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Adding spice to chemotherapy could reduce nausea, vomiting

It’s a staple of stir-fries and adds flavour to drinks, but a study has found ginger might also help people undergoing chemotherapy go about their daily lives.

La Trobe University’s Dr Wolfgang Marx presented the trial's findings at this month’s Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting in Queensland.

Marx, who conducted the research for his PhD at Bond University, said previous studies have shown that ginger is effective in relieving the symptoms of seasickness and morning sickness, but less is known about its effect on chemotherapy-induced symptoms.

The trial involved 51 cancer patients from Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane. Researchers looked at the severity and impact of their chemotherapy symptoms to determine whether ginger supplements made a difference.

They found that taking daily doses of ginger extract can help chemotherapy patients overcome some of the common side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and vomiting.

“We found those in the group who were taking four ginger extract tablets a day, alongside their anti-nausea medication, experienced an improvement in quality of life in relation to nausea, vomiting and fatigue,” Marx said.

He said the trail’s results, although preliminary, are promising. “Now there is a need for a larger study to further explore the safety of ginger supplementation during chemotherapy and whether we should be recommending ginger supplements as a treatment for chemotherapy-induced symptoms.

“Chemotherapy is a necessary treatment for millions of cancer patients, but many suffer greatly from nausea and vomiting. It would be wonderful if they could find additional relief through a widely available, low-cost intervention.”

The research team recently secured a grant from the Cancer Council to expand the trial and hope to gain more high-quality evidence surrounding this use of ginger supplements.

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