Combining ginger with sugar gives us tasty candies, cookies, and cakes.
Regarding savory dishes, ginger goes especially well with chicken, fruits, and vegetables—particularly the sweeter vegetables, like carrots & sweet potatoes.
Ginger also plays a starring role in beverages, including beer & tea.
Furthermore, its medicinal properties have also lasted throughout the generations.
Modern studies show that ginger probably reduces inflammation, arthritis, infection, plus reduces the risk of cancer & diabetes.
Studies show that ginger also assists with memory, focus, energy, depression, and more.
But traditionally, people used—and continue to use—ginger for:
- fatigue, general lack of energy
- colds & flu
- problems with the monthly cycle
With the last one—nausea—lies the problem.
The Covert Traditional Use of Ginger
Whether motion-sickness, morning sickness, chemo-induced nausea, or any other, studies show that ginger really can help.
Indeed, I personally know women who used ginger during the early stages of pregnancy.
In one case, a friend very prone to motion-sickness started taking ginger while pregnant because pregnancy exacerbated her motion-sickness every time she rode in a bus or taxi.
She also experienced several miscarriages, but I never considered the connection until I read a popular book on herbs for the child-bearing years.
This book addressed all the different stages: increasing fertility to get pregnant, dealing with various issues in pregnancy, childbirth, recovery, nursing, and newborn care.
Unfortunately, it also dealt with what the author called "bringing on a late cycle."
That's the granola hippie euphemism for carrying out an early abortion.
I was shocked to read her "recommendation" of ginger!
She brought examples of ginger's potency in this regard, like how a friend of hers sat at a bar enjoying a ginger beer, then suddenly ran off to the restrooms to deal with a cycle that came on unexpectedly within minutes of consuming the ginger beer.
If herbalists consider ginger an abortifacient, then how is it so often recommended for nausea during pregnancy?
Ginger Brings on Unwanted Spotting
A strong, warming tea made from slices of fresh ginger root brought on mid-cycle spotting in women who never spotted—usually within hours or a day of enjoying the fresh ginger.
I think the last straw came when during the covid-19 fiasco, someone I knew enjoyed a couple of cups of fire cider.
Fire cider is a disease-fighting concoction made from slices of:
- yellow onion
- red onion
- hot red pepper
- hot green pepper
(Or some such variation of the above.)
Real apple cider vinegar is then poured over the contents, covering them completely, and left to marinate for months (6 weeks at minimum).
When ill (or feeling the onset of any illness, including a mere cold), you place a spoonful or 2 of the fire cider in a cup of hot or cold water, add honey to taste, and drink it up.
It's actually extremely tasty.
Anyway, this friend enjoyed a couple of cups of the fire cider (she estimated ¼ cup of the fire cider itself diluted within 2 cups of water).
3 hours later, she felt & discovered spotting—this a week before her cycle was due.
I've had my own experiences with ginger, but hearing of this fire cider incident was the last straw.
I decided to write in warning against using ginger during pregnancy or, if you're a married Jewish lady, using it outside of active niddah days.
What Kind of Ginger?
According to actual studies, it's not clear whether ginger causes miscarriages.
I think it also depends on what form of ginger is used.
Meaning, the supermarket-bought ground ginger is considerably less potent than the fresh, juicy ginger root.
Maybe powered supermarket ginger has no effect at all.
Also, it depends on the quantity used.
For example, is shredding a bit of fresh ginger into your stir-fry a problem? Is there a difference between a teaspoon & a tablespoon of ginger?
Regarding the fire cider, a whole root isn't used—slices of root, however many, go into the concoction.
The problem is that the long-term steeping of the fruits & herbs in the apple cider vinegar is meant to bring out their potency.
So the ginger in fire cider isn't potent because of its quantity but because of its marinade-enhanced quality.
Likewise, how much ginger is in one mug of ginger beer (or real ginger ale)? Not much.
Recipes for a batch call for anywhere from only 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup of shredded ginger—one mug out of a whole batch isn't much actual ginger.
But again, the process apparently intensifies the potency of ginger—as shown in the example above.
With regard to herbs like ginger (which, in small doses, may or may not cause miscarriage):
Some hold the view they cause miscarriage only if the fetus isn't viable anyway, but do not harm a healthy pregnancy.
That's usually the airy-fairy hippie view of these things.
But I don't see how Judaism allows you to mess with that either way.
It's still a risk.
Furthermore, let's say that ginger "only" causes spotting during a healthy pregnancy—no miscarriage, just spotting.
Does it? Not sure.
Nonetheless, it's still distressing to the pregnant mother who doesn't know if this is a sign of something worse to come.
So what should one do?
Recommendations of the Better-Safe-Than-Sorry Kind
- I think if an age-old tradition exists of ginger "bringing on a late cycle," then we should pay attention to that. Such a tradition implies witnesses to this particular cause-and-effect.
- Based on the better-safe-than-sorry precept, I think fresh ginger or potent ginger concoctions (tinctures, beers, ciders, etc.) should not be used in pregnancy.
- If you are a married Jewish woman still in her child-bearing years (i.e., not yet past menopause), you should avoid fresh ginger or potent ginger tinctures during all the days you wish to stay clean.
Spotting isn't dangerous for the non-pregnant. But it sure is inconvenient & annoying for those keeping taharat hamishpacha (the laws of family purity).
I just know I've had friends who used ginger for nausea during pregnancy, who also experienced miscarriages.
Did they miscarry directly because of the ginger? Not sure. After all, we're talking only small amounts of ginger.
They also carried to term several times, resulting in healthy babies, baruch Hashem.
But based on the above indications, I simply would not risk combining ginger & pregnancy.
Having said all that, both studies & anecdotal evidence show that ginger certainly helps during the days of active niddah by shortening the amount of time a woman experiences pain and other discomforts.
Paradoxically, imbibing ginger during that specific time can shorten the actual niddah phase.
For a long time, I hesitated writing anything about ginger & reproductive phases because I'm a little uncomfortable discussing it in a public forum (it's not very tsniyus, is it?).
Also, I couldn't find studies addressing this anecdotal evidence or the traditional use of ginger in this forbidden way.
Maybe there are such studies, but I didn't see them.
But even outside of pregnancy, if you keep taharat hamishpacha, you could experience spotting without any idea of the cause, inconveniencing both you & your husband.
And why suffer needlessly? (I'm SO against needless suffering!)
So here it is, my unprofessional perspective on the topic.
May we all use ginger only in GOOD health!