Pregnancy and Alternative Medicine

Pregnancy can be an exciting and challenging time. From morning sickness to back pain, it’s no wonder some expecting mothers turn to alternative medicines for relief. Not all alternative medicines are safe during pregnancy, therefore, it’s essential to know which remedies are appropriate during this important time. Here is a list of alternative medicines that may be helpful during pregnancy:

  1. Ginger is a popular remedy for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It can be consumed in various forms, such as ginger tea, ginger ale, or ginger candies. Research suggests that ginger is a safe way to significantly reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (1).
  1. Aromatherapy involves using essential oils or botanicals such as lavender to promote relaxation and reduce stress. Studies have shown that aromatherapy can reduce anxiety and labor pain for some pregnant women (2). 
  1. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that involves inserting fine needles into the skin to stimulate specific points on the body. Evidence suggests that acupuncture may significantly reduce lower back pain in pregnant women (3). 
  1. Prenatal Yoga is a type of yoga that can involve physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. Research shows that prenatal yoga may improve sleep quality and reduce back pain in women in their third trimester of pregnancy (4). 
  1. Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in many bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and protein synthesis. Research suggests magnesium supplementation during pregnancy can help reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication (5).

In conclusion, alternative medicines can provide effective relief for many pregnancy-related symptoms. However, it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider before trying any remedies or practices. With the right guidance, you can safely and comfortably navigate your way through your pregnancy journey.


  1. Lete I, Allué J. The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy. Integr Med Insights. 2016 Mar 31;11:11-7. doi: 10.4137/IMI.S36273. PMID: 27053918; PMCID: PMC4818021.
  2. Tabatabaeichehr M, Mortazavi H. The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy in the Management of Labor Pain and Anxiety: A Systematic Review. Ethiop J Health Sci. 2020 May;30(3):449-458. doi: 10.4314/ejhs.v30i3.16. PMID: 32874088; PMCID: PMC7445940.
  3. Yang J, Wang Y, Xu J, et al. Acupuncture for low back and/or pelvic pain during pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMJ Open. 2022;12(12):e056878. Published 2022 Nov 21. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-056878
  4. Azward H, Ramadhany S, Pelupessy N, Usman AN, Bara FT. Prenatal yoga exercise improves sleep quality in the third trimester of pregnant women. Gac Sanit. 2021;35 Suppl 2:S258-S262. doi:10.1016/j.gaceta.2021.10.030
  5. Yuan J, Yu Y, Zhu T, Lin X, Jing X, Zhang J. Oral Magnesium Supplementation for the Prevention of Preeclampsia: a Meta-analysis or Randomized Controlled Trials. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2022;200(8):3572-3581. doi:10.1007/s12011-021-02976-9

Long COVID & Mental Health – Q&A with Saleena Subaiya and People Science

Dr. Saleena Subaiya, board-certified emergency medicine doctor and clinical researcher at New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, shares her insights as a Long COVID researcher. 

PS: What is long COVID?

SS: Long COVID, also known as post-acute sequelae of COVID (PASC), involves new or returning symptoms 4 weeks after a COVID infection. It’s estimated to affect between 10-30% of all COVID-19 survivors.  The most common symptoms include fatigue, cognitive and attention deficits (known as ‘brain fog’), shortness of breath, and the worsening of symptoms following physical or mental exertion (1).  Patients with long COVID also report changes in mental health including new-onset depression, anxiety, and even suicidal behavior. 

PS: You’ve previously described long COVID as a “road walked alone,” how so?

SS: There is currently no pharmacologic treatment for long COVID, with patients reporting symptoms up to 2 years post-infection.  After my own diagnosis with long COVID, I’ve been on and off eight different medications, changed my lifestyle and diet, and I am still recovering.  During this period I relapsed, which meant 6 weeks at home confined to my bed, feeling so exhausted I was unable to carry a 30-minute conversation.

This pattern of  relapsing-remitting, common among those with long COVID, has been challenging to navigate.  The majority of people who see me do so when I’m well enough to leave my home.  They are unable to see the tremendous effort I have to put forth to appear as normal as possible, and this comes at a cost.  It is exhausting.  

PS: How does long COVID impact mental health?

