Read Part One
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis)
This common weed of suburban lawns is one of the best liver tonics known. All parts of the dandelion are medicinal: the roots, leaves, and flowers are brewed into tinctures, medicinal vinegars, cordials, wines, and bitter infusions.
If you dig your own, use them to make a mineral-rich vinegar: Fill a jar with cut dandelion, then fill the jar to the top with pasteurized apple cider vinegar. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap held on with a rubber band. Label, with the date; it's ready to use in six weeks. Try it as a salad dressing, or a condiment for beans. Some women like to drink it first thing in the morning: 1-2 tablespoonsful in a glass of water.
Nourishing the liver is critical during pregnancy. Lack of strong liver functioning is implicated in morning sickness, hemorrhoids, constipation, heartburn, indigestion, lack of energy, headaches, and mood swings. If using the tincture, try a dose of 10-20 drops in a small glass of water just before meals.
Fennel Seed (Foeniculum vulgare) Anise Seed (Pimpinella anisum) Dill Seed (Anethum graveolens) Caraway Seed (Carum carvi) Coriander Seed (Coriandrum sativum)
The aromatic seeds of members of the "carrot family" of plants are used around the world to ease indigestion, freshen breath, and increase milk supply. As the medicinal value is found in a volatile oil, the seeds are quickly and easily brewed: add a heaping tablespoonful to a mug and fill it with water just off the boil, letting it steep for 2-5 minutes. A spoonful of honey is a delightful addition.
For a somewhat more complicated brew, midwife Elizabeth Davis (in her book Heart and Hands) relates this old wives' remedy to increase milk supply: Boil 1/2 cup pearled barley in three cups water for 25 minutes. Strain and refrigerate. Heat (but do not boil) one cup of barley water and pour it over one teaspoon fennel seeds. Steep no longer than thirty minutes.
And how delightful that the ease imparted by the brew influences the infant through the breastmilk, relieving colic, turning fretfulness into slumber, and countering teething pain. For best results drink your brew, hot or cold, while nursing your baby. Herbalist Juliette de Bairacli Levy advises mothers of infants and young children to always carry some aromatic seeds in their pocket for the children to chew should they be car-sick or become argumentative.
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis)
When it comes to quelling nausea or morning sickness (motion sickness, too) there is no better herb than ginger root. Whether you use it fresh or dried, a little ginger goes a long way toward warming the belly and relieving queasy feelings. Some books mistakenly list ginger as an herb that can cause a miscarriage. This misinformation no doubt got started by a hopeful woman who had noticed that drinking ginger tea made her menses flow more easily. But midwives agree that ginger is safe, even in early pregnancy.
In addition to quelling morning sickness, ginger helps prevent constipation of pregnancy, keeps the pelvic muscles warmed and toned, relieves intestinal cramping and gas (in infants, too), increases digestive force by encouraging the secretion of digestive enzymes, lowers blood pressure, and restores vitality.
Of course calcium is a mineral, not an herb, but it is so important during pregnancy that it deserves our attention. Lack of adequate calcium during pregnancy can cause muscle cramps, backache, high blood pressure, intense labor pains, severe afterbirth pains, loss of teeth, and pre-eclampsia. Lack of calcium also contributes to feeble fetal heart action, a difficult birth, and "cranky" babies with easily irritated nervous and digestive systems. For optimum health of mother and child, eat plenty of foods rich in calcium and other minerals.
The calcium found in foods and herbs is metabolized by the body far more effectively than the calcium in pills. Calcium in plants is found in the form of minerals salts, which are naturally chelated. In addition, the varied forms of these salts aids in assimilation. And, of course, no plant contains only one mineral. The multitude of mineral salts found in herbs and foods act synergistically with the calcium salts, improving utilization by all the body's tissues.
In general, to improve calcium assimilation, women are advised to consume it with acidic foods (antacids interfere with calcium absorption), plenty of vitamin D (which can be produced by sitting in the sun for 15-20 minutes), magnesium, and daily exercise. Stress, use of antacids, consumption of coffee, use of steroids, drinking fluoridated water, and too much phosphorous in the diet also interfere with calcium assimilation.
Getting 1500 to 2000 milligrams of nourishing calcium salts every day is not hard with the help of Wise Woman ways.
* Many wild greens are exceptionally rich in calcium and other mineral salts. The leaves of lamb's quarters, mallow, galinsoga, shepherd's purse, knotweed, bidens, amaranth, or dandelion, when cooked until tender, supply more calcium per half-cup serving than a half-cup of milk.
* Herbal teas and tinctures contain little or no calcium salts. For mineral richness, make herbal infusions by steeping one ounce of dried herb (such as raspberry, nettle, or red clover) overnight in a quart of boiling water. Or make mineral-rich vinegars by steeping fresh herbs in apple cider vinegar for six weeks. The long steeping of the water infusion releases minerals, the acid of the vinegar does it too. A cup of herbal infusion can have 150-300 milligrams of calcium salts. A tablespoon of medicinal herbal vinegar can contain 75-150 milligrams of calcium salts.
* Cultivated greens are good sources of calcium, better if they are cooked thoroughly, and best if they are organic. Kale, collards, mustard greens, oriental greens, broccoli de rape, turnip greens, even cabbage supply 100-250 milligrams of calcium salts per half-cup serving.
* Fresh dairy products are the best place to get mineral salts, especially calcium, but there is controversy about the assimilability of calcium from pasteurized milk. Fortunately, raw milk cheeses are now easily available; look for them as a reliable source of nutrients.
* When milk is made into yogurt, it becomes superbly digestible and the calcium content increases by fifty percent (up to 450 milligrams of calcium in just one cup). A daily cup of plain yogurt not only prevents pregnancy problems, it also counteracts vaginal and bladder infections. Women who eat yogurt regularly are far less likely to be diagnosed with cancer as well. When buying yogurt, I look for plain yogurt that contains only milk and culture. I absolutely avoid dried milk powder, skim milk powder, pectin, and other thickeners.
* Other great-tasting sources of calcium include goat milk and goat cheese, canned fish eaten with the bones such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel, and tahini (ground sesame seeds).
* There are roughly 200 milligrams of calcium in two ounces of nuts (excluding peanuts), one ounce of dried seaweed, two ounces of carob powder, one ounce of cheese, half a cup of cooked greens, half a cup of milk, three eggs, four ounces of fish, or one tablespoon of molasses.
* Many fruits are rich in calcium (though not as rich as the above foods). Dried dates, figs raisins, prunes, papaya and elderberries are the best.
* Avoid foods high in oxalic acid such as spinach, swiss chard, beet greens, rhubarb, and brewer's yeast. They interfere with your ability to absorb calcium.
* Do not use bone meal or oyster shell tablets as sources of supplemental calcium. They have been found to be high in lead, mercury, cadmium and other toxic metals, which can cause birth defects in your child.
Read Susun's List of Herbs to Avoid