Ginger, long used as a remedy for upset tummies, can help ease the nausea caused by cancer drugs, researchers reported on Thursday.

They found the lowest doses of ginger worked best.

"Patients ask all the time what else they can do to relieve their symptoms," Dr. Richard Schilsky, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and a blood cancer specialist at the University of Chicago, said in an interview.

"Ginger has been used for thousands of years for all types of stomach problems."

Dr. Julie Ryan and colleagues at the University of Rochester in New York tested 614 people with various cancers who were being treated with chemotherapy and standard anti-nausea medications.

They got either a placebo or one of three doses of powdered ginger in a capsule.

"All of the doses of ginger were effective in reducing nausea," Schilsky said.

The lowest two doses — half a gram and one gram of powdered ginger — were more effective than 1.5 grams, Ryan's team reported.

Ryan said it was not exactly clear how ginger helps relieve nausea in these patients. "There is other research that shows it is a potent anti-inflammatory agent in the gut," she told reporters in a telephone briefing.

She said it might be possible to get the same effect by eating ginger cookies, depending on how much ginger is used.

More details of the study will be available at the oncology society's annual meeting later this month. A summary of the findings was released on Thursday.