By Michelle Fletcher, B.A.
Since ancient times, the ginger plant has been used as a medicine in Indian, Asian, and Arabic healing treatments. Some of its most common uses involve treating nausea, upset stomach, and diarrhea, as well as colic, heart conditions, and arthritis. Ginger is valued around the world for its medicinal and cooking uses, and is an important cooking spice believed to cure the common cold and heavy menstrual periods in many cultures. Ginger grows in the moist, fertile soil in its native Asia, where its use as a culinary spice goes back nearly 5,000 years.
Though a powerful, multi-functional herb, ginger is widely used as a digestive aid for mild stomach pain to serious nausea, associated with motion sickness, pregnancy, and the flu.
Most pregnant women will experience bouts of nausea and vomiting – particularly in the first trimester. Multiple studies have concluded that ginger is more effective than a placebo in relieving vomiting and nausea associated with pregnancy. “Ginger is effective for relieving the severity of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy,” concluded researchers at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand. “Twenty-eight of 32 in the ginger group had improved in nausea symptoms compared with 10 of 35 in the placebo group. Further, no adverse effect of ginger on pregnancy outcome was detected.” Ginger is a safe and effective treatment for nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy. Ingesting as little as 1 gram of ginger root every day for four days will significantly reduce feelings of nausea and incidences of vomiting in pregnant women.
A study in the United Kingdom demonstrated ginger’s effectiveness in easing nausea and vomiting in women recovering from serious gynecological surgery: “The effectiveness of ginger (Zingiber officinale) as an antiemetric agent was compared with placebo and metoclopramide in 60 women who had major gynecological surgery in a double-blind, randomized study. There were statistically significantly fewer recorded incidences of nausea in the group that received ginger root compared with the placebo.”
In another study, ingesting 11 grams of ginger root before surgery reduces nausea as effectively as a leading medication. In the same study, women who received ginger also required fewer nausea-relieving medications following surgery.
Ginger products are made from dried or fresh ginger root – other tinctures are derived from steam distillation of the oil found in the root. This powerful herb is available in capsules, tinctures, extracts, and oils. Fresh ginger root is widely-available, and can be brewed into a tea.
If you suffer from mild indigestion, nausea, or vomiting, consider taking a ginger supplement or sipping fresh ginger tea. For more moderate and severe cases, see a licensed acupuncturist or practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine for dosage.
Teraporn Vutyavanich, MD, MSC, Theerajana Kraisarin, MD, and Rung-Aroon Ruangsri, BSC. Ginger for Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy: Randomized, Double-Masked, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2001;97:577-582.
Bone, M.E., et al. Ginger root—a new antiemetic. The effect of ginger root on postoperative nausea and vomiting after major gynecological surgery. Anaesthesia. 1990 Aug;45(8):669-71.