Herbs: More Than Just Weeds
First I want to say that although I am a midwife and use herbs for my clients, I do not know each of you listening nor do I have any information about your individual health, so I am not diagnosing you or treating you. I am simply relaying information. I am purposefully not including specific or detailed dosing.
Along with the insurgence and uprising of technology and interventions in healthcare on a whole there has been a loss in the art of green remedies like herbs, especially in pregnancy and birth. Big pharma has us reliant on pharmaceuticals and walking around in a medicine cabinet of confusion. When you are carrying a baby in your tummy, the effects medication is even more important.
Let’s history hat this for a second. If you’ve ever seen the tear jerker episode of Call the Midwife you might understand a bit more (let’s be for real, they are all tearjerker episodes). In this episode, we came face to face with the realities of how medicine can affect a baby when they looked at Thalidomide usage in the 40s/50s and the deformities that babies were born with when their mommas were given that medication with the trust that their doctor knows best. It was given for morning sickness.
More recent evidence shows us the harmful problems with common everyday meds like Tylenol and yeast infection aides.
While all this is swirling around us, the “experts” are telling us to steer clear of herbal remedies because the research is lacking. I’ll be the first to say we need to be aware of what is safe and what is not, because let’s face it, everything that the Earth provides is not always our friend. We’ve been using herbs in pregnancy since before ancient Egypt. Studies have shown that almost half of women have tried an herbal therapy in pregnancy. If so many people are trying it, we should be up to date on what is a thumbs up herb and what is a no no herb. Just because we can’t prove something is harmful for us, that does not mean it is safe for us.
There’s so much I could tell you about herbal usage. How to prepare it -topically or systemically - teas, infusions, baths salves, etc. So, let’s first talk about herbs that are considered by most to be safe in pregnancy.
First, one of my favs. Red Raspberry Leaf. It is like Popeye’s spinach. It’s a uterine tonic and helps us to create lovely, strong, adequate surges during labor, and then it helps the uterus to clamp down postpartum to control PP bleeding.
Another uterine tonic used, commonly with RRL is nettles. It’s full of minerals and vitamins and iron.
Alfalfa is another fabulous choice of herbs. It is a beautiful way to help your body protect itself from anemia and hemorrhage because it is chalked full of chlorophyll.
We have probably all heard about ginger for morning sickness, and it is a safe botanical for pregnancy. Other nice options are spearmint, lemon balm, wild yam, and dandelion root.
Dandelion root can also help for fatigue. If fatigue isn’t your issue but insomnia is, you could try skullcap, lavender, lemon balm, or chamomile.
Chamomile can help us relax and keep us from farting up the place.
If you are crazy with heartburn, marshmallow (not lucky charms) and slippery elm can sooth the burn and coat the lining of your stomach.
You can try tea tree oil or Melalueca for yeast infection. Garlic is also a good choice here. All used as a suppository.
We love Floridix for Iron deficiency anemia, but nettles is also a lovely option. Yellow dock root is good too. You know another simple option for an iron boost is go old school and use an iron skillet to cook. Throw the chemical containing Teflon out.
St Johns wort oil is good for muscle cramps as is sqauw vine.
‘Tis the season of having the flu shot shoved down your throat…or in your arm…so, why not go for elderberry, Echinacea, lemon balm, and St Johns wort? All are anti-viral herbs.
Echinacea along with yellow dock is good for bacterial infections.
Some absolute NO Nos in herbs during pregnancy are licorice (this one is debatable but I’d rather be safe), Tansy, Safflower, Angelica, and Wormwood. These all have abortive properties and can translate into miscarriage.
Laxtives include rhubard and aloes.
Teratogens, which means they can cause physical development issues, and they have a long list. A few of the teratogens are Ferula, Oregano, Thyme, and sage oil as well as hops and red clover.
Moral of the story is, know what is safe before you put it in your body. Your midwife should be able to help you navigate that.
There also exists this in between place where some herbs aren’t necessarily harmful physically (that’s up for debate), but dynamically. By using these herbs, what are we verbalizing and accepting about our confidence in our bodies’ abilities? We are obsessed as a culture with making baby come and preparing our body for when baby comes. Those types of herbs are called partus preparators. These are herbs like blue or black cohosh or partridge berry. Why do we feel we need to prepare for a normal function of a woman’s body? We rock and birth beautifully.
I could go on and on and on. There are so many herbs for postpartum care, afterbirth pains, perineum care, mastitis and milk supply, which is something to definitely bring up with your midwife. We are always here to help, even after baby is born.
Remember, herbs are more than just weeds!