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The rhizomes and stems of ginger have assumed significant roles in Chinese, Japanese, and Indian medicine since the 1500s. The oleoresin of ginger is often contained in digestive, antitussive, antiflatulent, laxative, and antacid compounds.
There is supportive evidence from one randomized controlled trial and an open-label study that ginger reduces the severity and duration of chemotherapy-induced nausea/emesis. Effects appear to be additive to prochlorperazine (Compazine®). The optimal dose remains unclear. Ginger's effects on other types of nausea/emesis, such as postoperative nausea or motion sickness, remain indeterminate.
Ginger is used orally, topically, and intramuscularly for a wide array of other conditions, without scientific evidence of benefit.
Ginger may inhibit platelet aggregation/decrease platelet thromboxane production, thus theoretically increasing bleeding risk.
Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum):
Early studies suggest that ginger may be safe and effective for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy when used at recommended doses for short periods of time. Some publications discourage large doses of ginger during pregnancy due to concerns about mutations or abortions. Additional research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of ginger during pregnancy before it can be recommended for longer periods of time.
One study suggested that ginger may have a synergistic effect on anti-platelet aggregation in patients with high blood pressure when used in combination with nifedipine. More study is warranted in this area.
There is not enough available scientific evidence in this area.
Motion sickness / seasickness:
There is mixed evidence in this area, with some studies reporting that ginger has no effect on motion sickness, and other research noting that ginger may reduce vomiting (but not nausea). Before a recommendation can be made, more studies are needed comparing ginger to other drugs used for this purpose.
Nausea (due to chemotherapy):
Initial human research reports that ginger may reduce the severity and length of time that cancer patients feel nauseous after chemotherapy. Other studies show no effects. Additional studies are needed to confirm these results and to determine safety and dosing. Numerous prescription drugs are highly effective at controlling nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and the available options should be discussed with the patient's medical oncologist.
Nausea and vomiting (after surgery):
Some human studies report improvement in nausea or vomiting after surgery if patients take ginger before surgery. However, other research shows no difference. Additional studies are needed before the use of ginger before surgery to help with nausea and vomiting can be recommended.
Ginger has been studied as a possible treatment for osteoarthritis. However, results of these studies are mixed. More research is needed in this area.
There is limited scientific evidence in this area, and it is not clear if ginger is beneficial.
Urinary disorders (post-stroke):
It is unclear if ginger can help treat urinary disorders in patients recovering from strokes.
There is not enough available scientific evidence in this area.
Ginger has been suggested as a possible weight loss aid, but more study is needed to a make a firm recommendation.
Common forms of ginger include fresh root, dried root, tablets, capsules, liquid extract, tincture, and tea. Many publications note that the maximum recommended daily dose of ginger is 4 grams. It is believed that the mild stomach upset sometimes caused by ginger may be reduced by taking ginger capsules rather than powder.
Many experts and publications suggest that ginger powder, tablets, or capsules or freshly cut ginger can be used in doses of 1 to 5 grams daily, by mouth, divided into smaller doses.
There is insufficient scientific evidence to recommend the use of ginger in children.
Ginger supplements should be avoided by individuals with a known allergy to ginger, its components, or other members of the Zingiberaceae family, including Alpinia formosana, Alpinia purpurata (red ginger), Alpinia zerumbet (shell ginger), Costus barbatus, Costus malortieanus, Costus pictus, Costus productus, Dimerocostus strobilaceus, or Elettaria cardamomum (green cardamom). Allergic contact rashes have been reported, and these rashes may be more likely in people who work with ginger, who apply ginger to the skin, or who have a positive allergy test for Balsam of Peru. An allergic eye reaction has also been reported.
Few side effects have been associated with ginger at low doses. There is a lack of available studies that confirm the long-term, safe use of ginger supplements. The most commonly reported side effects of ginger involve the stomach and intestines. Irritation or bad taste in the mouth, heartburn, belching, bloating, gas, and nausea have been reported, especially with powdered forms of ginger. There are several reports that fresh ginger that is swallowed without enough chewing can result in blockage of the intestines. Individuals who have had ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, or blocked intestines should use ginger supplements cautiously and should avoid large amounts of freshly cut ginger. People with gallstones should use ginger with caution.
In theory, ginger can cause abnormal heart rhythms, although reports in humans are lacking. Some publications suggest that ginger may raise or lower blood pressure, although limited scientific information is available.
In addition, ginger may theoretically prevent blood clotting by preventing the clumping of platelets. In one study, gingerol compounds and their derivatives were shown to be more potent anti-platelet agents than aspirin. This raises a concern that individuals who are treated with medications that slow blood clotting or who undergo surgery may have a high risk of excessive bleeding if they take ginger supplements. Ginger is traditionally said to reduce blood sugar levels at high doses, but there is a lack of scientific evidence available. In one study, two of eight participants reported an intense urge to urinate 30 minutes after ingesting ginger. Ginger has also been associated with pinkeye (conjunctivitis), but this was considered a rare occurrence.
Some authors suggest that pregnant women should not take ginger in amounts greater than found in food (or more than 1 gram dry weight per day). There are reports that ginger can increase discharge from the uterus in menstruating women, and possibly lead to abortion, mutations of the fetus, or increased risk of bleeding. However, other reports state that there is a lack of scientific evidence that ginger endangers pregnancy. Little scientific study is available in this area to support either perspective, although ginger has been studied in a small number of pregnant women (to assess effects on nausea), without reports of adverse pregnancy outcomes. There is controversy in this area. The use of ginger in pregnancy is cautioned against in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). However, higher doses of ginger are generally used in Chinese medicine.
There is evidence that ginger may increase stomach acid production. As a result, it theoretically may work against the effects of antacids, sucralfate (Carafate®), or anti-reflux medications such as H-2 blockers like ranitidine (Zantac®) or proton pump inhibitors like lansoprazole (Prevacid®). In contrast, other laboratory and animal studies report that ginger may act to protect the stomach.
In theory, ginger may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with blood-thinners (although clear human evidence is lacking). Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
In theory, large doses of ginger may increase the effects of medications that slow thinking or cause drowsiness.
Ginger may interact with drugs broken down by the liver or with xanthine oxidase drugs.
Ginger may also interact with drugs taken for nausea/vomiting, arthritis, blood disorders, high cholesterol, high/low blood pressure, allergies (antihistamines), cancer, inflammation, vasodilators, or weight loss. Caution is advised when taking ginger with drugs that weaken the immune system, due to a possible interaction.
Ginger may increase stomach acid production. As a result, it theoretically may work against the effects of antacids.
In theory, ginger may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding (although clear human evidence is lacking). Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
In theory, ginger with large amounts of calcium may increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Study results suggest that dietary phytochemicals, such as capsaicin, curcumin, and resveratrol, have inhibitory effects on P-glycoprotein and potencies to cause drug-food interactions.
Ginger may also theoretically lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also affect blood sugar.
Ginger may interact with herbs broken down by the liver or with xanthine oxidase herbs.
Ginger may also interact with herbs or supplements taken for nausea/vomiting, pain, arthritis, blood disorders, high cholesterol, high/low blood pressure, allergies (antihistamines), cancer, inflammation, vasodilators, or weight loss. Caution is advised when taking ginger with herbs or supplements that affect the immune system, due to possible interactions. Ginger may have antioxidant properties and use with other antioxidants may result in additive effects.