Volume 2, Issue 3, June 2009
Author: Charles Spielholz, Ph.D
inger, that spice that is found in millions of
kitchens and has been used in cookies, candies,
tea, and a variety of other foods around the world
by many cultures has been recognized for its use in treating
nausea. The Mayo Clinic has reported on its website that
ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) reduces the severity and
duration of nausea associated with chemotherapy.1 That
research, which is still on going, was a phase II/III,
randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial
and has been reported in the medical literature.2
However, the good news does not end with chemotherapy; there is a growing body of scientific
evidence that ginger may have potential for treating nausea (and vomiting) associated with surgery (post-
operative nausea)3, pregnancy 4,5 and motion sickness.6 However, additional research is needed in order to
completely understand which patients should receive ginger as a supplement for nausea, to know what the
dosages should be administered, and to completely understand ginger's interaction with other treatments a
person may be undergoing (see below).
There are some reports that ginger inhibits the growth of cancer cells in laboratory experiments. In cell
culture experiments conducted in the laboratory, ginger has shown some evidence of inhibiting the growth of
ovarian7, gastric8 and colorectal9 cancer cells. However, ginger has not been tested as an anti-cancer agent in
people; no clinical trials have been performed to show that ginger can be used to treat cancer in people. If
progress in the laboratory continues to show promise, ginger may be a candidate for a clinical trial for the
treatment of cancer.
A 2002 report indicates that ginger may even protect users against Alzheimer's disease10; however, as
with the preliminary laboratory evidence as an anticancer agent, the use of ginger as a method to protect an
individual from Alzheimer's disease has not been shown clinically and is not recommended.
Volume 2, Issue 3, June 2009
Scientific evidence from experiments designed to show the mechanism of action of ginger's potential
therapeutic actions has been promising. Evidence exists that the anti-nausea and anti-vomiting properties of
ginger include suppression of contractions of the digestive tract11. Ginger may also interact with a subtype of
the 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) receptor12 which may be part of the mechanism by which ginger
inhibits nausea and vomiting. With regard to tumor biology, components have been identified in ginger that
have been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the laboratory setting.7, 8, 9
Ginger inhibits clotting 13, 14, 15 and therefore must not be used by people with bleeding disorders or who
are taking anti-clotting medicines to prevent stroke or heart attack or who may be pre- or post-surgery without
directly consulting with their physician. Also, since ginger has effects on nausea and vomiting, one should not
take ginger if they are also taking proton-pump inhibitors or H-2 blockers without consulting their physician.
2) Hickok JT, Roscoe JA, Morrow GR, Ryal JL. (2007). A Phase II/III Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind Clinical Trial of Ginger (Zingiber
officinale) for Nausea Caused by Chemotherapy for Cancer: A Currently Accruing URCC CCOP Cancer Control Study. Support Cancer Ther. 4:247-250.
3) Phillips S, Ruggier R, Hutchinson SE. (1993). Zingiber officinale (ginger) -- an antiemetic for day case surgery. Anaesthesia 48:715-717.
4) Smith C, Crowther C, Willson K, Hotham N, McMillian V. (2004). A randomized controlled trial of ginger to treat nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.
Obstet Gynecol. 103:639-645.
5) Vutyavanich T, Kraisarin T, Ruangsri R. (2001). Ginger for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial.
Obstet Gynecol. 97:577-582.
6) Ernst E, Pittler MH. (2000). Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systemic review of randomized clinical trials. Br J Anaesth. 84:367-71.
7) Rhode J, Fogoros S, Zick S, Wahl H, Griffith KA, Huang J, Liu JR. (2007). Ginger inhibits cell growth and modulates angiogenic factors in ovarian
cancer cells. BMC Complement Altern Med. 7:44.
8) Ishiguro K, Ando T, Maeda O, Ohmiya N, Niwa Y, Kadomatsu K, Goto H. (2007) Ginger ingredients reduce viability of gastric cancer cells via distinct
mechanisms. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 362:218-223.
9) Lee SH, Cekanova M, Baek SJ. (2008). Multiple mechanisms are involved in 6-gingerol-induced cell growth arrest and apoptosis in human colorectal
cancer cells. Mol Carcinog. 47:197-208.
10) Kim DS, Kim DS, Oppel MN. (2002). Shogaols from Zingiber officinale protect IMR32 human neuroblastoma and normal human umbilical vein
endothelial cells from beta-amyloid(25-35) insult. Planta Med. 68:375-376.
11) Bisset NG. (1994) Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals; a Handbook for Practice on Scientific Basis. Boca Raton: Medpharm Publishers, Boca
12) Lumb AB. (1993) Mechanism of antiemetic effect of ginger. Anaesthesia 48:1118.
13) Srivastava KC. (1986). Isolation and effects of some ginger components on platelet aggregation and eicosanoid biosynthesis. Prostaglandins Leukot
14) Shalansky S, Lynd L, Richardson K, Ingaszewski A, Kerr C. (2007). Risk of warfarin-related bleeding events and supratherapeutic international
normalized ratios associated with complementary and alternative medicine: a longitudinal analysis. Pharmacotherapy 27:1237-1247.
15) Lumb AB. (1994). Effect of dried ginger on human platelet function. Thromb Haemost. 71:110-1.