Although ginger is often recommended as a simple remedy for chemotherapy nausea, ginger capsules don’t seem to work any better than a sugar pill to improve the effects of standard nausea drugs.
In a randomized study, 162 patients received either ginger capsules or a placebo for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Neither the patients or their doctors knew which they were getting. All patients were already receiving an 5-HT3 inhibitor such as Zofran® or Kytril®. Some were also being treated with Emend® (aprepitant).
All patients in the trial had already had at least one episode of nausea or vomiting during chemotherapy. They were given either 1 gram or 2 grams of ginger within a capsule or a identical looking placebo in addition to their regular anti-nausea medicine for three days after chemotherapy.
Researchers found no different in either acute nausea and vomiting on the day of chemo or delayed nausea over the next few days. Combining ginger with Emend actually increased acute nausea and vomiting.
Despite blinding, patients were able to guess accurately whether or not they were actually getting ginger or a sugar pill.
There were no significant differences in side effects between the two groups, although the patients who got ginger capsules had less fatigue.
Dr. Suzanna M. Zick and her colleagues at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor concluded,
Ginger provides no additional benefit for reduction of the prevalence or severity of acute or delayed CINV when given with 5-HT3 receptor antagonists and/or aprepitant.
SOURCE: Zick et al., Supportive Care in Cancer, Online First, November 13, 2008.