Ginger is a superfood that genuinely deserves that enviable label (despite the term being seemingly overused elsewhere.) There are proven health benefits that are supported by scientific research when it comes to ginger (and as previously posted here and here), but I would add on a lesser known benefit to this list: the use of ginger to support and heal mothers during the postpartum period, otherwise known as the fourth trimester.
Every health care provider and medical association will advise that it can take women at least six weeks to physically recover from giving birth. Whether it’s healing from stitches, surgery, reproductive organs returning to its normal state, or ramping up breastfeeding efforts, the woman’s body is in a vulnerable state during this transformational period. And of course, this is on top of caring for a newborn baby.
History of Ginger in Chinese Culture and Medicine
But first a little history on the humble ginger! While its benefits of reducing symptoms of nausea or morning sickness during pregnancy have been widely published, a lesser known aspect is that the use of ginger during postpartum is one that is deeply rooted (pun intended!) in traditional Chinese culture and medicine.
In Chinese culture, the postpartum period, also known as Zuo Yue Zi (坐月子), or loosely known as “sitting the month”, is a unique time when family members take on the privilege and honor of preparing specialty foods that are specifically designed to nourish new mothers (for more background, Bon Appetit published a great article about this tradition). This tradition dates back thousands of years, possibly from the Zhou Dynasty in the BC era. Ever since I was young, my mother has taken opportunities to prepare a regional, Cantonese version of these postpartum foods for new mothers within our extended circle of family and friends. Over the years, I became familiar with this tradition and have also gotten used to eating those foods myself (luckily the foods are completely harmless and nutritious for people of all ages). It’s quite interesting because much like how there are regional differences in Chinese cuisines within China, there are also regional differences in the types and methods of how postpartum foods are prepared. However, the one common denominator across all regions is...you guessed it, ginger.
Ginger for New Moms
According to my mother and relatives, ginger is considered to be the best natural medicine for women after giving birth. When consumed during the first month of postpartum, it is believed (and witnessed among our circle of relatives and friends) to reduce long-term symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, backaches, arthritis, and/or stomach problems when the weather changes. These long-term effects are known to even last through elderly age.
Case in point, a close friend recently gave birth, and I took it upon myself to prepare two abbreviated versions of my mother’s recipes that are ginger-forward: chicken ginger fried rice and chicken ginger bone broth. And by ginger-forward, I mean an extraordinarily high volume of ginger per dish (approximately 1.5 pounds of ginger per 4 quarts of broth, and 1 pound of minced ginger per 4 cups of uncooked rice). Both foods are meant to provide sustenance and nourishment for a couple weeks to supplement an existing diet, and the intense ginger component is well-suited for a new mother’s palate. The chicken in both the rice and bone broth are meant to act as protein, calcium, and iron sources to replenish energy depletion. Moreover, bone broth is essentially liquid gold in this context, and plays a critical role in blood circulation, builds warmth, aids digestion, and enhances milk production for breastfeeding.
Navigating New Recipes for Pregnancy and Postpartum
Even so, for many people it could be intimidating to wrap one’s head around some of the foreign ingredients (some which are particularly difficult to source) that lack familiarity, as well as procuring and preparing very time intensive, onerous recipes. Some obscure ingredients in the more complex traditional dishes include dried lily flowers, sweetened black vinegar, pig trotters, jujube, and Chinese Angelica root, to name a few! Various Chinese communities in large metropolitan cities have come up with food service solutions to address this need. In New York City, for instance, Chen Mommy Kitchen is a meal delivery service that specializes in preparing food for postpartum mothers, though its cuisine style is Taiwanese-focused, which is somewhat different from my cultural roots in Southern China. In Los Angeles, MotherBees, founded by the author of The First Forty Days, delivers similar nourishing foods to new mothers.
“Sitting the month” may not be entirely feasible for all postpartum mothers and caretakers, but there are definitely alternatives to introduce ginger as part of the healing and recovery process. One more accessible way is to obtain a quality store bought chicken (or plant-based) bone broth and simmer with ginger for several hours -- this would, at the very least, provide some of the essential healing benefits of ginger for the body.
Lastly, if you are looking for an even more convenient way to regularly incorporate ginger in this unique phase in your life, or want to help support a friend or family member who is undergoing pregnancy or the postpartum period, consider the gift of recoup. Each bottle of recoup contains 2 teaspoons of cold-pressed organic ginger, which exceeds the recommended amount to reduce nausea when encountering morning sickness. For postpartum recovery, including ginger in the diet would be beneficial, so eat and drink up this superfood!
As always, it is recommended to consult with your healthcare provider before consuming any new supplements during pregnancy and postpartum, including ginger. Have a great ginger and pregnancy story to share? Send the recoup team a note firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Selina Ang