|Medical Herbalism: Materia Medica and Pharmacy|
Zingiber: Is ginger safe during pregnancy?
by Paul Bergner
Medical Herbalism 3(3):7
A recent scientific study found powdered ginger root to be effective in treating severe morning sickness. A group of women with morning sickness severe enough to require hospitalization took 250 mg. Capsules four times a day. Ginger appeared to reduce the severity of the nausea and also the number of attacks of vomiting. No side effects were reported. The study used the double-blind crossover model, comparing ginger to a milk-sugar placebo (Fischer-Rasmussen). Note that ginger is no panacea for morning sickness. About 70% of the women who took both the ginger or the milk sugar placebo felt better during the period when they took the ginger. This means, however, that about one woman in three got no noticeable benefit from the ginger.
A clinical question of safety arises because of the traditional use of ginger as a menstrual promoter. Various authors suggest either caution during pregnancy or outright contraindication. Herbalist Susun Weed suggests caution in her book Wise Woman Herbal for the Chilbearing Year, but stated in an interview that she had never heard of any problems with miscarriage. Some Chinese texts give no contraindications for fresh ginger root, but say that dried ginger should be used with caution in pregnancy (Bensky; Ni).
The question may be resolved with a look at the dosages involved. A typical dose in Chinese medicine is from three to twelve grams a day. The United States Food and Drug Administration considers doses of five grams to be safe for food use, although no formal tests have been performed. An eight ounce glass of ginger ale may contain up to a gram. A heavily spiced dish containing ginger contains about a half a gram. A cup of ginger tea contains about 250 mg. The dose used in the morning sickness study was a total of one gram in a day. It would appear that the effective dose of ginger for morning sickness is well below the dosage that Chinese practitioners urge caution with. Women with high-risk pregnancies may want to avoid doses above a gram a day. Note: No reports appear in the scientific literature of miscarriage or birth defects from the use of ginger in pregnancy.
Bensky D., Gamble A. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica Eastland Press, Seattle, WA 1986.
Fisher-Rasmussen W. et al. “Ginger treatment of hyperemesis gravidum.” Eur J Obstet Gynaecol Reprod Biol 1990; 38:19-24.
M. Chinese Herbology Made Easy College of Tao and Traditional Chinese
Healing. 117 Stonehaven Way, Los Angeles, CA, 90049. 1986.
2001 Paul Bergner