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