Plant Medicines for Mothers-To-Be and New Babies

Simple Herbs for Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Baby Care

The following five herbs are easily obtained either from the garden or your local health food store or medical herbalist.

Money is frequently tight at this time. All that saving for baby accessories! The remedies listed are free or at slight cost should you choose to purchase.

Urtica dioica – nettle

Pregnancy

Urtica dioica is indicated for iron deficiency anaemia and useful for women experiencing this problem in pregnancy. There are no contraindications to the use of this herb in pregnancy. The herb is best taken as a tea (one teaspoon of herb per cup of boiled water infused for up to fifteen minutes) and drunk three times a day. Alternatively take the fresh juice from leaves in a dosage of one to two teaspoons or cook the leaves, like spinach, or include them in soup.

This herb is highly nutritious as it is extremely efficient in extracting minerals from the soil. It contains minerals (including iron and calcium) and vitamins (particularly vitamin C). These vitamins and minerals are absorbed into the blood stream and transported around the body. Urtica dioica was known traditionally as a ‘blood cleanser’.

Breastfeeding

Urticia dioica stimulates milk production in nursing mothers after giving birth. This is believed to be due to the herbs hormonal action. Drink as herbal tea.

Note: nettles – collect fresh (best in spring), though watch out for sting (free) or purchase dried herb

Calendula officinalis – marigold

Baby Care

Pregnancy Breastfeeding Baby Care medicinal plantsCalendula officinalis is a gentle wound healer and is useful for nappy rash. In this situation the calendula is best applied topically in a cream. The easiest way to do this is to make an infusion (herb tea) or an infused oil of Calendula officinalis and add this to a natural cream base.

Marigold ointment works well as a barrier to help protect the skin from nappy rash. For a recipe to make an ointment click here.

Recipe for infused oil…

Make an infused oil using 250g of dried herb to 500 ml of oil such as olive or sunflower. Personally I prefer sunflower here as it is a lighter oil. In addition it extracts the beautiful orange colour from the marigolds. Simmer on a low heat for approximately an hour to allow the oil to absorb the constituents and healing properties from the herb. Strain and bottle.

An alternative method of making an infused (or macerated) oil is to place the herbs and oil (cold) into a jar and cover over. This solution is shaken daily until the oil is saturated. This takes longer than the previous method. Infused oils made with this method take approximately two to three weeks, depending on the herb used and the warmth of the location of the jar. Some sources recommend straining and replenishing with fresh material.

The herb contains resins, flavonoids and mucilage. Resins seal the tissues against the effect of further damage. They can also be astringent meaning they will help dry a wet weeping wound. Flavones are typically found in flowers. The word ‘flavus’ means yellow. They are more often antiseptic in their action and will reduce any inflammation. Mucilaginous plants are typical would healers and will soothe pain, irritation and itching and aid in binding damaged tissue.

Pregnancy

Haemorrhoids are common during pregnancy. They are caused by an overload on the liver. The body is producing many additional hormones during pregnancy which the liver has to filter and deal with accordingly. Apply Calendula officinalis ointment, cream or oil to the anal area to promote healing.

Breastfeeding

Sore, inflamed nipples from breast-feeding are soothed by infused oil or cream of Calendula officinalis. An alternative treatment would be to infuse a handful of herb in boiling water for fifteen minutes. The herb is then placed in a muslin cloth (or handkerchief) also pre-soaked in the herb water and placed over the area.

Note: marigolds – grow in garden and purchase sunflower oil to make your own infused oil (cheap) or purchase pre-prepared infused oil or cream

Salvia officinalis – sage

Post-Breastfeeding

Pregnancy Breastfeeding Baby Care medicinal plantsSalvia officinalis is contraindicated by many sources during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The herb contains the constituent thujone within the volatile oil. It is antiseptic, but is also thought to stimulate smooth muscle and has an oestrogenic property giving this herb the traditional reputation of an abortifacient. Its contraindication in breastfeeding is due to the unknown affect the herb may have on the baby.

However, the herb can arrest lactation when breast-feeding has ceased. Use the essential oil externally at a three percent dilution in a vegetable carrier oil and massage into the skin. Alternatively, or in addition, drink an infusion of sage tea three times daily.

Note: sage – grow in garden and use fresh leaf (free) or purchase essential oil or dried herb

Zingiber officinale – ginger

Pregnancy

Use Zinger officinale for morning sickness in pregnancy. The anti-emetic action is possibly due to the constituent shogaol. Some sources suggest caution in pregnancy at a maximum daily dose of 2 g of dried herb. Make a tea from the powdered dried root or grated fresh root or decoction from sliced fresh root.

Note: ginger – grow in a pot in kitchen (free) or purchase root

Tilia europoea – lime-flower

Note: This is a European tree. It is not related to the lime fruit tree.

Pregnancy

During pregnancy some women have problems with high blood pressure. In such cases, it is extremely important to have regular monitoring of your blood pressure by your GP, obstetrician or midwife.

Rutin, a flavonoid in Tilia europoea in research was effective in lowering blood pressure. Lime flower also has diuretic properties and an ability to replace potassium loss making this a good all-rounder for high blood pressure. This is best taken as a tea three times daily. There are no contraindications or cautions for using this herb during pregnancy.

There are other benefits to drinking lime flower tea during pregnancy. Oedema (fluid retention) is helped by the diuretic property of the herb.

Another bonus, it can help ease headaches or migraines, if related to high blood pressure. Also it relieves anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and palpitations.

Varicose veins may also occur during pregnancy and taking Tilia europoea tea during pregnancy may prevent this. Saponins are believed to be helpful in vascular disorders.

Breastfeeding and Baby Care

As a mother take the tea to treat a breast-feeding baby. Tilia is beneficial for a baby having developed a cold or for a restless baby. Baby would receive a proportionate dose of any remedy mother takes due to the high perfusion of lactating mammary glands.

Note: there are many lime-flower trees growing in parks and green spaces where you can gather leaves and blossom (free) or purchase dried herb.

Author: Nicole

BSc (Hons) Herbal Medicine / Diploma in Aromatherapy & Essential Oil Science

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