Throughout history each small village community has had its own herbalist. Depending on the era her title may have varied – wise woman, midwife, witch – but her task would have been the same: to create and administer herbal concoctions to help pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Today, more and more women are looking to the benefits of using herbal and natural treatments during pregnancy and childbirth but before you treat yourself, please remember that the village wise woman also helped women who wanted to be rid of unwanted pregnancies.
Consult your doctor, midwife or homeopathic practitioner before beginning a treatment.
Even some everyday herbs are considered unsafe during pregnancy, especially the first trimester, so herbs must be chosen very carefully in order to ensure your good health and the safety of your developing baby. Find out as much as you can and consult with people who have lots of experience in the field.
What are Considered Safe Herbs During Pregnancy?
Over this question there is some disagreement. Even the experts will argue. One source may suggest using a particular herb while another source will have it on its ‘not suitable’ list.
Because natural and homeopathic medicines haven’t necessarily undergone the same rigorous testing that is essential before a branded medicine can be approved for public use, some in the medical profession will be very cagey. Even though a plant, such as nettle, may have been used as a pregnancy aid for hundreds of years and is recommended by many midwives, because it hasn’t undergone such extensive scrutiny, some medical professions will discourage its use.
But one herbal remedy that seems to be universally approved is red raspberry leaf tea. This is said to improve uterine health and ease labour pains by helping to tone the muscles. It’s also rich in iron and may help fight nausea and morning sickness. But because it has an effect on the uterus, it’s probably best to avoid it during the first trimester.
Peppermint leaf and ginger root may help in the battle against morning sickness by relieving nausea and vomiting, and oats and oat straw which are rich in essential minerals, may help ease anxiety, restlessness and irritated skin.
Making an Infusion
Rather than buy red raspberry leaf tea-bags, make your own infusion. You’ll know exactly what’s in it and you’ll have more control over the strength.
For a basic measure, use 1 oz dried herbs, available from health food stores, to 2 pints of boiled water. (Dried herbs are recommended because the walls of the cells are broken down by drying so it’s easier for the vitamins and minerals to be extracted.)
Place the herbs in a jar and pour the boiling water over. Cover and leave to stand for about 4 hours. Strain before drinking. You may like to reheat it or to add ice. Add honey for a sweeter taste. Adjust the strength to your own taste.
Herbs to Aid in Labour and Afterwards
Caraway taken as an infusion may help ease labour pains and it also stimulates the production of breast milk. After the safe delivery of your baby these herbs will help promote milk production for breastfeeding your baby: borage, fennel, fenugreek and milk thistle.
When you’re ready to wean your baby, an infusion of sage will help reduce milk production.
If you’re unfortunate enough to suffer from mastitis while breastfeeding, raw cabbage leaves, slightly bruised and placed directly on your breast will help cool the breast and draw out the infection. At first sign of soreness, try popping a cabbage leaf in your bra – and it’s not often you’ll see that sentence!
Alternatively make a poultice from comfrey leaves and calendula flowers. Blend with some water and flour to make a paste. Wrap in cotton cloth and heat before applying several times a day.
Herbs to Avoid in Pregnancy
During pregnancy you’re advised to avoid taking orally evening primrose, aloe, ginseng, senna and feverfew.
Always consult your midwife or doctor before embarking on any herbal treatment.