Ginger, long used as a folk remedy for soothing tummyaches, helped tame one of the most dreaded side effects of cancer treatment – nausea from chemotherapy, the first large study to test the herb for this has found.
People who started taking ginger capsules several days before a chemo infusion had fewer and less severe bouts of nausea afterward than others who were given dummy capsules, the federally funded study found.
“We were slightly beside ourselves” to see how much it helped, said study leader Julie Ryan of the University of Rochester in New York.
Results were released Thursday by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and will be presented at the group’s annual meeting later this month.
But don’t reach for the ginger ale. Many sodas and cookies contain only flavoring – not real ginger, Ryan said. Her study tested a druglike ginger root extract, and it’s not known if people could get the same benefits from ginger teas or the powdered ginger sold as a spice.
The study involved 644 patients from cancer centers around the nation who had suffered nausea in a previous round of chemotherapy. 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.