Ginger shots and okra water fever hits Kenyan women


Fresh drinking water with okra submerged in it. PHOTO | POOL

Kenyans, especially women, obsessing over ginger, lemon shots and okra water have created a new demand for the three vegetables, causing a spike in prices.

If you walk around offices or in Nairobi you may have noticed workers with bottles of homemade juices and tens of hawkers now selling ginger, lemon and okra on the streets.

The ginger shots, the concentrated beverages made from fresh ginger root and lime, and okra water—which is water infused with small pieces of okra or seeds and steeped overnight—are gaining traction on social media and in Kenyan homes, offering an alleged dose of wellness and sexual health in one quick swig.

For years, okra in Kenya was grown for export but now this wellness craze has created a new market. Okra is widely consumed in Asia, especially India, West Africa, and the Middle East.

If you are on TikTok, chances are you have stumbled upon the ginger shot glasses, as Gen Zs and younger millennials embrace this wellness trend.

Magret Kamau, 30, said she came across the ginger lemon shot trend on TikTok around last May.

Intrigued by the numerous claims of health benefits, it became part of her daily ritual.

“I started seeing the ginger lemon shot trend on TikTok last May, and I thought, why not give it a shot myself? To my surprise, it worked for me. I started seeing the results the second week, my face brightened up, and it helped me with indigestion issues; however, I've noticed that individual experiences may vary,” she says.

Rosa Lyn, 27, says she started taking the ginger and lemon shots, known for their anti-inflammatory properties and rich in vitamin C, early this year with a focus on enhancing her immune system, detoxifying, and promoting gut health.

“I was looking for something to boost my immune system, help detoxify my body and improve my gut health. It’s just two months in and I’ve felt a noticeable improvement in my stomach,” she says.

To pack more nutrients in the shots, others are adding oranges or juiced carrots.

Not to be the type that lags behind in trends, I started taking the lemon ginger shot. I introduced carrots to the mix, a concoction that I drink every morning on an empty stomach. Placebo effect or not, after two weeks of consistent consumption, I noticed my face had become more radiant and I had fewer instances of indigestion.

But are these vegetable juices worth the hype? Dietitians and gynaecologists explain.

Rose Joy Etale, a clinical nutritionist, says concentrated ginger and lemon shots have high acidic levels and should not be taken by people with digestive issues, particularly those with ulcers or corrosive gastrointestinal conditions.

“The primary issue with these ingredients lies in their acidic nature. If the digestive system exhibits heightened acidity at any point, I would strongly discourage it, however, I recommend diluting the concoction to a ratio of one to two. It’s also advisable to take it once a day, preferably after a meal. Opting for a meal rich in vitamin C is preferable, as vitamin C enhances the absorption of nutrients from other foods, ensuring effective assimilation,” she says.

Although they have potential health benefits, Ms Etale says, they necessarily do not aid in weight loss because shedding fat is a holistic process involving a balanced plate of food, reduced portions and exercises.

“Achieving weight loss involves maintaining a balanced and comprehensive diet. Relying solely on this shot is not a sustainable approach. However, these shots, their effects are noticeable on the skin. Since they are consumed with water, hydration plays a significant role in making your skin healthy,” she says.

Sexual Health

Okra, also known as a lady’s finger, is a vegetable rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. It has also found its way into the wellness routines of Kenyan women through the creation of okra water.

The process involves soaking okra pods in water overnight, allowing the slimy substance to infuse the liquid and then drunk throughout the day for its purported health benefits.

Advocates of okra water claim that it helps in weight management, improves digestion, and promotes skin health. Others say it helps heal endometriosis, alleviates period cramps and promotes natural vaginal lubrication.

However, I asked six gynaecologists and none supported the reproductive health benefits attributed to okra, such as helping improve fertility, regulating female hormones and healing vaginal dryness, A condition that mainly starts at menopause. All the six had never heard of okra water.

Edith* Wawire, a mother-of-one, says after childbirth, she was advised by older coastal women to drink okra water to aid in sexual health.
“I think it worked but not so much with boosting the desire. But it’s no longer an ancient African teaching. Recently, I’ve noticed young women discussing it on TikTok,” she says.

As more Kenyan women join the trend, okra, lemon and ginger have become common vegetables in many markets unlike in the past.

A spot check in Nairobi reveals almost every market in the city is now selling okra compared to a few months ago. At City Park Market in Parklands, Nairobi, a kilo goes for Sh150 while in Kiambu it costs Sh50.

“They [okra] are in demand all of a sudden. Kenyans have truly come to recognise their health benefits. It can be cooked as a vegetable, steeped in water, mixed with beef stew,” says Mary Wanjiru, a trader at the City Park Market.