Ginger Not the Only Source of IBS Relief

Ginger relieved irritable bowel symptoms the same as placebo

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Ginger calms a host of gastric disturbances, but it turns out that you might not need it to get some relief from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms.

In a large study of alternative medicine, ginger — often used for nausea, as a sedative, a pain reliever and for its antibacterial properties — was very popular among IBS patients. However, its effectiveness has not been studied.

A research group recently performed a small study to see if ginger would relieve IBS symptoms and found that ginger and a sugar pill worked equally as well.

" Consult your physician before using alternative medicines."

Miranda van Tilburg from the University of North Carolina led a research team who conducted a study into the effectiveness of ginger to relieve IBS symptoms.

The study consisted of 45 patients who were 18 years of age and older. They were recruited from the students, staff and faculty at the University of North Carolina.

Study subjects were assigned to one of three groups in the study. Patients were in groups who took either a sugar pill (called a placebo), a 1g ginger pill, or a 2g ginger pill. They took the pills for 28 days. The severity of the patients’ IBS symptoms were rated at the beginning and end of the study.

Patients in the placebo group saw a 34.8 percent decrease in their symptoms, and those who took the 1g ginger pill saw a 26.4 percent decrease. There was no decrease in IBS severity in the group who took the 2g ginger pill.

Some patients experienced mild side effects from the pills. Side effects were reported by 16.7 percent of the people who took ginger pills and 35.7 percent of those who took the sugar pills. Two people had headaches and fatigue, but all other side effects reported were nausea, lack of hunger, bowel movement trouble, bloating and heartburn.

The researchers noted several limitations of their study. Two limitations were that the study only included 15 people per treatment group, and the treatment times were relatively small.

Also, subjects in this study were not separated based on the types of IBS symptoms they had. The researchers felt that by grouping all the IBS patients together, they might have missed an effect of ginger to relieve IBS in people who also had symptoms of nausea or stomach upset.

Dr. van Tilburg concluded, “Ginger may be more effective for certain subtypes of IBS, or for those IBS patients who also complain of nausea or functional dyspepsia.”

They recommended studies with a greater number of people and testing higher doses of ginger.

This pilot research study was published in the January issue of Complementary Therapies in Medicine.

An award from the National Institute for Health provided funding for the research.

The researchers disclosed not conflict of interest.

Review Date: 
January 29, 2014
Last Updated:
January 29, 2014