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Ginger for Nausea and Vomiting in Breast Cancer Patients

11/12/2019 1:05:32 PM
Despite medical advancements, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting remain some of the worst side effects of cancer therapy. Not only is it uncomfortable for the patient, but it can also contribute to malnourishment and electrolyte imbalance. Severe nausea and vomiting may necessitate a reduction in chemotherapy dosage and compromise the efficacy of treatment.
 
The side effects of antiemetic drugs often deter patients and lead them to consider natural therapies. One of the most popular herbal therapies utilized by cancer patients for nausea and vomiting is ginger (Zingiber officinale).

Study examines ginger for breast cancer patient nausea

A 2013 systematic review and meta-analysis of studies conducted in all types of cancer concluded that there was no evidence to support the use of ginger for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. However, individual studies that have been specific to breast cancer patients suggest that ginger may be helpful. So, researchers conducted a systematic review of studies to evaluate the current evidence for ginger as an antiemetic agent in breast cancer patients.
 
The review included 9 randomized controlled trials, published between 2012 and 2017. All participants were receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer. Most were receiving combination chemotherapy regimens based on doxorubicin and adriamycin-cyclophosphamide. Most participants were also taking an antiemetic medication, such as a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist. The intervention was ginger supplementation, and the outcome variables of interest were the severity and frequency of nausea and vomiting.

Patients try ginger powders, liquids, essential oils

Ginger doses varied from 0.5 to 1.5 grams per day. Two studies evaluated capsules of powdered ginger root. One study administered powdered ginger mixed in yogurt. Three studies used powdered ginger root containing standardized amounts of 6-gingerol, 8-gingerol, 10-gingerol, and 6-shagaol. One study used a purified liquid extract of ginger root, and two studies had patients wear an aromatherapy necklace containing ginger essential oil.
 
Results from 4 studies supported a beneficial effect of ginger for controlling acute nausea, whereas results from 2 studies did not. The largest reduction in nausea intensity was observed with doses of 0.5 to 1.0 grams of ginger. Results from 3 studies demonstrated an effect of ginger on vomiting. In one study, both ginger and chamomile were found to be equally effective at reducing the frequency of vomiting. Aromatherapy with essential oil of ginger improved overall health status, appetite loss, and dietary intake over time.

Findings are encouraging, but more studies needed

One apparent weakness of the studies in this review was that all of the patients were taking antiemetic drugs along with the ginger intervention. This could have made it difficult to assess the true effect of ginger on nausea and vomiting. Also, a meta-analysis of the studies was not possible because of varied protocols and study design.
 
Based on this systematic review, the authors conclude that ginger “may reduce nausea in the acute phase of chemotherapy in patients with breast cancer.” More studies are needed to determine other effects of ginger in breast cancer patients.
 
Reference
Saneei Totmaj A, Emamat H, Jarrahi F, Zarrati M. The effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale) on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in breast cancer patients: A systematic literature review of randomized controlled trials. Phytother Res. 2019; 33: 1957-1965.