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Native to Asia, ginger has many traditional uses. Current scientific evidence supports use of ginger for nausea and vomiting—clinical trials substantiate ginger’s effectiveness against nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy, motion sickness, and postsurgery. A few studies of ginger for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting yielded conflicting data, but a recent controlled trial demonstrates that ginger significantly reduces nausea and vomiting during the first day of chemotherapy.

Although ginger by itself is not associated with serious adverse effects, it can increase the risk of bleeding when used with anticoagulants. It may also reduce blood glucose levels when taken with hypoglycemics.

The notion that herbs are safe because they are natural is not necessarily applicable, especially when used with other medications. Relatively few herbs have been studied for safety and efficacy.


ALSO KNOWN AS: Zingiber officinale, Zingiberis rhizoma, zingiberaceae, ginger root, shen jiang

BACKGROUND: Ginger, the rhizome or the underground stem of ginger plant, is native to Asia and has been used as a culinary spice and medicine since ancient times. It is used to treat upset stomach, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, arthritis, and heart conditions.

Fresh ginger root is generally used in cooking and for preparing tea. Ginger is also available in the form of extracts, tinctures, oils, and capsules.

RESEARCH: Studies done in vitro suggest that ginger has antiemetic,[1] anticancer,[2,3] anti-inflammatory,[4] and hypoglycemic[4] effects, and may protect against Alzheimer’s disease.[5]

The antiemetic action of ginger is attributed to its constituents, shogaol and gingerol, and their interactions with 5HT-3 receptors.[1]

Clinical trials indicate that ginger can effectively reduce nausea and vomiting due to pregnancy,[6,7] motion sickness,[8] and following surgery.[9] While earlier studies failed to provide conclusive evidence that it can control chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting,[10,11] a recent controlled trial demonstrated effectiveness.[12] Ginger also influences gastric emptying in healthy individuals.[13]

HERB-DRUG INTERACTIONS: ­Anticoagulants/Antiplatelets: Because ginger can inhibit thromboxane formation and platelet aggregation, concomitant use with anticoagulants may increase the risk of bleeding.[14]

Hypoglycemics/Insulin: Ginger may cause additive reductions in blood glucose.[4]

ADVERSE EFFECTS: Common: Heartburn and dermatitis.[15]


1. Lumb AB: Mechanism of antiemetic effect of ginger. Anaesthesia 48:1118, 1993.
2. Ishiguro K et al: Ginger ingredients reduce viability of gastric cancer cells via distinct mechanisms. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 362:218-223, 2007.
3. Lee SH et al: Multiple mechanisms are involved in 6-gingerol-induced cell growth arrest and apoptosis in human colorectal cancer cells. Mol Carcinog 47:197-208, 2008.
4. Ojewole JA: Analgesic, antiinflammatory and hypoglycaemic effects of ethanol extract of Zingiber officinale (Roscoe) rhizomes (Zingiberaceae) in mice and rats. Phytother Res 20:764-772, 2006.
5. Kim DS et al: 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, 2002.
6. Smith C et al: A randomized controlled trial of ginger to treat nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol 103:639-645, 2004.
7. Vutyavanich T et al: Ginger for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: Randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol 97:577-582, 2001.
8. Ernst E et al: Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: A systemic review of randomized clinical trials. Br J Anaesth 84:367-371, 2000.
9. Phillips S et al: Zingiber officinale (ginger)—an antiemetic for day case surgery. Anaesthesia 48:715-717, 1993.
10. Zick SM et al: Phase II trial of encapsulated ginger as a treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Support Care Cancer 17:563-572, 2009.
11. Levine ME et al: Protein and ginger for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced delayed nausea. J Altern Complement Med 14:545-551, 2008.
12. Ryan JL: Ginger for chemotherapy-related nausea in cancer patients: A URCC CCOP randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of 644 cancer patients. J Clin Oncol 27(15S):485s, 2009.
13. Wu KL et al: Effects of ginger on gastric emptying and motility in healthy humans. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol 20:436-440, 2008.
14. Shalansky S et al: Risk of warfarin-related bleeding events and supratherapeutic international normalized ratios associated with complementary and alter Newall CA et al: Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professional. London, Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
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