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Natural Alternatives to Sustol To Prevent Chemotherapy-Related Nausea and Vomiting

natural alternative nausea and vomiting

The Food and Drug Administration has just approved extended release Sustol (granisetron) for treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, all-too-common side effects of this type of cancer treatment. Yet prescription antinausea drugs like Sustol themselves are associated with significant side effects, which causes some patients to seek natural alternatives to prevent chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting.


That’s not to say you won’t experience some relief from nausea and vomiting if you take Sustol (which is not yet available; slated for fourth quarter 2016) or other prescription antinausea medication (e.g., ondansetron, palonosetron). However, natural alternatives are available that can be effective and are associated with little to no side effects (see side effects of Sustol below).

3 natural alternatives to prescription drugs for chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting

Before you try any of these natural alternatives, consult a knowledgeable professional who can help you integrate the nausea and vomiting preventive into your chemotherapy schedule.

Ginger. This is probably the most recognized traditional natural alternative for nausea and vomiting and one that has been the subject of numerous scientific studies. A recent review of in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences pointed out the “potential efficacy of ginger on the prevention and treatment of nausea and vomiting of various origins [including chemotherapy-induced], even though additional controlled studies are needed.”

Currently Italian researchers are conducting a large randomized, controlled study to evaluate the effectiveness of ginger extract in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting based on evidence from previous research. In the meantime, you may want to try taking powdered ginger extract in capsules, drinking ginger tea, or even eating ginger snap cookies or candied ginger. The standard dose is 500 to 1,000 mg of dried powdered root (rhizome), which is equal to 2 to 4 grams of fresh or candied rhizome.

Marijuana (cannabis). In a new study appearing in Clinical Oncology, the author states that “Cannabis is useful in combatting anorexia, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia, and depression.” Although the article states that marijuana may not be as potent as other antinausea drugs, “for some patients, it is the only agent that works.”

For individuals who live in states where medical marijuana can be prescribed, this natural alternative could be an option. Consult a knowledgeable professional if you decide to try marijuana for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

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Acupuncture and acupressure. A number of studies have shown that use of acupuncture and acupressure, usually along with standard antinausea medication, can more effectively reduce nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. One example is a new study in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, in which women with breast cancer who were being treated with chemotherapy participated in a trial.

Half of the 48 women were treated with conventional antinausea medication alone while the other half received the same medication plus treatment with aucular (ear) acupressure. Women who received acupressure experienced more significant relief than their counterparts.

Another recent journal article from Poland points out that acupuncture for cancer patients “has been recommended by the American Cancer Society (ACS) for the treatment of side effects associated with conventional cancer therapy and cancer-related ailments,” including chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting. Interested patients should ask for referrals to acupuncture or acupressure professionals who can help them manage this often debilitating side effect of cancer treatment.

More about Sustol and other antinausea drugs

Sustol (Heron Therapeutics) is a serotonin-3 (5-HT3) receptor antagonist which has been approved for use in combination with other antinausea medications in adults for the prevention of nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Similar to other prescription antinausea medications, Sustol is associated with significant side effects.

For Sustol, they include but are not limited to injection site reactions (37-62% of patients, including hematomas, pain, tenderness, and/or presence of a mass), constipation (14-22%), fatigue (11-21), headache (9-13%), diarrhea (8-9%), abdominal pain (7%), insomnia (4-5%), and dizziness (3-5%). The most common side effects of ondansetron (Zofran) include confusion, dizziness, fever, headache, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and weakness.

Approximately 80 percent of people who are treated with chemotherapy experience nausea and vomiting. For those who are looking for natural alternatives to the prescription medications designed to help relieve these symptoms, ginger, marijuana, and acupuncture/acupressure could provide relief.

Abrams DI et al. Integrating cannabis into clinical cancer care. Current Oncology 2016 Mar; 23(2): S8-S14
Bossi P et al. Searching for evidence to support the use of ginger in the prevention of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 2016 Jun; 22(6): 486-88
Drugs.com. Ondansetron
Food and Drug Administration. Sustol
FDA, Prescribing information for Sustol.
Giacosa A et al. Can nausea and vomiting be treated with ginger extract? European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 2015 Apr; 19(7): 1291-96
Kilian-Kita A et al. Acupuncture: could it become everyday practice in oncology? Contemporary Oncology (Poznan Poland) 2016; 20(2): 119-23
Medscape. Alternative therapies: ginger
National Cancer Institute. Nausea and vomiting
Rock EM, Parker LA. Cannabinoids as potential treatment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Frontiers in Pharmacology 2016 Jul 26; 7:221