by Heather Gunn, Clinical Herbalist
Pregnancy can be one of the most beautiful experiences you’ll have in your lifetime. There is nothing comparable to sharing your life and body with someone so innocent and tiny. As enjoyable as this time can be, there also lies the potential for it to be a challenging process for some. Fortunately, there are traditional approaches to dealing with these challenges, in the form herbal medicine, that can make the experience much more enjoyable and manageable.
Plant medicines have been used for ages with safe and beneficial results. They are in fact very safe and well tolerated by the body when used correctly. Plant medicines, also known as herbs, are simply plants used in dosages that create a medicinal effect on the body. There are many safe herbs you can use during your pregnancy to support you and baby.
For generations our mothers and grandmothers used fresh picked plants from the land to aid us in our fruitful years. When used during pregnancy, herbs traditionally played an important role in relaxing the nervous system, easing elimination and digestion, minimizing childbirth pains and giving a restless mom some sleep. In contrast to allopathic medicine, herbs can have less side effects, reduced toxic load, and provide nourishment for the unborn child.
With the advent of modern medicine and the American Medical Association a new birthing process began. This new development removed women from their natural position of maternal strength and promoted medical doctors as the genius in the birthing paradigm. Medical equipment, medications and an unnatural order were implemented, brazenly stealing the strength, courage and history of women as purveyors in their own birthright.
It is important to note that modern medicine does have a relevant place in the birthing process. It has decreased infant and mother mortality and morbidity rates, provided mothers with supplemental nutrition to decrease birth defects and offered ample preemptive healthcare to pregnant moms. It has also played a key role in insuring the successful delivery and thriving of pre-term babies.
As a clinical herbalist I’m going to shed a little light on a few herbs I have used myself, in my blended world of traditional and modern medicine.
Three very safe herbs I used during my pregnancy were Melissa officinalis, Avena sativa and Urtica dioica. You may better know them by their common names, Lemon Balm, Oats and Nettles. Each of them have both traditional and scientific basis in the support of a healthy pregnancy.
Nettles is one of the gentlest, nutrient dense herbs around. You can actually grow it in your backyard, but beware of the infamous nettles sting associated with handling it barehanded. It’s a prickly herb. Nettles leaves can be boiled and eaten as a spring green to cleanse the liver. Like most leafy greens it is loaded with minerals and vitamins that are great for you and baby. This is one of the most natural approaches to getting enough of these essential things in your body as your baby grows. Nettles was traditionally used as a blood purifier, allergy eliminator and for blood clotting purposes. It can be taken as a tea before, during and after pregnancy. My favorite method of taking it is by added 3 grams of fried leaf from an organic source or your garden, to a jar topped off with hot water. Steep overnight and drink throughout the day.
Oats have long been used to soothe and calm the nerves and to build and fortify. It naturally has a mucilaginous quality to it that supports healthy elimination. For the run down, nervous, depleted mother that could use some steadfast grounded support, milky oat tops in a tea would serve her well. It was traditionally used in depressive states and to improve the vitality and energy of the heart. Historically warriors consumed oats when going to battle to ensure their strength and stamina. A big bowl of hearty oatmeal, walnuts and quality butter can be a healthy breakfast. If you are worn down and in need of regeneration, adding 2 grams of dried milky oat tops to your nettles tea and steeping over night could be quite helpful.
My most favorite herb during pregnancy was Lemon Balm. One sniff of the fragrant leaves can capitulate the saddest person out of their heaviest doldrums. You can grow it in your kitchen or garden to make access to it easier. It has a strong lemon smell that can’t be confused with any other plant. It calms the nerves, soothes intestinal spasms and quiets infantile colic. It’s a wonderful addition to your diet when nursing as the baby will receive some of its chemical properties through your breast milk. Lemon Balm can potentially aid mom’s digestive upsets by easing morning sickness. As your body transitions through pregnancy, you sometimes find your mood moving up and down with it. I like to think of Lemon Balm as my uplifting stabilizer. It’s safe and can be used by adding 2 grams of it to your oat and nettle steeping tea or simply all by itself.
The above-mentioned herbs can be used in a basic tea combination for many. It’s helpful during both pregnancy and lactation. However, because herbs are so symptom specific, it is best to contact your herbalist to design the best herbal combination for you and your unique needs. Using real food as medicine is making a major comeback in our society. Fitting together ancient wisdom, timeless tradition and modern medicine can be propitious for both mom and baby, ensuring that your pregnancy experience is a beautiful one.
*These recommendations do not take the place of medical advice. This is educational content only. Please seek the proper medical and alternative care advice to make your own informed decision*