By Brigitte Mars
Pregnancy can be such an amazing time of growing, nurturing, loving and change. More and more women seek to use natural, alternative time tested remedies for minor ailments. When it comes to using herbs during pregnancy, a bit of knowledge is essential. Some herbs are very beneficial to consume during pregnancy and others are best avoided till near the end or completion of gestation.
Some excellent herbs to use during pregnancy are:
Raspberry Leaf (Rubus species) – This is certainly one of the most common herbs used by pregnant women world-wide. Among its many properties, it is: Anti-abortive (it helps to prevent miscarriage), antiseptic (it aids in preventing infection by inhibiting micro-organisms), astringent (tightens and contracts tissue), hemostatic (helps to prevent excess bleeding during and after labor), nutritive (very rich in calcium, magnesium and iron, thus helping to prevent cramps and anemia), paturient (facilitates the birth process) and it is a tonic by promoting healthy tone in the kidneys, liver, uterus and mucous membranes.
Nettles (Urtica dioca) – High in iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium, this herb helps to nourish the mother and the fetus. The Vitamin K content of nettles helps to prevent hemorrhaging. This plant is also esteemed for improving kidney function and preventing hemorrhoids. When used by nursing mothers, it improves milk quality and quantity.
Peppermint Leaf (Mentha piperita) – This delicious herb helps indigestion and nausea. It is calming, yet energizing. Peppermint cleans and strengthens the entire body. It’s predominant nutrients include vitamins A, C, iron, potassium and silica.
Ginger Root (Zingiber officinale) – This is one of the very best herbs to help alleviate morning sickness. Containing calcium, chromium, manganese and potassium.
Burdock Root (Arctium lappa) – Helps to prevent water retention in the mother and jaundice in the baby. Rich in chromium, iron, magnesium and zinc.
Yellow Dock Root (Rumex crispus) – This herb has long been favored for its ability to improve iron assimilation as well as build blood. It also helps to prevent jaundice in the baby.
Among the many ways of using herbs, I prefer to use teas during pregnancy. To make a cup of tea, bring a cup of water to a boil, remove from the heat. Add a heaping teaspoon of the herb combination. Cover, let sit for 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy. A spoonful of honey or a dash of apple juice may be added as a sweetener if desired. This keeps the botanicals in a gentle water extract dose. It is also a kind thing to take time out and enjoy the taste of pleasing plants.
Herbs to use with Caution:
As wonderful as herbs are, they can be powerful. Many herbs should be used with knowledge or avoided altogether. Some of these herbs have a purpose for use close to delivery time or during labor. Before using any of these herbs listed below, during pregnancy, it would be wise to consult with a midwife, herbalist or health professional skilled in the proper use of herbs, otherwise avoid them. Aloe Vera (Aloe vera) – can be too laxative.
- Angelica (Angelica archangelica) – Emmenagogue, it causes the uterus to contract.
- Artemesia (Artemesia species) – includes Mugwort and Wormwood – Some species are toxic in large doses. May stimulate uterine contractions.
- Barberry (Berberis species) – Stimulating laxative.
- Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) – Emmenagogue causes the uterus to contract
- Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) – Stimulates sloughing of the uterine lining. This herb however can be useful in bringing on overdue labor. Please consult with a health professional.
- Buchu (Barosma betulina) – Strong diuretic
- Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) – Laxative.
- Cascara Sagrada (Rhamnus purshianus) – Strong laxative.
- Coffee (Coffea arabica) – Irritates uterus. May contribute to spontaneous abortion, prematurity and birth defects.
- Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) – Although this herb is fine to use externally, some sources say the strong alkaloid content of the root may be carcinogenic.
- Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) – Possible carcinogen.
- Cotton Root (Gossypium hirsutum) – Abortive, emmenagogue. Stimulates tissue that responds to oxytocin.
- Don Quai (Angelica senensis) – Although this herb may benefit fertility, it may cause miscarriage if consumed in excess during pregnancy.
- Ephedra or Ma Huang (Ephedra species) – Very strong antihistamine.
- Ginseng (Panax ginseng) – Affects hormones
- Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) – Can cause uterus to contract.
- Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) – Diuretic.
- Juniper (Juniperus species) – Diuretic, vasodilating effect on the uterine lining.
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) – Affects hormones
- Male Fern (Dryopteris felix-mas) – Paralyzes parasites, strong vermifuge.
- Mandrake (Podophyllum peltatum) – Irritaing, laxative, somewhat toxic.
- Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) – Affects hormones.
- Mistletoe (Phoradendron serotonum) – Emmenagogue.
- Osha (Ligusticum porteri) – Can induce uterine contractions.
- Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) – Stimulates oxytocin to be released, irritating.
- Poke Root (Phytolacca americana) – Strong purgative, toxic in anything more than tiny amounts.
- Rue (Ruta graveolens) – Stimulates oxytocin production, may be abortive.
- Senna (Cassia acutifolia) – Strong laxative.
- Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) – Can be abortive.
- Turkey Rhubarb (Rheum palmatum) – Strong laxative.
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – Strong astringent, possibility of being abortive.
This is only a partial list of herbs one is most likely to use that are available in North America.
Although it is not essential to totally avoid the following cooking herbs, their actual ingestion should be confined to moderate use. Basil, Caraway, Celery Seed, Cloves, Horseradish, Marjoram, Nutmeg, Parsley, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme and Watercress. Their overuse could be too stimulating and irritating.
Do your best to make this blessed time of your life one of health, vitality and positive feelings. For more excellent information on herbs and pregnancy, please consult with the books: Healing Yourself During Pregnancy, by Joy Gardner and Wise Woman’s Herbal for the Childbearing Year, by Susun Weed.