Blessing on Medicines

February 7, 2013 | by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld

I am currently taking a liquid medication which has a flavoring but does not exactly taste good. Do I recite a blessing over it?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

The blessings (brachot) we recite on food are referred to in Jewish law as “blessings over pleasure” (“birchot hanehenin”). We therefore only recite a blessing (bracha) on foods which give us some degree of pleasure. That pleasure may be for the taste of the food – even if the food provides no health benefits such as candy, or for the nutritional benefits one receives from the food – even if he does not particularly enjoy the taste of the food such as broccoli. (Completely inedible foods do not require a blessing even if they do provide health benefits.)

The taking of medications is generally not considered “eating”. Although there is certainly a health benefit to them, it is not an “eating”-type benefit since the taking of medicine is not considered eating in the conventional sense. This is certainly the case for pills which one swallows.

This is even the case for sweetened medicines. They typically do not taste good in an objective sense. They are only flavored to a degree to make them palatable, but a healthy person would never eat something of equivalent taste (The Laws of Brachos by R. B. Forst, Ch. 4 notes 37 – 8 in the name of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach).

The exception to this would be chewable tablets and the like which actually do taste good in an objective sense. They require a blessing before consumption.

Another important point: If one drinks water to help swallow a pill, he generally does not recite a blessing on the water. The reason is because water has no taste or nutritional value. Thus, water does not provide eating pleasure per se, unless the drinker is thirsty (Shulchan Aruch 204:7). Thus a person who is not thirsty does not recite a blessing on water taken to help swallow a pill.

Finally, there is a special prayer the Sages instituted before taking medicine. For more details, see this response.

A speedy recovery!


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