Myths and facts: ginger and cancer
Ginger is a tropical plant that has green-purple flowers and an aromatic underground stem (called a rhizome). It is commonly used for cooking and medicinal purposes. Historically, ginger has been used in Asian medicine to treat stomach aches, nausea and diarrhea. Today, ginger is used as a folk or traditional remedy for post-surgery nausea; nausea caused by motion, chemotherapy and pregnancy; rheumatoid arthritis; osteoarthritis; and joint and muscle pain (NCCIH, 2016).
According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (2016), ginger has been effective when taken orally for:
- Pregnancy related nausea and morning sickness,
- post-operative nausea, and
There is conflicting data related to the effectiveness of ginger on chemotherapy related nausea and vomiting. Some studies show that it is possibly or even probably effective at treating nausea, while others have shown it is no more effective than a placebo.
Ginger does have some drug interactions:
- There is a major warning for people taking nifedipine (a high blood pressure medication) that there is a “probable” interaction with ginger at very low doses that impacts platelet clotting ability.
- There are moderate warnings for people taking anti-coagulant drugs and antiplatelet drugs as ginger can impact platelets.
Make sure you talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplement to ensure there are no risks for you. Ginger is tolerated orally for most people and, while studies are conflicting, it is an option during chemotherapy provided your doctor has approved it. It may not work for everyone, but it is one of many options to help ease side effects of cancer treatment. Plus, it tastes good!