Herbs in Pregnancy
By Lianne Schwartz
Throughout time, women around the world have used growing plants as nourishment to ensure optimum health during pregnancy, to prepare for labour and birth and to treat any problems that may arise during this time. Women often wonder what herbs are safe to take during pregnancy.
My own experiences of the magic of herbs began with eating wild foods as a child in the forests of Canada. When I became pregnant, I nourished my growing baby on the greens we would find in the mountains around us, eating dandelion leaves and other herbs to ease swollen feet, drinking raspberry leaf tea as the time of birth came closer. I watched as my daughter, six months old and teething, crawled off the blanket I had laid down for her and began chewing on some yarrow leaves she’d grabbed. I repeatedly took the leaves from her until I discovered that yarrow was a herb traditionally used by the First Nations tribes in that area for toothache.
While I no longer pick herbs in the wild, I maintain a strong connection with the herbal world and incorporate herbs into my daily life and healing journey.
My belief and experience is that women can use herbs effectively to attend to the diverse health needs of pregnancy. The world of herbs can be demystified by gentle introduction to common and safe herbs that can tone and strengthen us physically. For some women, establishing a relationship with herbs may create a strong spiritual connection to the earth and her growing baby.
How to prepare herbs
Herbs can be used as nourishment, flavouring, prevention and/or cure. The simplest way of taking herbs is fresh, in salads or eaten raw. Beyond this, herbs are easily taken as an infusion or tea, by adding one cup boiling water to one teaspoon of dried herb or one tablespoon of fresh herb and infusing for a minimum of ten minutes. It may be much easier to make up a larger amount of the infusion and store either in a flask to drink hot or in the fridge as a herbal ‘iced tea’.
Tinctures are used in some situations. These are an extract of fresh or dried herbs in alcohol, glycerine or vinegar and are generally used for more acute situations. Dosages vary depending on the condition being treated and are best used under the guidance of a herbalist.
Nettle (Urtica Dioca)
Nettle, rich in vitamins A, C, D and K, calcium, potassium and iron, is especially nourishing to the kidneys which have about 50% more work to do during pregnancy. Nettles are used to enhance fertility prepregnancy, ease leg cramps, and tighten and strengthen blood vessels to reduce haemorrhoids and varicose veins.
One to three cups of nettle infusion can be taken daily during pregnancy.
Oatstraw (Avena Sativa)
A sweet, nutritious tea, rich in many vital nutrients but especially high in calcium. Drink freely throughout pregnancy.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
A gentle tea that is calming for the digestive system and nausea of early pregnancy. It is also a gentle sedative for emotional upsets. Drink one cup as needed, or mix with any of the other herbs.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis)
Dandelion leaves and roots are nourishing to the liver and kidneys. Eat dandelion leaves at any time, raw or cooked or add to salads for a rich source of easily assimilated calcium and potassium. The leaves or roots can also be taken as an infusion.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Red clover leaves and blossoms are gently nourishing to the reproductive and endocrine systems and are rich in calcium, magnesium and trace minerals.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
Fresh or dried lemongrass is a wonderful herb to mix with some of the less tasty herbs or as a tea on its own. Lemongrass is high in vitamin C and trace minerals.
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis)
Traditionally used for morning sickness, ginger can be taken as a tea, in food, as crystallized ginger or in capsules.
Red raspberry (Rubus ideaus)
Raspberry leaf, high in easily assimilated nutrients, is recommended for use only from the third trimester onwards. Raspberry acts as a uterine tonic and prepares the uterus to function at her best. Drink up to 3 cups of infusion daily during the last months of pregnancy.
While the above herbs are gentle enough in action to be used, in moderate doses, throughout pregnancy, there are some herbs that are not suitable. If there are any specific concerns it is best to consult a herbalist who will guide you in wise herbal choices.
May you be blessed on your journey through pregnancy and birth, and be strengthened by your herbal allies in the plant world.
Weed, Susan. (1986). Wise woman herbal for the childbearing year. Ashtree: NY.
Ody, Penelope. (1999). Herbs for a healthy pregnancy. Keats: USA.
McIntyre, Anne. (2003). The herbal for mother and child (2nd ed.). Thorsons:London.
Beale, Cheryl. (1999). Pregnancy: a guide to natural therapies. Hill of Content: Melbourne.