SS: Ongoing research has shown that there are likely different types of long COVID with the most common being a neurological type consisting of ‘brain fog,’ impaired memory, attention deficits, and sleep disturbances (2) (3).  Rates of depression among individuals with long COVID range from 11- 28% (4), nearly two to three times higher than the general population.   Managing mental health symptoms is a crucial part of helping patients function better in life and at work. 

For readers suffering from long COVID, I suggest checking out Body Politic ( for resources or considering participating in clinical research.


1. Organization, W.H., A clinical case definition of post COVID-19 condition by a Delphi consensus, 6 October 2021. 2021.
2. Premraj, L., et al., Mid and long-term neurological and neuropsychiatric manifestations of post-COVID-19 syndrome: A meta-analysis. J Neurol Sci, 2022. 434: p. 120162.
3. Taquet, M., et al., 6-month neurological and psychiatric outcomes in 236 379 survivors of COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study using electronic health records. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2021. 8(5): p. 416-427.
4. Renaud-Charest, O., et al., Onset and frequency of depression in post-COVID-19 syndrome: A systematic review. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 2021. 144: p. 129-137.

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or cause sufferers to wake up too early and be unable to get back to sleep (1). Oftentimes individuals will still feel tired after waking up and experience a loss of energy. Everyone’s sleep needs are different, and you may be a long or short sleeper!  To learn more, read our interview with an expert sleep doctor on the Myth of 8 Hour Sleep.

Many adults experience short-term insomnia, lasting for days or weeks, often in response to stress. In chronic cases, insomnia is longer-term lasting for a month or more (2). The exact cause of insomnia is not known, but it can be caused by physical or mental health conditions, medication side effects, bad sleeping habits, lifestyle and environmental factors, and even stress. Symptoms are generally severe enough to impact an individual’s work, personal, and or family life. In addition to a lack of energy, insomnia can increase feelings of anxiety, depression, and irritability. 

Lifestyle changes including good sleep habits and those targeted towards reducing stress can help with insomnia (3). Medicines can also be used to support a regular sleep schedule. 

To learn more about your sleep, visit our Projects page to explore ongoing research opportunities.


  1. Mayo Clinic. Insomnia – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. Published October 15, 2016.
  2. Suni E. Insomnia. Sleep Foundation. Published September 4, 2020.
  3. MedlinePlus. Insomnia. Published 2019.

Fermented Foods as Medicine

In 1904, Professor Eli Metchnikoff, gave a public lecture presenting his hypothesis that the exceptional health and longevity of Bulgarian peasants was, in part, due to microbes in the fermented milk products that they consumed in large amounts (1). With this lecture he introduced the idea of probiotics, microbes that promote health. His lecture made front page news and set off a global craze for yogurt and other fermented dairy products as health foods. Four years later he would go on to win the Nobel Prize in 1908 for his work on immunity but over a century would pass before we had the technology necessary to validate his hypothesis.

Fast forward to 2021, a lab at Stanford reported the results of a clinical trial in which they compared the impact on immune function, systemic inflammation, and gut microbiome diversity of two diets. In one, the subjects ate six servings of fermented food daily and in the other, they doubled their intake of fiber. After 10 weeks they found (2):

  • The fermented food group had a significant reduction in inflammation along with a beneficial increase in gut microbiome diversity. 
  • There was no significant change in either inflammation or gut microbiome diversity in the high-fiber group. This doesn’t mean that dietary fiber isn’t beneficial in other ways. Even the scientists who conducted this study were surprised at this finding because there is ample clinical evidence supporting the benefits of a high-fiber diet. 
  • 95% of the increased gut microbial diversity in the fermented food group did not come from the fermented foods, suggesting a complex and nuanced relationship between microbes, the postbiotic products of fermentation, and a healthy gut microbiome.
  • Metchnikoff was right! There are significant health benefits associated with fermented foods.

These findings suggest that we have only just begun to understand the relationship between our health and microbiome. While more research needs to be done, the Hippocrates quote “Let thy food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be thy food” stands true.


  1. Vikhanski L. A science lecture accidentally sparked a global craze for yogurt. Published April 11, 2016. Accessed December 22, 2022.
  2. Wastyk HC, Fragiadakis GK, Perelman D, et al. Gut-microbiota-targeted diets modulate human immune status. Cell. 2021;184(16):4137-4153.e14. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2021.06.019