Here at the Center for Sacred Window Studies, we share voices from many perspectives and backgrounds. We believe that the sacred weeks post birth, and the experience of humanity is experienced in countless ways. We learn by listening to one another and honoring our stories. The views and opinions of our writers do not necessarily reflect the mission, viewpoints or opinions of the Center for Sacred Window Studies.
Oh, ginger! Sweet and spicy ginger! So many pleasurable memories your taste and scent evokes!
Cutting out gingerbread people, kneeling up on an old wobbly wooden stool and sticking on raisin eyes, elbow deep in flour….. Once while selling bread for a sourdough bakery at a farmers’ market on the North Devon coast, I discovered an incredible pear, ginger and banana cake made by a rival Polish baker. I would buy the delectable sticky treat each week and ask for the recipe, swearing blind it wasn’t to make for the stall. Eventually – with much hesitancy – she handed it over….. I look forward to the stem ginger cake made in the shape of little log cabins with icing sugar snow that my local food coop makes during the holidays. The sweet chunks bursting with flavour in my mouth……sigh!…….
I’m sure all us ginger fans can conjure up that sensation of pungency with a sweet aftertaste. It’s a spice that makes an impression and feels somewhat exotic at the same time as being comfortably familiar and nostalgic.
History & Lore
I’m clearly not alone in my love for this root (the part used culinarily and medicinally). Cultures throughout history have revered ginger, which is thought to have originally been native to South Asia. The Romans saw it as a symbol of wealth and fertility. And the philosopher Confucius is said to have taken it with every meal. He wrote: ‘Do not take away the Ginger.’
In China, an Emperor was so enamored by this modest-looking root that he had thousands and thousands of fields of it planted, demonstrating his wealth and status. What a beautiful sight that must have been when the lily-like flowers were in bloom on mass like that!
In the courts of Europe in the Middle Ages, ginger was revered as the second most traded spice after black pepper. As a spice for royalty and nobility it was used in exotic dishes from the East and again, seen as a status symbol at the opulent feasts along with other highly prized spices from the Silk Road spice trail. It would cost the common regular folk a few days of labour to buy a pound of ginger, but they did get to enjoy it in ginger beer sold in the taverns. It’s hard to imagine such a spice staple being so exclusive, but reading about the history and trade of ginger as it moved its way around the globe, I am so grateful we now have such easy and plentiful access.
Benefits & Qualities
As a pungent, warming spice, ginger is a vasodilator thus increasing circulation, metabolism and improving digestion and assimilation of nutrients. In this way the immune system is boosted by the increased oxygen, removal of toxins and availability of nutrients. Ginger is also high in vitamin C and iron, and is one of the few spices that can provide a noteworthy amount of nutrition. It also provides respiratory support to the lungs and a much needed heating quality to coughs and colds.
Just like its relative turmeric, ginger is also an anti-inflammatory and therefore an effective pain reliever for joints and muscles. AND it is antimicrobial – a tonic to bad breath and dandruff, as well as dangerous bacteria such as salmonella.
Ayurveda says ginger is one of the most sattvic foods, meaning to bring about clarity, love and compassion. Sattvic foods are imbued with properties of the divine and foster our connection to the divine through consuming them. They are awakening and opening whilst being peaceful and calming.
So how do these impressive qualities relate to the postpartum time?
Most importantly: the warming element. With increased Vata in the body after birth, cold is one of the most prominent qualities which we seek to counteract with heat in the birther’s environment and nourishment. Of note, although energetically warming, the post digestive effects of ginger are tonifying and cooling, hence its properties as an anti-inflammatory, also essential for supporting postpartum healing.
One of the main aims in postpartum care is to start rebuilding the digestive fire (Agni) which is generally compromised after birth.
Ginger increases blood flow (rakta dhatu) to the digestive system; stimulating assimilation and elimination. It also stimulates the appetite, encouraging a new mama to consume those much needed nutrients and calories for tissue healing and breastfeeding. With an increased metabolism we also benefit from more efficient removal of toxins (Amas) built up from pregnancy, birth and the transition to breastfeeding.
Speaking of breastfeeding, studies have shown that in the initial days, ginger can increase milk supply. They did however find after 7 days no increase. Dried ginger capsules were used. Both ginger and capsules are drying, however – a quality best avoided in postpartum, especially in regard to breastfeeding. I would like to see the difference with a warming ginger tea as the medicine.
Ginger’s energetic properties are key. To be named as one of the most sattvic foods is high praise indeed. At such a sensitive time we are aiming for a high percentage of food to be sattvic in quality.
Bringing about an environment of peace, love and compassion into the home postpartum is vital. And we can do that with the way we prepare our foods and in choosing ingredients that already hold this sattvic/divine quality.
How to Use
Ginger can be used immediately after birth. It’s a great addition to the First Day’s Rice Pudding. Powder can be used in the recipe, as it is more sharply warming. Fresh root also is great: simply finely chop and add to the other ingredients.
Use ginger in hot milk tonics, a soothing Raab (see recipe below) or herbal chai. Of course a classic steeped ginger tea, perhaps with the addition of another sattvic friend, Tulsi is an ideal daily habit.
In these hot drinks the fresh root can be prepared a few different ways. Either chop it up and steep in a tea before straining and adding to other ingredients; blend it up if you have a good blender; OR juice and add to your hot beverage. Juiced, the ginger pungency is very pronounced, with the added benefit of keeping more of the vitamin C intact.
You may want to cut use of powdered ginger as agni increases. Any sign of pitta aggravation including frustration, anger, diarrhea, excess heat or heart burn would signal needing less of the pungency of the dried root. In this case, usually a little fresh root can still be used with no ill effect.
A great recipe after 7 days is a fresh ginger pickle (see recipe below). This will really wake up the digestive enzymes and is ideal 10 minutes before a meal as a digestive.
Try these Recipes!
Raab: a soothing and dairy-free warm smoothie
from Touching Heaven: Tonic Postpartum Recipes by Ysha Oaks
Truly a meal in a glass served right after childbirth as desired. Containing complex carbs, fats and protein for immediate and lasting energy, raab is wonderfully rich, sweet and delicious for new mamas.
3-4 cups water
3 tbsp jaggery, mexican dark sugar or sucanat
¼ cup semolina flour
3 tbsp sesame oil
½ tsp dried ginger powder
2-3 pinches cardamom powder
2 pinches nutmeg or pippali
3 tbsps ground almonds
- Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil to make a syrup.
- In a separate heavy based saucepan heat the oil and flour enough to cook but not to brown the flour for around 2-3 minutes on medium.
- Add ginger
- Take pan off heat and whisk, adding water a little at a time. Add almonds just before serving with a little sprinkle reserved for the top.
Fresh Ginger Pickle
from Touching Heaven: Tonic Postpartum Recipes by Ysha Oaks
Make enough for several meals in a glass jar. It keeps refrigerated for 2-3 days. Serve after 7 days postpartum for support with appetite and digestion. Pitta-aggravated birthers might use a pinch of sugar instead of salt.
2 tsp fresh ginger
Squeeze lime juice
- Peel and grate the ginger finely, or simply peel and thinly slice
- Take with lime and salt about 10 minutes before a meal or served with a meal as a condiment option.
Food Feature compliments of
Ayurdoula, Blog Contributor
Samantha Veitch is a plant-based Maiden to Mother Mentor and an Ayurdoula, as well as a mother to a sweet baby boy. She helps eco-conscious women through pregnancy and early motherhood realign their food lifestyles to obtain maximum vitality whilst making choices that are sustainable for the planet.