What is ginger?
Ginger is a commonly used spice primarily grown in Asia with a long tradition of medicinal use dating back about 2,500 years (1).
Ginger is one of the most popular herbs used worldwide for culinary purposes, as well as Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. It has become more popular in recent research which I will dive into below!
Is it safe for pregnancy?
A large population-based cohort study was conducted that included 1,020 women from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study that used ginger during pregnancy.
The participants’ ginger intake was evaluated via a survey at weeks 17, 30, and when their child was 6 months old. Data on pregnancy outcomes were collected through the Norweigan Birth Registry.
The results found that ginger use during pregnancy did not increase the risk of congenital malformations, preterm birth, low birth weight, stillbirth or perinatal death, or low Apgar score (2).
Stanisiere, et. al. conducted a review that included 15 studies and 3 prospective clinical studies evaluating the effectiveness and safety of ginger consumption during early pregnancy. This review included only double-blind, randomized, and controlled trials and concluded that
for “1 g of fresh ginger root per day for four days, results show a significant decrease in nausea and vomiting and no risk for the mother or her future baby”. This research supports the safe use of fresh ginger which can be consumed in tea, cooking, or other whole-food combinations (3).
You may be tempted to start popping ginger capsules in hopes nausea will subside, but before you do, let’s see what the research has to say.
Although ginger supplements have been studied in reducing pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting, there is no conclusive evidence to recommend ginger capsules safely (3).
Due to ginger’s makeup of active components, consuming too much of this herb in a supplement form can cause unknown and potentially unwanted side-effects. A ginger supplement should only be taken if directed by your doctor.
Are there any downsides to using ginger?
Few adverse side effects have been noted throughout research on both pregnant and non-pregnant individuals.
Heitmann, et. al. conducted a large cohort study on the safety of ginger use during pregnancy and reported few adverse reactions including mild gastrointestinal effects, drowsiness, and headache. There were no reports of negative pregnancy outcomes (2).
In non-pregnant individuals, in rare cases, side effects include mild diarrhea, heartburn, and mouth irritation.
Due to the potential fibrinolytic activity, individuals on anticoagulants such as warfarin (Coumadin) may want to consult their doctor before consuming ginger (1).
As previously noted, these side effects are rare and there have been no reports of toxic effects of ginger, though the research is ongoing (1).
Ginger and fertility, can ginger increase the likelihood of you conceiving?
Although not extensively studied, current research indicates a benefit of ginger in helping with female conception.
Ginger is made up of many active compounds including gingerols, zingerone, shogaols which have antioxidant activity. These work to fight against an enzyme called xanthine oxidase which is involved in the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These reactive oxygen species increase oxidative stress in the body which can contribute to female reproductive dysfunction (4). Therefore, ginger consumption can fight against this yielding greater conception outcomes.
Yilmaz, et. al. conducted a study that explored the effects of ginger powder on ovarian folliculogenesis and implantation in rats.
Rats were split into 5-day and 10-day intervention groups and further split into 3 subgroups of 100 mg ginger powder supplementation, 200 mg ginger powder supplementation, and a placebo consisting of distilled water.
The study concluded that the 100 mg ginger subgroup in both the 5 and 10-day durations had the most benefits potentially having positive effects on folliculogenesis in the short term with a low dose and enhancing the implantation in rats in long term with low dose (4).
In summary, ginger has beneficial antioxidant properties that limit reactive oxygen species formation, free radicals, and increase proper cell functioning which contributes to increased fertility and successful pregnancy outcomes.
What are the benefits of ginger for pregnancy?
The medicinal properties of ginger are mainly from the effects of gingerols and shogoals in ginger, which act on specific receptors in the body (5).
The use of ginger in pregnancy has become more popular in yielding relatively consistent, positive results in the majority of studies.
As discussed below, the majority of research is directed at the use of ginger on pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting. However, ginger has many benefits beyond this.
Some of these include lowering blood pressure and aiding in antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory pathways.
The research on ginger and fertility dives into more detail about the interplay of these factors and their association with the compounds in ginger (4).
Ginger versus vitamin B6 in nausea management
Ginger in nausea management
Nausea and vomiting affect a large proportion of women during their first trimester of pregnancy and beyond. Ginger has been shown to provide a wide range of benefits, most significantly in the reduction of nausea.
Two meta-analyses of randomized control trials were published recently on the effects of ginger in nausea management.
The first concluded that ginger was an effective non-pharmacological option for easing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and was better than the placebo (6).
The second systematic review looked at ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting concluded that ginger was helpful in reducing nausea but not vomiting (7).
B6 in nausea management
Many studies have compared the benefits of ginger with B6 in nausea management.
Chittumma, et. al. conducted a randomized double-blind controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of ginger and vitamin B6 for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.
In this study, the pregnant women were administered either 650 mg of ginger powder or 25 mg of vitamin B6 for 4 days. The results concluded that ginger and vitamin B6 both significantly reduced nausea and vomiting scores. Ginger displayed a greater reduction in nausea and vomiting but was also associated with more side effects including minor heartburn (8).
A 2020 meta-analysis compared the effects of ginger and B6 on nausea and vomiting. The outcome of this research concluded that ginger supplementation significantly relieves nausea more than B6 but doesn’t significantly relieve vomiting episodes when compared to the placebo (9).
So, which should I try first?
Ideally, B6 is the first line of treatment, starting with foods then considering supplements although most prenatal vitamins already have some B6. However, it is important to remember what works for one person may not work for another.
Always consult with a health care provider before starting any new supplements.
How can you use ginger to help with morning sickness?
Below are several ways you can utilize ginger:
- Ginger tea
- Adding ginger to a smoothie
- Ginger ale soda
- Ginger granola
- Fresh ginger in cooking such as ginger energy bites
*Be aware of added sugar
The Bottom Line
- Research indicates that ginger is safe to consume throughout pregnancy.
- It can be an effective herb to decrease morning sickness, nausea, and vomiting.
- Although research is not plentiful, ginger may increase your chances of conceiving.
- If considering taking a ginger supplement, consult your doctor first.
Written by: Ali Simkins, Dietetic Intern
Edited/reviewed by: Ryann Kipping, RDN, CLEC, Owner + Founder