Herbs have been used for centuries to safely assist with pregnancy, delivery, post-partum recouping and even beyond – assisting new mothers through the first years of their newborn’s life.
The choice to use herbs during pregnancy is a personal one, but to ensure the best outcome for you and your baby, always seek the advice of a qualified herbal practitioner and be sure that you are well educated on the types of herbs, the plant parts (roots, leaves etc) and the way they are safe to be used during pregnancy (infusion, tonic, tablet etc). Some sources also stress the importance of taking the whole herb and to avoid concentrated chemicals isolated from botanicals unless specifically indicated by their health practitioners.
What follows are a few nutritive herbs that are generally accepted as safe and beneficial to the mother and developing baby during pregnancy. These herbs can easily be incorporated into your daily meals and are either added as salads, vegetables or taken as a tea (infusion). They are mild and nourishing and contain lots of vitamins and minerals and medicinal benefits.
RED RASPBERRY LEAF (Rubus spp.)
Possibly one of the best known and most widely used healthy-pregnancy herbs. Red Raspberry leaf is commonly brewed as a tea and is rich in vitamins (B, C and E), minerals (calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and potassium) and particularly the alkaloid fragarine which contributes greatly to its potency as a pregnancy tonic.
The benefits from taking red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy is said to include: nourishment, increased fertility, toning of the uterus, easing of morning sickness, helping more effective contractions during delivery and it may even increase the production of breast milk.
One to two cups every other day should suffice to provide you with all the health benefits. To make the tea 1-2 tablespoons of the herb is added per cup of boiled water and steeped for 5-10 minutes. Add lemon or honey to taste. It combines well with other nutritive herbs such as stinging nettles and alfalfa.
Notes: although most practitioners seem to agree that it is safe to take red raspberry tea throughout your pregnancy, some herbalists recommend it only after the first trimester especially if you are prone to miscarriage or have a history of miscarriage, or if your previous labour was under three hours.
STINGING NETTLE (NETTLES) (Urtica dioica)
One of the best nourishing tonics known, Nettles have much to offer the expectant mother and her unborn child. It is rich in vitamins (A, C, D, K) and minerals (calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sulphur and biochelated iron) as well as a host of other important nutrients, such as chlorophyll.
Nettle tea is said to be nourishing and strengthening and acts as a general system tonic. Its use may increase fertility, help optimal kidney function, diminish leg cramps and childbirth pains, prevent haemorrhaging after birth, reduce haemorrhoids and increase the richness of mother’s milk.
Often combined with red raspberry leaf tea or alternated with it, nettle tea is made by adding 1-2 tablespoons of herb to a cup of boiled water and steeping for 5-10 minutes.
Notes: The American Natural Medicines Database lists Nettles as Likely Unsafe, although it is recommended by most midwives and herbalists and included in many pregnancy teas. It is probably in particular concentrated extracts of stinging nettles, such as those used to treat hay fever that may cause problems. In general herbalists seem to agree that it is a safe and beneficial herb to use as a tea during pregnancy.
ALFALFA (Medicago sativa)
This herb is rich in protein, vitamins (A, D, E and K), numerous trace minerals (including iron) and eight digestive enzymes. It is a highly nutritious herb, a good blood cleanser and particularly helpful in late pregnancy because its vitamin K content helps proper blood clotting and thereby reduces the possibility of postpartum haemorrhage.
It can be added to red raspberry leaf tea or nettle tea or taken as an infusion on its own (add 1-2 tablespoons to a cup of boiled water and steep for 5-10 minutes)
DANDELION (Taraxacum officinalis)
This common garden weed is a wealth of vitamins and minerals and can be added fresh to salads, teas or soups. It contains, among other nutrients- vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, potassium, and many trace elements. Benefits from taking Dandelion during pregnancy includes: nutritive, relieve water retention (oedema) and supports the liver.
Notes: Because it is rich in vitamin A, only take every now and then to avoid accumulation of vitamin A in the body.