While it may only last a few seconds, the sudden pounding or rapid heartbeat characteristic of heart palpitations can be a concern. Often harmless, the condition has little risk of long-term complications. In rare cases, heart palpitations may be a sign of an irregular heart rhythm, a serious medical condition known as arrhythmia. Research suggests ginger, a key ingredient in the carbonated beverage ginger ale, may trigger an arrhythmia if consumed in high doses. However, few scientific studies have examined the link and none has made a direct connection to ginger ale.
A key component of ginger ale that gives the carbonated beverage its purported benefits is real ginger. For centuries, ginger has been reportedly used to treat various medical conditions, including colds; rheumatic fever, kidney and urinary disorders, diarrhea, infectious diseases, cramps, arthritis, muscle aches, sprains, indigestion, nausea, vomiting and motion sickness, reports National Standard, an informational website by medical experts on complementary and alternative therapies. However, evidence from clinical trials in humans show the plant is only effective for alleviating nausea and vomiting during pregnancy, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine notes. Studies on its benefit in treating nausea from motion sickness, chemotherapy or surgery are mixed.
Heart palpitations are brief pounding or rapid heartbeats. Stress, anxiety, excess caffeine, certain medications, vigorous exercise, herbal supplements and illegal street drugs can cause heart palpitations. In rare cases, an underlying heart condition, including an arrhythmia — an abnormal heart rhythm — may trigger heart palpitations, according to the MayoClinic.com. Complications of heart palpitations include fainting, heart attack, stroke and heart failure. In most cases, heart palpitations last a few seconds and require no medical treatment, the MayoClinic.com adds.
The Ginger-Arrhythmia Link
Animal studies and case reports suggest high doses of ginger may cause an arrhythmia, the June 2007 edition of the journal “American Family Physician” reports. However, research on the potential toxic effects in humans is limited. A study in the January 2007 issue of the “Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand” found one of 61 patients given ginger for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy experienced an arrhythmia. No scientific study has reported a link between ginger ale and arrhythmias. Further research on potential adverse effects of the carbonated beverage is necessary.
While side effects from ginger consumption are uncommon, ginger can cause diarrhea, gas, bloating, heartburn and mouth irritation. Ginger can also interact with certain medications. If you are taking blood thinners, medication for diabetes or high-blood pressure, have gallstones, or are pregnant or breast-feeding, talk to your doctor before taking ginger, the University of Maryland Medical Center advises.
Prevent heart palpitations by avoiding tobacco, alcohol and herbal supplements, FamilyDoctor.org and the MayoClinic.com recommend. Do not use illegal street drugs and minimize stress and anxiety. If you have a history of heart disease, frequent palpitations or experience chest pain, fainting and shortness of breath with the palpitations, get emergency medical help, the MayoClinic.com advises.
- Natural Standard: Ginger
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Ginger
- MayoClinic.com: Heart Palpitations
- American Family Physician; Ginger — An Overview; Brett White
- Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand; Comparison of the Effectiveness of Ginger and Vitamin B-6 for Treatment of Nausea and Vomiting in Early Pregnancy — A Randomized Double-Blind Controlled Trial; Porndee Chittumma et al.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Ginger
- FamilyDoctor.org: Heart Palpitations