It’s no secret that I think much of the morning sickness advice dispensed online is terribly misguided. There are a few instances however, where conventional wisdom is actually spot on. For example, two of the most well-know remedies for morning sickness are, for many women, two of the most effective: ginger and peppermint. While both of these remedies can be taken in many forms, I usually recommend them to my patients in the form of herbal tea.
Ginger has long been recognized for its ability to quell nausea. In addition to morning sickness it’s been widely studied and proven useful for motion sickness, nausea resulting from chemotherapy treatment, food poisoning, and even the nausea can that sometimes accompany migraines.
The exact mechanism by which ginger reduces nausea is unknown, but it can be taken in many forms including fresh (you can find the root in the produce section at the grocery store), dried in capsules or as tea, crystallized, or as an ingredient in foods or drinks. Most ginger ales, famously given to sick kids with the stomach flu and as a staple on airplanes everywhere, contain much more sugar than ginger. In fact many brands don’t contain any actual ginger at all these days, having been replaced years ago with “natural” or artificial ginger flavoring.
A much better option is ginger tea, made with grated or sliced fresh ginger, or bought in bags as an herbal tea that’s available online and at most health food stores. I find the warmth of the tea is soothing to many women experiencing nausea and drinking it in liquid form gets the ginger into your system to start relieving nausea quickly.
To make a tea from the fresh root, take several thin slices of ginger or about a tablespoon of freshly grated root and add to a cup of hot water. Let the tea steep for three to five minutes and add a squeeze of lemon if desired. You can also nibble on the slices or gratings themselves after the tea is gone.
Although I typically recommend limiting sugar, especially during the first trimester when it can aggravate morning sickness, crystallized ginger or natural ginger chews can easily be stored in your purse for times when nausea strikes and you’re out and about.
If using the fresh leaves, rub gently between your fingers to release the plant’s natural oils and then rip them into smaller pieces before adding a couple of tablespoons to a cup of hot water. Alternately, add about a tablespoon of the dried herb to hot water and let steep for three to five minutes before drinking.
Again, I recommend avoiding sugar during your pregnancy, but for emergencies natural mint candies or gum can be a lifesaver when you’re out and about and don’t have another option. Just be sure to check the label and avoid anything that contains artificial sweeteners.
Try experimenting with both ginger and peppermint to see how you react to each. Some people find that one will sometimes bring on heartburn, but are ok with the other. I personally found that ginger relieved my nausea more quickly, but peppermint kept it at bay longer. Try them both to see what works for you!
Do you use ginger or peppermint to relieve your morning sickness? Which form works best for you? Let me know in the comments below!
Willetts K, Ekangaki A, Eden J. Effect of a ginger extract on pregnancy-induced nausea: a randomised controlled trial. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol2003;43:139–144. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14712970
Vutyavanich T, Kraisarin T, Ruangsri R. Ginger for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy: randomized, double-masked, placebo-controlled trial. Obstet Gynaecol 97;2001:577–582. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11275030