Note: The Clinic Memoirs are based on real experiences from Occupy Medical clinic, a free, integrated health clinic that serves patients primarily, but not exclusively, in Lane County, Oregon since 2011. The names of the patients and a few personal details are changed to protect patient identity.

Ginger: A Clinical Memoir

Ginny was 18 years old and struggling with a new pregnancy. She was living on the couch of a friend’s house after running away from home. She had no possessions besides the contents of a small backpack. She was committed to carrying this child to term. She knew the odds were against her but felt that anything can change for the better with a little luck and hard work. I admired her dedication.

As Ginny and I talked, it became clear she had very little working knowledge of pregnancy or the female reproduction system in general. She was clearly an intelligent young lady, but her background was going to take a lot of energy to recover from.

Ginny’s mother was a drug addict and had brought other addicts into the house when Ginny was growing up. Ginny learned a fear of needles by watching two people die of heroin overdoses. She left school when she left her mother’s house. She wanted a different life.

“Of course you can. In fact, I am going to offer you something to help with both the pain and the nausea. It’s a food. It is also an herb. Have you had ginger before?”

For Ginny, having a baby was her way of changing her life. I had seen this before in children of abuse. They desperately wanted to raise a child up in a different environment no matter what the cost. They wanted to change the reality they knew.

Ginny didn’t understand why she was feeling nausea every morning. She had degenerative bone disease and didn’t understand why her pain increased as the pregnancy progressed. She didn’t know why her breasts had started to ache. There was so much to explain to her. She squinted at me intently as I shared a brief summary of the side effects of pregnancy. She was memorizing every word.

She wasn’t taking any medication nor did she trust drugs in general. She wanted a different life than her mother had given her. She started talking about how her mouth felt dry even though she drank a lot of water in the morning. I knew that ginger increases the enzyme known as amylase which helps with dry mouth and eases digestion. Ginny wouldn’t care about that. She just wanted to stop the morning sickness. Ginger was her herb.

I handed Ginny a few topicals for her other complaints along with a small container of prenatal vitamins and told her where to go to get more guidance. She needed far more assistance than we could give at our little clinic. She seemed eager to make an effort.

“So I can’t do anything about my pain? What about my stomach? I know I need to eat breakfast but food just doesn’t sound good in the morning. Is there something that’ll be safe for the baby?” she asked.

“Of course you can. In fact, I am going to offer you something to help with both the pain and the nausea. It’s a food. It is also an herb. Have you had ginger before?”

She nodded vigorously, “Like the candy? I love those!”

“Yes,” I said, “candied ginger is the same ginger that I am talking about. It comes in many forms though. You can brew it as a tea, sprinkle powdered ginger on your food, or buy it as a raw root. It looks pretty cool in real life. It has a spicy taste.”

I pulled a handful of ginger root tea bags out of our supply box.

“Take these and sip the tea when you wake up. It will help you get through your pregnancy without much nausea. Just one cup up tea in the morning. It’s a mild treatment for pain but it’s safe, and we can talk about other ways of getting through this pregnancy once you try these. One step at a time. You tell us what you like and what works for you.”

Ginny gave me a hard look. “I get to choose?”

I smiled. You are the mom. Your choices are very important right now. What you do effects this new baby. It is a big responsibility. I know you will be smart about it. We are here to offer you help but, yes, you get to choose.”

Ginny took a deep breath. She looked at me, then at the tea bags in her hand. “I get to choose.” She repeated.

When she stood up to leave, I was filled with the impulse to give her a big, mama-sized hug but I waited. Ginny thanked me and clutching her treasures, left the clinic. She was working out her independence. Maybe next time I would offer her a hug – her choice.

For More Information on Ginger

For more information on ginger, purchase a copy of  Ginger: Warming Spice for Health and Life (The Practical Herbalist’s Herbal Folio Book 6). This Herbal Folio contains expanded information, including:

  • Gardening and Gathering
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Household Formulas
  • History, Folklore, Myth, and Magic
  • Cautions
  • Recipes
  • A Printable Quick Facts Card
  • References

Proceeds from sales of The Practical Herbalist’s Herbal Folio series go toward supporting The Practical Herbalist website. Support this terrific reference site by buying your copy of Ginger: Warming Spice for Health and Life (The Practical Herbalist’s Herbal Folio Book 6) today.