Ginger for nausea - Does it really work?

Ginger for nausea - Does it really help?

Does ginger really help feelings of sickness and nausea? The quick answer is yes, research has shown that ginger can increase the responsiveness of the digestive system and speed stomach emptying, which leads to reduced feelings of nausea.1 The spicy herb also has anti-inflammatory properties that also improve digestion, but also supports blood-pressure-regulating hormones that calms the body and also reduces nausea.2

How does ginger relieve feelings of nausea?

So, we already know that ginger has a positive effect on the digestive system and blood pressure, which leads to reduced feelings of nausea, but what's the science behind it all?

Ginger gets most of its health benefits  from the main bioactive component gingerol and related compounds called shogaols. Shogaols is what gives ginger its pungent taste.

Gingerols and shogaols work by blocking the actions of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and serotonin in the body.

Acetylcholine triggers involuntary stomach contractions, while serotonin can stimulate the vomiting reflex. By preventing these chemicals from working, this is how ginger may help with nausea.3

Is fresh or dried ginger better?

Shogaols are more concentrated in dried ginger, whereas gingerols are more concentrated in raw ginger.

The active components in ginger are called gingerols. When ginger is dried or cooked, gingerols form substances called shogaols. Gingerols and shogaols have similar antimicrobial and antioxidant effects, but shogaols are twice as potent.

This means that supplements made from dried ginger may be more biologically active than fresh ginger.4

Different types of nausea

Below are the common types of nausea and how ginger can help:

1. Ginger for motion sickness

Several studies suggest that ginger may help with motion sickness. In a double-blind randomized placebo trial carried out in 1988, 80 Danish naval cadets were given 1g of either ginger or a placebo before undertaking a sea voyage. Ginger reduced vomiting and cold sweats significantly better than the placebo over a four-hour period.5 In a 2003 joint study by Taiwan’s National Yang-Ming University and the University of Michigan, researchers gave 13 volunteers with a history of motion sickness a 1g or 2g dose of ginger before seating them in a rotating drum. They found that pre-treatment with ginger effectively reduced nausea.6

2. Ginger for pregnancy sickness

Ginger may support women who experience pregnancy sickness. A 2016 review reported that ginger may stop vomiting for one in three women, or improve nausea and vomiting during the first trimester.7

However, it is unlikely to help with the symptoms of the more serious hyperemesis gravidarum, which causes persistent vomiting resulting in weight loss, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance; it is a leading cause of hospital admissions during early pregnancy.

Despite some trials historically suggesting ginger is better than placebo for hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), these trials had various flaws and more recent research has shown that for around 50% of women with HG ginger actually made symptoms worse, increased acid reflux and caused pain on vomiting. Most striking, was that woman with HG reported that people suggesting ginger as a remedy had a negative emotional effect on them. HG is a serious and potentially life-threatening medical condition and suggesting ginger as a treatment was reported to de-validate or belittle their experience and undermine the seriousness of their illness.

Check with your GP before taking ginger supplements, as they may not be suitable for everyone. There is some evidence that ginger taken as a supplement may affect the way blood clots so patients who have conditions such as thrombocytopenia, are on some cancer treatments or who are at increased risk of bleeding, should avoid high doses of ginger.

3. Ginger for nausea caused by medication

For many people, nausea and vomiting are unwanted yet unavoidable side effects of certain medicines and medical treatments, such as chemotherapy. Could ginger help?

In a study of 576 patients receiving chemotherapy, researchers at New York’s University of Rochester Medical Center found that taking 0.5-1g ginger every day for six days, beginning three days before the first session, significantly helped to reduce nausea.8

Side effects of taking ginger

Negative side effects such as heartburn, indigestion, diarrhoea and a burning or painful mouth are usually due to ingesting too much ginger.9

Side effects depend on many factors such as the individual, dosage, frequency and how the ginger is ingested.

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding or taking any medication, talk to your GP before upping your intake of ginger, either fresh or as supplements.

