FREE Shipping for Orders Over $80 Australia Wide!

Herbal Medicine for New Mums: Herbs to Nourish, Support and Strengthen

In this month's blog post, I'd like to introduce you to the ways that safe, simple herbal remedies can support women's bodies on their postpartum journeys. Giving birth is one of the most important and life-changing experiences a woman can go through, regardless of whether it's her first child or her fourth! When we're suddenly in charge of looking after a brand new life, self-care often tends to come second...if there's even space for it on the agenda at all. Herbal medicine can be a very accessible, safe, simple and effective way of supporting the body's needs, and it often only takes as much effort as making a hot cup of tea. Sounds good, right? Then let's dive right in!

Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica/Urtica urens)

Far more than just a prickly invasive garden weed, stinging nettle can be a powerful ally to any body that's feeling overworked, overtired, overwhelmed, or just plain and simply over it. Nettle is chock full of vitamins and minerals (including iron!) and well-respected by herbalists as a tonic for the adrenals. It is one of the most nourishing herbs to use to strengthen and support the whole body, and in many cultures nettle is actually consumed as a food, much like spinach! Herbalist Susun Weed says, "Because stinging nettle strengthens the kidneys and adrenals, it builds powerful energy from the inside out, and gives one amazing stamina. If you drink 4-5 quarts of nettle infusion weekly, you can expect to see results within 3-6 weeks." If you're keen to give this amazing herb a try, simply follow the recipe below!

Nourishing Nettle Infusion:

You will need:

  • 1 ounce (28 grams) of dried nettle leaf
  • 1 litre (4 cups) of boiling water

Put the nettles into a mason jar (or other heat-safe container that's big enough - I often just use a saucepan), and then fill it with the boiling water. Give it a stir, and cover with a lid.  Allow the herbs to steep for at least 4 and up to 12 hours, then strain using a fine-mesh sieve or tea strainer. Drink right away, or store the strained infusion in the fridge for up to 3 days. I usually make my nettle infusion at night and strain it the following morning, and drink the litre of infusion throughout my day.

 Note: nettle infusion takes on a lovely dark green colour after a few hours; don't be alarmed, it's meant to look that way! That green hue comes from the chlorophyll that's naturally present in the plant, and it's actually very good for you. Nettle infusion is much stronger than a simple tea, which by comparison doesn't extract much nourishment from the plant at all due to the shorter steeping time and the smaller amount of dried herb used. As a result, nettle infusion tastes very earthy and the flavour can take some getting used to! Try adding some ice cubes to your infusion before you drink it :)

Oatstraw (Avena sativa)

In case you're wondering, yes, oat straw comes from the same plant that oatmeal comes from! It is the hay-like grass that grows with green oats, and it's beloved by herbalists for it's ability to help relax the body and mend frayed nerves. It has even been described as food for the nerves because of how nourishing it is! It is high in B vitamins and contains minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc, and a variety of other constituents which deeply nourish the entire body.

The best way to enjoy the benefits of oatstraw is, like with nettles, to consume them regularly as an infusion over a long period of time. Simply follow the above "nourishing infusion" recipe as for nettles and simply use the same amount of dried oatstraw instead of the dried nettle (so that's 28g of dried herb per litre of boiling water.)

Oatstraw infusion tastes wonderfully comforting. Try serving a warm mug of oatstraw infusion with a splash of milk or cream (or both!) and a teaspoon of raw honey. In my opinion this is the ultimate "comfort food" for frayed nerves and anxious minds. Try it for yourself and let me know how you go!

Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus)

The common raspberry plant whose ripe red fruits we love to enjoy has other gifts to offer as well. Raspberry leaves have an amazing ability to tone the muscles of the uterus, making raspberry leaf tea a wonderful thing to consume regularly after giving birth. It's astringency makes it bring tissues closer together, which is what makes it so useful in helping the uterus recover after delivery. In addition, raspberry leaves are also a fantastic nutritive herb, containing vitamins A, B, C and E, as well as iron, potassium, zinc, calcium and magnesium!

To make raspberry leaf tea, pour 1 cup (250mL) of boiling water over 2 teaspoons (3-5 grams) of dried raspberry leaf. Close the teapot lid and allow to stand for 10 minutes, then sweeten to taste. Drink 1 - 3 cups per day, as desired.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Hot tea made from crushed fennel seeds makes a delightful after-dinner drink. It contains volatile oils that give it a carminative and anti-spasmodic action in the body, which explains why it may help ease digestive discomforts such as cramps, flatulance and colic. What's more is that fennel seeds act as a galactagogue, which simply means it stimulates the production and flow of breast milk in nursing mothers! This is why fennel is wonderful to have on hand in the months following childbirth.

Dose: 3 cups daily. To prepare, steep 1 - 2 teaspoons of crushed fennel seeds in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain, sweeten to taste, and enjoy warm!

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

Chamomile is perhaps one of the best known and most commonly used herbs on the market today. While the other herbs mentioned in this blog post may require a little bit of effort to locate and acquire, you can find chamomile teabags in every supermarket tea aisle! This just goes to show how well-loved and popular this herb is, and no wonder! It has a wide range of gentle yet effective benefits to offer people of every age and walk of life.

