Ginger – A Tremendous Antiemetic Agent

Shantha Kalia

Ginger has many uses. For thousands of years ginger has been widely used as a spice in many South Asian countries like China, Japan, and India.  Its use spread to other regions of the world like Africa and the Caribbean.  In the United States, ginger is mostly used in beverages and some desserts.  It is also widely used as a natural medicine to cure many illnesses like indigestion, nausea, and morning sickness.  Ginger tea is a popular beverage to relieve symptoms of flu, cold, cough, and chest congestion.  The zingy flavor of ginger comes from gingerol, a powerful component that has anti-inflammatory properties and is used in treatment of osteoarthritis.

Ginger is the wonder spice in Ayurvedic medicine and a popular ingredient in many Ayurvedic preparations for digestive health.  It is pungent and spicy, yet aromatic and loaded with flavor, making its way into stir-fries and stews, desserts and beverages.

Antiemetic Properties of Ginger

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been used as an antiemetic agent in Asian cultures for many years.  Since the scientific and medical community took notice of the benefit of ginger, numerous research studies have reported the effects of ginger.

Although chemotherapy is an effective treatment for cancer, the side effects of nausea and vomiting (emesis) is sometimes so severe that patients are unable to adhere to their treatment regimen.  In a double-blind study conducted by researchers at University of Rochester Medical Center showed that doses of ginger reduced acute nausea significantly compared to the control group on day 1 of chemotherapy.  The study showed that ginger supplementation of a dose of 0.5g to 1.0 g significantly reduced the severity of chemotherapy-induced nausea in cancer patients.

Women who underwent gynecological surgery found that use of ginger drastically reduced the use of other antiemetic agents compared to women in the study control group.  Ginger was an effective prophylactic antiemetic for the study participants.

Pregnant women often have to deal with bouts of nausea and vomiting during the course of their pregnancy.  Ginger helps relieve nauseous symptoms successfully for most pregnant women.  An Australian randomized controlled study on pregnant women who were less than 16 weeks pregnant showed that the use of ginger early in pregnancy relieved symptoms of nausea, dry retching, and vomiting.

Ginger is used in various forms such as pills, capsules, extract, syrup, powder, and juice.  Because ginger is pungent, many people are unable to tolerate its potency.  For such people, ginger syrup can be mixed with a beverage and consumed to relieve nausea.  Ginger powder was found to be effective in reducing severe acute and severe chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in children and young adults.

Recipe for Ginger Tea

Ginger tea is a common home remedy for indigestion, nausea, and vomiting.  It is also used to provide relief from colds, flu, and sore throats.

Ginger tea is refreshing and soothing, and very easy to prepare.  To prepare ginger tea, you need a two-inch piece of fresh ginger root and 4 cups of water.  Honey and a fresh slice of lemon are optional.

Peel the ginger root and slice it into thin slices.  In a pan, bring the water to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, add the ginger slices.  Cover the pan and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.  Strain the tea.  Add honey and lemon to taste, if desired.

Sources for this article include:

  • Phillips S et al.  Zingiber officinale (ginger) — an antiemetic for day case surgery.  Anaesthesia. 1993 Aug;48(8):715-7.
  • Smith C et al.  A randomized controlled trial of ginger to treat nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.  Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Apr;103(4):639-45.
  • Ryan JL et al.  Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces acute chemotherapy-induced nausea: a URCC CCOP study of 576 patients. Support Care Cancer.  2012 Jul; 20(7):1479-89.
  • Pillai AK et al.  Anti-emetic effect of ginger powder versus placebo as an add-on therapy in children and young adults receiving high emetogenic chemotherapy.  Pediatr Blood Cancer.  2011 Feb;56(2):234-8.
About the Author: Shantha Kalia is a health care professional at a New York City hospital. She completed her masters in Public Health, and has worked in various capacities in health care for over 15 years. She is a freelancer and contributes articles to various websites on various medical and health-related topics. Her interests include health and wellness, diet and nutrition, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To read more articles by Shantha, please visit
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