For many women, herbs have become an integral part of how they take care of themselves. During pregnancy, the use of herbs need not stop - but closer attention should be paid to which ones are chosen. Many of the herbs used by pregnant women exert their usefulness by providing extra nutrition to the mother as many are rich in highly assimilative nutrients. Other herbs may have a more specific desired action such as those that help prepare the uterus or relieve nausea.
The following is a list of herbs that are generally thought to be safe throughout an entire pregnancy.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger is an effective digestive aid and has been clinically proven to alleviate nausea (read more tips). It is therefore often used to treat what is commonly referred to as ‘morning sickness’. Ginger comes in many forms, and women suffering from nausea should try a variety to see what appeals to them. Natural ginger candies that are sucked on are a favorite of many moms. If you don’t like the flavour, try taking 250 mg capsules up to but not exceeding 1000 mg per day.
Ginger can also be used for treating a cold, soothing a sore throat, and stimulating circulation. A hot cup of ginger, lemon, and honey tea is great when you’re feeling sick. Although ginger has been used during labour to help a woman maintain her stamina, it is also thought to thin the blood. This would be a concern should a c-section or post-partum hemorrhage occur. It is therefore best reserved for pregnancy and very early labour. We like these Ginger Root Capsules and this Ginger Tea
Alfalfa and Nettle (Medicago sativa, Urtica dioica)
Both Alfalfa and Nettle are rich sources of nutrients such as calcium, iron, carotenes, and vitamin C. Taken as a tea throughout your pregnancy, these herbs will contribute to the health of both you and your baby. Alfalfa is particularly rich in vitamin K, a known blood-clotting agent. A diet rich in vitamin K may help reduce the risk of post-partum hemorrhage. Both herbs should be considered during and after the birth for their continued contribution to good nutrition.
Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)
Raspberry leaf (read article) is very high in an assortment of nutrients including calcium, iron, and B vitamins. The herb also contains a variety of chemicals -most of which have yet to be identified- that produce a direct effect on the pregnant uterus. They have been shown to strengthen the uterine wall, relax smooth muscle, and help to make delivery easier and speedier by helping the uterus contract more efficiently.
Some women also drink the tea throughout their labour, or suck on frozen cubes made beforehand. The tea can be continued after childbirth as it is thought to help restore the reproductive system and continue to help nourish the new mother. Try this Organic Raspberry Leaf Tea
Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)
Partridge berry has actions similar to raspberry leaf in that it helps tone and prepare the uterus for birth. It too is safe to take throughout pregnancy, and often recommended in tea form. Partridge berry has also been used to stop an impending miscarriage, as it may help reduce uterine spasms. Under those circumstances, however, it is best to consult a herbalist regarding its use, as higher doses may be needed.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
This flavourful herb is very useful during pregnancy. It helps calm the nerves, reduce tension, and aid digestion. You may find that it can lift your spirits, and its flavour makes almost any tea tastier. Lemon balm can also assist the body during a cold or a flu, and help normalize blood pressure should it become elevated during pregnancy.
Oatstraw (Avena sativa)
The stalks of the plant that gives us the tasty grain we are familiar with is also a rich source of nutrients. Oatstraw is particularly high in calcium and magnesium - minerals that are much needed during pregnancy. It is also considered a useful nervine, safe for pregnant women. Oatstraw tea can help promote calm and reduce tension.
Dandelion root and leaf (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelion is a very versatile herb. Its young bitter leaves are a tasty addition to salads. Both the leaves and the roots can be taken in tea or tincture form. The leaves are known to strengthen kidney function and help rid the body of excess water (edema). The root is more specific to the liver. It can help aid digestion and possibly make more iron available to the body from its liver stores. Both parts of the plant can be employed in a variety of prenatal conditions ranging from swollen feet to the more serious pre-eclampsia.
Burdock Root (Arctium lappa)
Burdock is another herb that can be used for a variety of reasons. It is rich in many minerals and can be used as a food (such as in stir-frys and soups). Burdock is known to strengthen both the liver and urinary tract, and has been used to balance blood sugar during pregnancy. Women who are prone to constipation can try burdock as a mild laxative that supports the body throughout the digestive process.
Before using any natural remedy/supplement during pregnancy ask yourself the following:
1. Do I really need this supplement?
2. Is there something else I can do/use instead?
3. Have I checked with someone knowledgeable in the use of natural remedies during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
4. Am I aware of the risks that might accompany the use of this supplement?