Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ginger Ale for the Ailments

Growing up, when I was sick my dad made me drink Gatorade—he was convinced that Gatorade is the nectar of the gods with the perfect balance of carbohydrates and electrolytes to cure any ailment.  Most other parents immediately went for, and still go straight to the ginger ale.  Ginger ale is pretty much the only drink in the hospital wards as well.  Every medical student has probably overdosed on diet Shasta more than once.  Even though it is ubiquitous, does ginger actually calm the stomach?

Interestingly, when looking for studies of the effects of ginger on nausea and vomiting, many focus heavily on nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.  A review article in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2005 analyzed four small randomized control trials that showed effectiveness of ginger for reducing nausea and vomiting over placebo [1]. Ginger has also been shown to reduce postoperative nausea and vomiting, although is not as effective in chemotherapy related nausea and vomiting [2,3]. 

I’ve been working in the OB/GYN emergency room for the past three weeks.  I’ve taken care of a fair amount of women with significant nausea and vomiting in their early pregnancy.  Usually we give them pretty strong anti-nausea drugs and fluids to help them to feel better.   Even though ginger probably doesn’t help for women who have severe enough nausea and vomiting to cause dehydration, it is good to know that ginger can probably help for women with more mild symptoms.   The best part about ginger is that is very safe to take in pregnancy, so there is no harm in trying it, and most importantly, it is delicious.

To drown out memories of late night Shasta on call in medical school, I made my own ginger ale.  It is based on a very pungent ginger syrup that can be added to club soda, or if you are feeling not nauseous (or pregnant) could use it as a base for a coctail with dark rum or whiskey.  Very refreshing!

Ginger ale

2 tbsp fresh ginger grated
1.5 tsp powdered ginger
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Club soda

Ice (optional)

Lime wedge (optional)

Over medium high heat, bring all ingredients to a boil and allow to cook until syrup is reduced to half and begins to darken.   Allow to cool, add about ¼ cup syrup to 1 cup of chilled club soda.  Add ice and a squeeze of lime juice. 

1. Borrelli  F, Capasso  R, Aviello  G, Pittler  MH, Izzo  AA.  Effectiveness and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting.  Obstet Gynecol.  2005;105:849–56.

2. Chaiyakunapruk  N, Kitikannakorn  N, Nathisuwan  S, Leeprakobboon  K, Leelasettagool  C.  The efficacy of ginger for the prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting: a meta-analysis.  Am J Obstet Gynecol.  2006;194:95–9.

3. White, B.  Ginger: an Overview.  American Family Physician. 2007 June 1; 75(11): 1689-1691


  1. Hey Cookie,
    I am in L&D waiting for a pt to deliver and I was checking out your blog with the L&D nurses. We wanted to say "hi".
    Nurse C. says "we're having a potluck tonight, but your food looks a lot better." and it does.

  2. Grandpa loved ginger ale. We always had some in the house. Thinking about you. Love ya, Mom

    For a refreshing and quick side dish, remember the corn, lime and black bean salad. One package frozen white corn, one can black beans, 3 limes (or to taste), red pepper for color but it is not necessary, fresh cilantro. Marinate the corn and beans in the lime juice. Refrigerate. Add cilantro, salt and pepper.

  3. I would love to hear more about the expectant moms who are trying to cope with being nauseous. Their hope for the child keeps them going. Plus the ginger ale doesn't hurt!

    Love ya tiger,

  4. Elizabeth. I would like to know about soda crackers. I gained 50 pounds on soda crackers -- I was nauseous for 9 months. What does the soda do to calm the stomach?
    Love ya tiger, Mom