sold in health food stores would probably work. However, Dr. Ryan cautioned that some foods that are labeled as ginger, such as ginger ale or ginger cookies, may contain only ginger flavoring. "It is a higher dose that is needed than you would get in one cookie," she said.
The findings will be presented this month at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting which begins May 29 in Orlando, Fla. The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, has been published this week in the Lancet Oncology journal.