End Nausea, Morning Sickness with a Kitchen Cure

Study: A daily dose of ginger during pregnancy can curb morning sickness.

April 15, 2009

Pass the ginger: Common kitchen spice can quell the queasies.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Ordinary morning sickness, an all-too-common consequence of pregnancy, responds well to treatment with ginger, a safe, readily available botanical found in spice racks everywhere, according to a new study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

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THE DETAILS: For the study, which was performed at a university hospital in Tehran, Iran, 67 women under 20 weeks pregnant were divided into two groups. The 32 women in the experimental group were given a 250-milligram (mg) capsule of gingerroot powder 4 times a day for 4 days; the other 35 women were given a placebo. During the trial, the women were asked to document the intensity of their nausea, ranging from “severe” to “without nausea.” Women who took ginger showed an 84 percent improvement in feelings of nausea, compared with 56 percent in the placebo group, and they noticed a 50 percent decrease in the number of times they actually got sick, while the other group saw only a 9 percent reduction.

This isn’t the first study demonstrating ginger’s benefits for green-faced moms-to-be. A 2001 study at a hospital in Thailand found that women given 1 gram of ginger 4 times a day (the same dose as in the Iranian study) saw similar results.

Neither study detected any adverse effects from taking ginger. A third study, out of a Toronto hospital, followed mothers who took varying amounts and forms of ginger during their pregnancies. Those researchers didn’t see any significant difference in the health of babies born to ginger-sipping mothers and those whose moms didn’t take it at all. But Adrienne Einarson, RN, coauthor of the Toronto study and an assistant director of the Motherisk Program, a research and counseling program that helps mothers identify risks during pregnancy, cautions against assuming ginger will immunize moms against all morning sickness. “I don’t think it’s a panacea for everyone,” she says. “Levels of nausea and vomiting vary so much; everyone is different.” She also notes that the Iranian study was very limited in duration (only 4 days long) and that most women involved were around 13 weeks pregnant, the point at which many women’s nausea begins to taper off naturally.

WHAT IT MEANS: Ginger appears to be a safe, effective way for pregnant women to cut down on incidents of morning sickness. “This study can’t definitively say that it works,” says Einarson, “but certainly, if somebody wants to take it, there’s no problem at all.” She also recommends vitamin B6 supplements, which have also been found to reduce nausea. Even if you aren’t pregnant, ginger has been found to have some effect on nausea related to chemotherapy and motion sickness. There’s a reason your mother gave you ginger ale when you got sick!

Need relief from nausea? Here are a few ways to try the ginger cure:

• Get a total of 1 gram per day. The most effective dose, according to research findings, is 250 mg taken 4 times per day.

• Buy safe supplements. There are myriad ways to take ginger, including pills, candies, cookies, ginger crystals—the list goes on and on, says Einarson. If you go with ginger (or vitamin B6) supplements, make sure you buy a brand certified by U.S. Pharmacopoeia or NSF International to make sure you aren’t ingesting any potential contaminants, such as lead.

• Teas may help, if you can find one that lists dosage on the label. Or chew on a one-quarter-ounce piece of fresh ginger.

• Check the Rodale Recipe Finder to locate recipes for all sorts of food and beverages that use ginger.