How much ginger should I take for nausea?

The Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming no more than 4 grams of ginger per day is safe.70 Currently there isn’t a unanimity around the most effective amount of ginger for easing feelings of sickness and nausea. Studies tend to use between 200 and 2,000mg.11 Saying this, taking the condition out of the equation, most research has found that dividing between 1,000 and 1,500mg of ginger into smaller doses is the best way to treat nausea. Higher does have been found to be less effective and can cause more negative side effects.12

If you are taking a ginger supplement, there will be a recommended dosage on the back of the packaging. Never exceed recommendations and always talk to your GP before taking supplements, especially if you have existing medical conditions, take medication, are pregnant or breastfeeding.

How do you use ginger for nausea?

There are many different ways that you can use ginger for nausea, which we explore below:

  1. Raw ginger - use ginger when cooking or baking. Check out this wonderful recipe for carrot, ginger and turmeric soup.
  2. Ginger capsules, tablets and gummies - food supplements are an easy way to include ginger in your diet. Capsules and tablets are usually coated, making it easy to swallow, but there’s also chewable gummies for those who struggle with taking pills.
  3. Ginger drinks - with a wide range of flavours, including carbonated and still, there’s something to suit everyone's taste.
  4. Ginger tea - nothing is more soothing than a warm cup of ginger tea - comforting but still packed with nutrients.
  5. Ginger essential oil - essential oils have an energising but warming aroma - great for massages but can also be used in a diffuser for an energy boost.
  6. Ginger moisturiser - ginger can help support the skin’s normal healing capacity and promote normal blood circulation.
  7. Ginger liquid - available in different flavours, ginger liquids are a great alternative to capsules and tablets.
  8. Ginger bars - a healthy, tasty and convenient snack to have wherever, even on the go. Many different flavours available.
  9. Ginger powder - dissolves quickly in hot water and available in many different flavours. Quick and soothing way to get the benefits of ginger.

Do ginger chews help with nausea?

Chewable supplements are a great alternative to those who struggle to swallow tablets - and not just children and the elderly.

The form of a supplement e.g. gummies or tablet, shouldn’t affect how much ginger it contains or the associated benefits.

When buying supplements it always wise to check out the ingredients and compare with others, to make sure it is the right product for you.

What relieves nausea fast?

Unfortunately there is no magic remedy that relieves nausea in a flash, and how long it takes for the sickness feelings to disappear depends on the person and the cause of the nausea in the first place.

However, there are some general do’s and don’ts when it comes to dealing with sickness and nausea.

Do’s

  1. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water
  2. Get regular fresh air
  3. Find something to distract yourself
  4. Eat foods containing ginger or drink herbal teas (peppermint and ginger is the best)
  5. Eat smaller meals but on a more regular basis
  6. Apply a cool compress on the back of the neck
  7. Take deep breaths - even try meditation
  8. Drink regularly and slowly
  9. Eat light and bland meals

Don'ts

  1. Don’t wear tight and restricting clothing (especially around your waist or tummy)
  2. Don’t lie down soon after eating
  3. Don’t eat too quickly or have a large drink with meals
  4. Don’t eat or be around food that is strong smelling
  5. Don’t eat fried or greasy food
  6. Don’t brush your teeth after eating
  7. Don’t mix hot and cold foods
  8. Don’t do activity after eating
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying ginger alongside any medical treatment

Last updated: 6 January 2021

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Nutrition
Donia Hilal

Donia Hilal,
Nutritionist

Joined Holland & Barrett: Jan 2018

Bsc in Nutrition, Registered Associate Nutritionist and Certification in Pre and Post Natal Nutrition

Donia started her career as a freelance nutritionist, later she joined Nestle as their Market Nutritionist to help support their healthier product range, before joining the team at Holland & Barrett in January 2018.

Donia has over 6 years experience as a Nutritionist and also works with clients on a one to one basis to support their goals which include weight loss, prenatal and postnatal nutrition and children’s health.