Chamomile is, above all, most known as a calming and relaxing herbal remedy. People often reach for a hot cup of chamomile tea when they are feeling stressed, anxious or irritable, or are having trouble falling asleep at night. It also has it's use in calming discomforts such as flatulence, indigestion and colic, due to it's gentle antispasmodic action. This basically means that chamomile will relax any area of the body that is tight and tense, including the digestive tract, which means it may help move the bowels for those with postpartum constipation.

An amazing thing to know about chamomile tea is that although it certainly relaxes the mother who drinks it, through her breast milk it also provides gentle relaxation to the baby! In the same way, when taken by the mother, it may help ease the symptoms of milk colic in the baby, or help prevent them altogether.

To enjoy a lovely relaxing cup of chamomile tea, simply steep one or two teabags of the herb in a cup of freshly boiled water. Keep in mind that the longer you allow the tea to infuse, the stronger and more bitter the flavour! Another useful thing to know about chamomile is that it doesn't actually make you sleepy. What this herb does is help relax you enough to facilitate sleep (say, if you're feeling restless and tense), but only if your body is actually tired! This means that you can enjoy chamomile tea at all hours of the day, including first thing in the morning.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon balm, also called melissa or simply "balm", is another wonderfully relaxing herb that new mothers can benefit from. It is classically known as the "gladdening herb" because of how uplifting it is for the mood and the emotions. It would make a wonderful ally to any woman suffering from a case of mild to moderate baby-blues! It has gentle anti-depressive properties as well as being an effective antispasmodic. This means it may not only help gently regulate one's mood, but it also may be of service in cases of nervous tension - especially when this tension leads to digestive discomfort such as cramping or flatulence. Lemon balm has a tonic effect not only on the nerves but also on the heart and blood vessels, and can be helpful in lowering blood pressure when this action is called for. This makes sense when you think about it, because when we are tense or stressed, our blood pressure tends to go up quite a bit!

Lemon balm has a delightful, delicate lemony flavour, and it combines well with other tea herbs such as chamomile, red raspberry leaf, lavender or mint (to name just a few). To make a delicious cup of lemon balm tea, steep 2 -3 teaspoons of the dried herb in one cup of freshly boiled water. Cover, and leave to infuse for 10 - 15 minutes before straining. Drink one cup in the morning and one in the evening, or as needed.

As with chamomile, lemon balm's relaxing properties may pass from the mother to her baby if she is breastfeeding, thus helping soothe her little one in a safe and gentle way.

Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)

Skullcap is a great herb for those who are struggling with anxiety, stress-induced restlessness, and poor sleep. It takes its name from the amazing calming action it is most known for. Imagine an invisible "cap" which calms your overactive skull, where your brain is busy overthinking everything under the sun.  This is essentially what skullcap can do for us! I always keep a bottle of skullcap tincture (which is an alcohol-based herbal extract) on my bedside table for those nights when my thoughts just won't settle down enough for me to drift into sleep. When working with tinctures, all it takes is a few droppers-full to feel the herbal action in your body, meaning that you can take them directly under the tongue or diluted in half a glass of water during moments when even brewing a cup of tea seems like it would take an unthinkable amount of time!

Skullcap may be useful to new mothers to help ease nerves, calm overactive thoughts, remedy the effects of exhaustion and overstimulation, and bring about a greater feeling of calm and peace. It may be used in cases where one feels exhausted, depressed or irritable to help bring more balance to the mind and body.

Skullcap may be consumed as a tea as well as a tincture. To make a cup of skullcap tea, simply pour boiling water over 1 - 2 teaspoons of the dried herb and allow to infuse for 10 - 15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day or as needed. The typical dose for skullcap tincture ranges between 2 - 4ml, taken three times a day. When using commercially prepared tinctures, always read the label and follow dosage recommendations. Remember to also trust and listen to your body to find what works for you, because everyone is built different!

While the herbs described in this blog post are safe for use while breastfeeding in the doses outlined above, please consider that there are most certainly many herbs that are not. For this reason, please do your research when considering taking any herbs that you're unsure about, including herbal formulas or preparations of multiple herbs, commercial or otherwise. When in doubt, always do your research and seek expert medical advice from your doctor or midwife.

Disclaimer: the information provided in this blog post is intended for educational purposes only, and does not claim to give medical advice. For any health concerns, always consult with your doctor!

❤️ Monika Hricko,
Inspire Baby Wear
 

 

Sources:

Hoffman, David. (1983) Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies. Hammersmith, London. HarperCollins Publishers

Fisher, Carole. (2009) Materia Medica of Western Herbs. Nelson, N.Z. Vitex Medica.

Kent-Davidson, Laura. (2018) Herbal Remedies After Childbirth. Accessed 20/10/2021. https://www.ecoparent.ca/eco-wellness/herbal-remedies-after-childbirth

Jill Romm, Aviva. (2003) Heroic Herbs for New Moms. Accessed 20/10/2021. https://www.motherearthliving.com/health-and-wellness/Heroic-Herbs-for-New-Moms/

Weed, Susun. (2011) Nourishing Herbal Infusions the Wise Woman Way http://nourishingherbalinfusions.com/Nettle.html Accessed 21/10/2021

Leave a comment