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Ginger Was Brilliant Remedy for Post-Operative Nausea

Placebo-controlled studies support a reader's experience that strong ginger tea alleviated post-operative nausea. Have you tried it?

Post-operative nausea can be very troubling. People who have had any type of abdominal surgery definitely want to avoid throwing up. In addition to the usual unpleasantness, vomiting after surgery could be painful or even threaten the stitches.Even those who have had other types of surgery do not welcome nausea following surgery. One reader found that ginger made was extremely helpful in this situation.

Trying Ginger Tea for Post-Operative Nausea:

Q. After a recent orthopedic surgery, I experienced nausea as an after-effect of anesthesia. The anti-nausea meds did nothing, but a neighbor brought me ginger root. She instructed me to chop it and put it in a cup of water and heat it in the microwave. This ginger tea had an almost immediate effect and relieved my nausea for good. I was amazed.

A. Thank you for sharing your experience with ginger. Post-operative nausea is indeed a common reaction to anesthesia. In one study, clinical researchers compared the effects of ginger to those of a sedative, dexmedetomidine (Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, online Oct. 1, 2019).  They found that both treatments eased nausea and vomiting, but ginger was more effective.

Investigators have also done placebo-controlled trials of ginger to prevent post-operative nausea and vomiting following eye surgery (Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, online Oct. 22, 2019). Patients who took ginger had significantly less nausea and unchanged vital signs.

Other Approaches to Alleviating Nausea:

Another intriguing approach to post-operative nausea is sniffing rubbing alcohol. A randomized trial found that when post-op patients sniffed 70% isopropyl alcohol from soaked cotton every half hour, they reported significantly less nausea and vomiting (Journal of Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery, Dec. 2018). 

You can learn more about ginger and other strategies for alleviating stomach upset in our eGuide to Digestive Disorders. Since both alcohol wipes and ginger are significantly less expensive than ondansetron (Zofran, Zuplenz), the gold standard medication for treating nausea, we wonder why clinicians don’t have people try one of those first.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Digestive Disorders

Download this guide to getting off heartburn medicine. Preventing ulcers. Effective treatments for constipation and diarrhea. Foods and drugs that cause gas.

Digestive Disorders
  • Kamali A et al, "The efficacy of ginger and doxedetomidine In reducing postoperative nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing abdominal hysterectomy." Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, online Oct. 1, 2019.
  • Sedigh Maroufi S et al, "Dose ginger have preventative effects on PONV-related eye surgery? A clinical trial." Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, online Oct. 22, 2019. DOI: 10.5812/aapm.92072
  • Verma DK et al, "Control of postoperative nausea and vomiting in oral and maxillofacial surgery patients with isopropyl alcohol: A prospective randomized clinical trial." Journal of Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery, Dec. 2018. DOI: 10.1007/s12663-018-1094-3
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Vernor’s ginger ale is the best I’ve found in the grocery store. Has great taste and real ginger. On the last flight I took there was major turbulence but I had started with ginger the day before and had no issue. I especially like the ginger hot chocolate I mixed up!

A bottle of ginger spice on the rack makes it complete. Great spice and common remedy for nausea.

My mother and her aunt were both RNs back in the 1940s and into the 1960s. Ginger ale and ginger tea were always their go-to for nausea, both post-op and for other ailments like flu, etc. Back then ginger ale was made with ginger and not just flavoring. I suspect you have to go to a health-food store for real ginger ale these days, but iced ginger ale is always my first choice when I’m sick. I even took bottles of it with me when my dad took me deep sea fishing years ago.

Did you ever notice that ginger ale is the first thing they offer you post-op? It seems that the recovery room nurses have known about this for a long time.

I wonder why researchers would test dexmedetomidine, a sedative often used to induce coma in intubated patients, for nausea. It likely DOES relieve nausea, but also consciousness!

At any rate, ginger is a tried and true treatment for nausea in all kinds of situations. I’d like to see if studies have been done on the effectiveness of peppermint, which is typically also effective (in fact, virtually any hard candy works well). And let’s not forget about chewing gum! It’s especially good following abdominal surgery, most likely because it stimulates peristalsis (getting things moving again). Health care professionals frequently prescribe it.

I add sliced ginger to my coffee! It helps my arthritis and lowers my blood pressure! It has many health benefits!

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