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PHYTOTHERAPY REVIEW & COMMENTARY
Herzlichen Dank an Donald J. Brown, N.D.
The text of the following overviews on Ginger and St. John's Wort is taken from a continuing professional education program for pharmacists co-produced by Bastyr University and Natural Product Research Consultants (NPRC, Inc.) entitled Herbal Medicine: An Introduction for Pharmacists. The program was co-authored by Steven Foster and myself. This is the second C.E. program for pharmacists developed by Bastyr University and NPRC (authored by yours truly). The first is entitled Phytotherapy: Herbal Medicine Meets Clinical Science.
For more information on these continuing professional education programs and Bastyr University's Department of Continuing Education, contact Laurie Hoffman at 206-517-3569 or fax 206-527-4763.
Ginger: Non-toxic Anti-Emetic
Botanical Name: Zingiber officinale
Plant Part Used: The rhizome
Active Constituents: The dried rhizome contains approximately 1 to 4% volatile oils. The aromatic principles include the sesquiterpene hydrocarbons zingiberene and bisabolene. The pungent principles include the gingerols and shogaols.
Health Care Applications
Motion Sickness: Ginger has been widely studied as a treatment for motion sickness. A 1982 study found that ginger was superior to dimenhydrinate for reducing motion sickness (caused by rotating a chair). The dose of ginger was 940 mg and it was consumed 20 to 25 minutes before the test.5
A handful of studies since have both agreed and disagreed with these results. One study tested ginger against seasickness in eighty Danish naval cadets unaccustomed to sailing in heavy seas. One gram of ginger reduced vomiting and cold sweating. Fewer symptoms of nausea and vertigo were also reported.6
A study completed at Louisiana State University with a grant from NASA is more skeptical. Because motion sickness is common in astronauts, the researchers compared the anti-motion sickness activity of ginger and scopolamine (commonly used as a topical patch to treat motion sickness). Using the rotating chair test, they found that scopolomine was effective in reducing motion sickness while one gram of either fresh or dried ginger was not.7 However, during their discussion of the study, the authors note that the ginger group did have a noticeable reduction in the incidence of vomiting and sweating but not nausea and vertigo.
Ginger is registered as an OTC drug for use in nausea and travel sickness in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Finland. For treatment of nausea and use as an antiemetic, use single doses of at least 500 mg. During pregnancy, the total daily dose should not exceed one gram daily. For others, the daily dose may approach 2 to 3 grams if needed. For prevention of motion sickness, begin taking several hours before the planned trip.
No side effects are noted with use of ginger at the doses listed above.11
The Commission E Monograph in Germany suggests persons with gallstones consult a physician before using ginger.12 Short-term use of ginger for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy appears to pose no safety problems. Long-term use during pregnancy is not recommended.
1. Yamahura J, Huang Q, et al: Gastrointestinal motility enhancing effect of ginger and its active constituents. Chem Pharm Bull 38: 4301, 1990.
2. Yamahura J, Miki K, et al: Cholagagic effect of ginger and its active constituents. J Ethnopharmacol 13: 21725, 1985.
3. Al-Yahya MA, Rafatullah S, et al: Gastroprotective activity of ginger in albino rats. Am J Chinese Med 17: 516, 1989.
4. Suekawa M, Ishige A, et al: Pharmacological studies on ginger. I. Pharmacological actions of pungent constituents, (6)gingerol and (6)shogaol. J Pharm Dyn 7: 836-48, 1984.
5. Mowrey DB & Clayson DE: Motion sickness, ginger and psychophysics. Lancet i: 655-7, 1982.
6. Grontved A, Brask T, et al: Ginger root against seasickness. Acta Otolaryngol (Stockh) 105: 459, 1988.
7. Stewart JJ, Wood MJ, et al: Effects of ginger on motion sickness susceptibility and gastric function. Pharmacol 42: 11120, 1991.
8. Fischer-Rasmussen W, Kjaer SK, et al: Ginger in the treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum. Euro J Obstet Reproduct Biol 38: 1924, 1990.
9. Phillips S, Ruggier R, & Hutchison SE: Zingiber officinale (ginger) ­p; an antiemetic for day case surgery. Anaesthesia 48: 7157, 1993.
10. Bone ME & Wilkinson DJ: Ginger root ­p; a new antiemetic. Anaesthesia 45: 66971, 1990.
11. Ginger. British Herbal Compendium, vol. 1 (Bradley PR, ed). British Herbal Medicine Association, Bournemouth, Dorset, England, 1992, pp. 3942.
12. Monograph, Zingiberis rhizoma, Bundesanzeiger, May 5, 1988.