Herbal medicine is one of my favorite things about living naturally – brewing up weird teas and tonics makes me feel very earthy and wise and crunchy-medicine-woman-esque. Yes – I'm a dork. I have accepted that about myself. 🙂
Herbs have been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes and many have powerful healing properties. Herbal healing is an effective way to address issues and ailments naturally and effectively. Although not all herbs are safe for use during pregnancy, some are widely used and generally accepted as safe and even helpful for mamas-to-be.
Whenever anyone in my family (myself included) is sick or in need of medical care, I always reach for natural solutions first. I feel so much better when we put natural, usually plant-based medicines into our bodies rather than those that were concocted in a science lab. While I’m definitely not opposed to using modern medicine when necessary, I do think that most of the mainstream drugs on the market should be reserved for very specific circumstances. I also think our bodies are already pretty amazing at protecting and healing themselves for the most part!
I am just about through with my third of three pretty breezy pregnancies. Here are a few of the herbs I used during each that have particularly helpful!
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
This one is listed first for very good reason – I believe it's one of the most helpful herbs you can use during pregnancy. It has been for me!
Red Raspberry Leaf tea is recommended almost universally by doulas and midwives for strengthening the uterus and promoting a strong milk supply postpartum. I did not drink red raspberry leaf tea during my first pregnancy and I wish I had because I ended up delivering my son via vacuum assistance. He is fine, but of course an unassisted delivery would have been great!
During my second pregnancy, I drank at least a cup of the tea throughout my third trimester – often 2-3 cups throughout the day. My labor and delivery with my second son was a complete breeze – I cannot think of anything that could have gone better (except maybe not being in labor at my sister-in-law’s wedding, but that’s another story! Sorry, Susan!). My active labor was quite short, only 6-7 hours and I literally pushed 3 or 4 times before he was born.
Red Raspberry Leaf, brewed as a tea or infusion, is one of the most widely used herbs during pregnancy. According to natural health teacher Susun Weed, red raspberry leaf tea helps women’s bodies prepare for and recover after labor because “It contains fragrine, an alkaloid which gives tone to the muscles of the pelvic region, including the uterus itself.” Red raspberry leaf also eases morning sickness and promotes a healthy milk supply. It’s also a rich source of many nutrients, including vitamins C, E, calcium and iron. I plan to continue drinking it until I leave for the hospital and continue to do so postpartum for several weeks.
I used leaves my dad wildcrafted during my second pregnancy. This time around, it's the dead of winter: I'm using a supply from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Nettles are rich in calcium, iron and folic acid – all vital nutrients for a healthy pregnancy and milk supply postpartum. Nettles can be prepared as a tea or used in cooking anywhere you would use spinach. Be sure to wear gloves if you decide to harvest your own – they aren’t called “Stinging Nettles” for nothing! Fortunately, they lose that effect after cooking.
Evening Primrose Oil Another reason I believe my second son’s delivery went so quickly is because I began using evening primrose oil at 37 weeks orally. Evening primrose oil is helpful for softening the cervix to prepare for labor. You can also insert it vaginally as well to help soften the cervix, too. I have not yet started taking EPO during this pregnancy (at 38 weeks) but I plan to.
Evening primrose oil would be the second thing I recommend behind Raspberry leaf, simply because it's the only other one I've taken very consistently and my second delivery was SO EASY. Seriously! I can see how it might be annoying for me to talk about how well it went so much, but I really want to share everything about that pregnancy and birth because I wish that experience on everyone… and I don't know how much of the ease was due to things that I did/took to prepare or how much was luck.
It's really easy to find anywhere vitamins are sold – you can also order it on Amazon.
Ginger Ginger tea is effective for alleviating nausea making it wonderful during the morning sickness months – you can enjoy it hot or cold depending on the weather. There were a few weeks during my pregnancies where I would live on ginger tea and banana chips! I haven't tried them, but fellow crunchy mamas have suggested ginger candies, which sound absolutely lovely.
Peppermint Peppermint is also helpful for treating morning sickness. I just kept a bottle of peppermint oil in my bag and inhaled the scent when I was feeling nauseous but in hindsight that was probably a little overkill. The fresh herb in a sachet would probably be just as effective without being so powerful. This method has also been helpful for me when I’ve had a headache, too!
Chamomile Pregnancy is so weird – at times you can be so dead tired for weeks and weeks on end, while other weeks you’re bursting with energy and can hardly sit still. When I was having trouble calming my thoughts and nerves, chamomile tea would help me relax. If you are in an uncomfortable stage of your pregnancy where it’s hard to sleep, chamomile tea can be helpful as well!
I would like to add that both of my pregnancies were completely low risk and straightforward, so I encourage any mom to do plenty of research when it comes to her and her baby’s health, especially if there are complications or anything present.
That said, I also think that most of our health issues can be solved in natural ways. Herbs can be wonderfully effective! What natural remedies have you found helpful?