Rumor has it that ginger root can soothe an upset stomach, but what does the science really say?
There are many potential reasons for upset stomach and nausea, and studies have been conducted to test several of the most common causes.
Research results have been mixed regarding the effectiveness of ginger in reducing motion sickness. In one study, healthy volunteers were were spun around (the fancy term is circular vection) until they felt nauseated. When they were pre-treated with either one or two grams of ginger, nausea was reduced compared to placebo. This effect may be mediated by the cholinergic system of neurotransmitters.
In contrast, powdered ginger and fresh ginger root were not as effective as scopolamine for reducing nausea, though there was some evidence for a change in gastric motility, a sign that there may have been a small effect.
Ginger root has been found to be safe and effective in reducing nausea caused by pregnancy. One gram of ginger per day is as effective as dimenhydrinate, a proven anti-nausea drug, in reducing vomiting and nausea during pregnancy, with fewer side effects. Ginger is also more effective than vitamin B6 for reducing the severity of nausea, and is equally effective at lowering the number of episodes during early pregnancy.
Similarly, ginger has been shown to reduce nausea induced by chemotherapy in multiple studies. In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study, one half to one gram of ginger daily significantly reduced the severity of nausea in adult cancer patients. Ginger paired with high-protein meals was also effective at delaying and reducing nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Only one study has been published on the effect of ginger on the formation of intestinal gas and flatulence. Though some evidence suggests it may reduce gas and bloating, the study was not conclusive.
To summarize, a relatively small, one gram dose of ginger may benefit an upset stomach. Ginger is particularly effective at reducing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and chemotherapy.
When it comes to the science of wellness, distinguishing the facts from the urban legends can be tough. That’s why we’ve enlisted Darya Pino – a scientist, foodie, and self-proclaimed geek girl. Check out the ZocDoc Blog every Tuesday to see her bust the biggest myths in health.
Image: rhizome, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Crystal’s photostream.