Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc
Often when looking for natural therapies patients turn to complicated exotic treatments. By doing this it is easy to forget about some of the more basic treatments that are also effective. A more complicated treatment plan is not necessarily more effective. A simple yet relatively unknown cancer treatment is ginger. There are a number of uses for ginger in an integrative cancer setting.
Ginger has some well documented anti-cancer effects and it has been shown to reduce side effects from chemotherapy. When a patient is treated with chemotherapy the goal is to get as much of the drug as possible into the cancer cells. Every cancer cell is very metabolically abnormal and it is appropriate to describe cancer cells as being sick cells. Due to this altered metabolism the cancer cells often have more transporter molecules on their surface to remove toxins from within the cell. This presents a problem when these cells are treated with chemotherapy because these cancer cells can eliminate the drug before it has the opportunity to work. These transporter proteins are essential to the survival of multi-drug resistant cancer cells.
Ginger inhibits the function of a key transporter protein known as P-gylcoprotein1,2,5. As a result when this is combined with certain chemotherapies it will result in a greater accumulation of chemotherapy inside cancer cells. This has been consistently observed in the scientific literature especially with the chemotherapy doxorubicin (also known as Adriamycin)5. The net effect is that it makes the chemotherapy more effective while reducing side effects1. There are many other natural therapies that have similar effects on cancer cells including quercetin and bitter melon6. Not only does ginger inhibit these critical transporter molecules, it also reduces inflammation7. Systemic inflammation is a major concern with cancer patients and it is often helpful to control this inflammation during these aggressive conventional therapies. Ginger suppresses the formation of inflammatory molecules in the body. It also seems to suppress the activity of genes that are directly involved in producing these inflammatory molecules.
A common side effect from chemotherapy is nausea and ginger tea is one of the most effective natural anti-nausea remedies. Ginger inhibits nausea due to its action as a potent 5-HT3 antagonist, which means that it inhibits the activity of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that also is strongly linked to nausea and vomiting. A strong ginger tea can often make a profound difference in patients that have stopped responding to conventional medications3,4. The ginger does not have to be taken in replacement of conventional anti-nausea medications. In fact, it works best if taken with conventional medications because then you have multiple pathways being inhibited rather than just one.
I have personally witnessed on many different occasions where patients have dramatic improvements from chemotherapy induced nausea when they use ginger tea. It is easy to make the ginger tea. Just go to your local grocery store and buy some fresh ginger root. Cut the ginger into small pieces until you have a handful of ginger slices, then place the ginger into a pot of boiling water. Let it simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on to keep all the volatile oils contained within the tea. Filter the pieces of ginger out of the tea using a strainer and allow the tea to cool until it is a pleasant warm tea. Slowly sip at the tea and give it about 30 minutes to work. Some people find the tea more tolerable if honey is added after the ginger pieces have been filtered out.
You must have professional guidance when developing a cancer treatment plan. A Naturopathic Doctor can help you to develop a safe and effective treatment plan. Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hons) Molecular biology, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative cancer care. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com
1) Pereira, M. M., et al. “Zingiber officinale Roscoe (ginger) as an adjuvant in cancer treatment: a review.” Journal of BU ON.: official journal of the Balkan Union of Oncology 16.3 (2010): 414-424.
2) Nabekura, Tomohiro, Shizu Kamiyama, and Shuji Kitagawa. “Effects of dietary chemopreventive phytochemicals on P-glycoprotein function.” Biochemical and biophysical research communications 327.3 (2005): 866-870.
3) Pillai, Anu Kochanujan, et al. “Anti‐emetic effect of ginger powder versus placebo as an add‐on therapy in children and young adults receiving high emetogenic chemotherapy.” Pediatric blood & cancer 56.2 (2011): 234-238.
4) Ryan, Julie L., et al. “Ginger (Zingiber officinale) reduces acute chemotherapy-induced nausea: a URCC CCOP study of 576 patients.” Supportive care in cancer 20.7 (2012): 1479-1489.
5) Angelini, A., et al. “Modulation of multidrug resistance P-glycoprotein activity by antiemetic compounds in human doxorubicin-resistant sarcoma cells (MES-SA/Dx-5): implications on cancer therapy.” Journal of biological regulators and homeostatic agents 27.4 (2012): 1029-1037.
6) Kwatra, Deep, et al. “Bitter melon extracts enhance the activity of chemotherapeutic agents through the modulation of multiple drug resistance.” Journal of pharmaceutical sciences 102.12 (2013): 4444-4454.
7) Grzanna, Reinhard, Lars Lindmark, and Carmelita G. Frondoza. “Ginger-an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions.” Journal of medicinal food 8.2 (2005): 125-132.