Herbs in Pregnancy

Herbs

We’ve written in the past about a pregnant woman’s lowered immunity. Good nutrition, sanitation habits, rest, and exercise all help to strengthen the pregnant woman’s immune system—yet she will inevitably be exposed to viruses and other immune challenges. Pharmaceutical remedies may prove too strong or be contraindicated in pregnancy, so we wondered about herbal remedies. What herbs are safe in pregnancy and what herbs should be avoided? We turned to an herbalist with training in the use of herbs during pregnancy and postpartum to find the answers. *

Before receiving clinical training in Herbal Medicine for Women, Julie Pettler worked as a physical therapist. Later, while teaching her young children at home, Julie built a large garden in her yard and began to keep bees. As her love of gardening grew, so did her fascination with the power of herbs—herbs that grow naturally and herbs that can be cultivated—to treat common ailments. “I study history, science, anatomy, and human health [as an herbalist],” Julie says. “Sometimes I walk barefoot through my yard to gather dandelion greens to add some bitter to my diet. Sometimes I order a strong tincture to stimulate a client’s lymphatic system.” In her current herbalist practice, she combines her love of teaching with her love of plants by leading workshops on foraging, herbal medicine making, the holistic use of plants for health and well-being, and the history and science of plant medicine. Studying herbs for women’s health combined another of her passions: advocacy for pregnant women and evidence-based childbirth.

We started the conversation by asking Julie when the pregnant woman can use herbs during pregnancy. “Herbs may be used for general nutritional support during pregnancy, such as with the use of pregnancy “teas,” and confidently used to address common mild discomforts such as nausea, itchy skin (topical use), and heartburn,” she says. “If a more serious issue arises during pregnancy, herbs may be considered in consultation with a knowledgeable practitioner.”

Julie offered a list of categories of herbs traditionally avoided in pregnancy. “Stimulating laxatives, such as Cascara sagrada, [and] aloe and rhubarb should not be used during pregnancy.” She suggests instead non-stimulating bulk laxatives such as flax or psyllium. Tansy, Mugwort, wormwood, and yarrow stimulate menstrual flow and should not be used. Julie points out that the literature on the safety of herbs in pregnancy is often conflicting, so she suggests a conservative approach to the use of herbal remedies.

The following are some of her suggestions for use in pregnancy:

Nausea

Nausea is a common complaint among pregnant women, in particular in the early months. Julie recommends ginger. “It’s the most studied herb for nausea in pregnancy,” she says. “And the studies support the traditional use of ginger.” Ginger can be taken as a tea (simply shaving fresh ginger into a teacup and steeping it in hot water, can create the tea), as ale in the form of ginger ale with real ginger, in capsule form, or as a candy.

Colds and Flus

For immune support, Julie recommends Echinacea initially, at the first sign of a cold or a flu. “It can be combined with elderberry for extra immune support,” she says. “If a cold or flu sets in, Echinacea should be discontinued. Many times though, the use of Echinacea will prevent illness.” Echinacea is best used for a short duration and can be taken in tincture form every few hours for two-three days.

Pregnancy Tea for Uterine Support

Pregnancy teas support and tone the expanding uterus in the second and third trimesters. Julie recommends equal parts Red Raspberry Leaf, Nettle Leaf, Oat Straw, and Alfalfa (measuring one cup combined). Using one quart of boiling water, cover and steep the herbs overnight to make the nourishing tea.

Postpartum

Julie suggests using herbs for after pains and for healing and antiseptic support of the perineal tissue. Antispasmodic herbs include chamomile, catnip, motherwort, and cramp bark, and can provide relief from after pains. Sitz baths, warm compresses, or peri-rinses to support the perineum postpartum can be made using comfrey leaves, calendula flowers, lavender flowers, sage leaf, yarrow blossoms, and rosemary.

A longitudinal study in 2001 on the use of pharmaceutical medications in pregnancy concluded that 91% of conventional medications had not been proven safe in pregnancy; physicians had inadequate information on the safety of medications in pregnancy. The World Health Organization studied the safety of vaccines in pregnancy and reached a similar conclusion—there are not enough studies conducted on pregnant women for obvious ethical reasons.

Most pregnant women have healthy pregnancies despite the lowered immunity. Herbs can provide a safe and low-risk option for women wanting to boost their immune systems when they’ve been exposed to a cold or flu, when they are preparing for birth, and during the early trimesters for nausea or in the postpartum period when their bodies are healing. “I love that the plants are simultaneously simple and complex,” Julie says. “I love the ways herbs can nudge our bodes toward health by nourishing us and supporting all of our body systems. This is an excellent time to slow down and embrace the healing power of plants.”

*Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before using herbs in pregnancy

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7 Great Reasons to Drink Your Pregnancy Tea

If you’re planning to give birth with a midwife, chances are she’s recommended you drink a pregnancy tea. Premier Birth Center has a really delicious Organic Pregnancy Tea from Mountain Rose Herbs. We’ve been drinking it at the birth center lately, and we have to admit it’s pretty awesome! Our pregnancy tea has the usual NORA (Nettles, Oatstraw, Red Raspberry Leaf, and Alfalfa) that we’ve always recommended, but it also has spearmint, ginger, lemon balm, and lemon peel, which give it a great taste and offer additional health benefits. We think it’s especially good iced.

Why drink the pregnancy tea? Why do midwives think it is such a great idea? Here are 7 great reasons we think you should drink pregnancy tea:

1. It helps you stay hydrated.

You can count your pregnancy as part of your daily “water” intake. Sometimes, drinking just plain water can get a bit boring, so having the pregnancy tea as an alternative can help make it easier to meet your daily hydration goal.

2. It’s great iced!

If you’re not a hot tea drinker, no problem. This stuff is really great iced. We’ve been making it in our Takeya Iced Tea Pitcher, which has been working really well. It takes about 5 minutes to have a big pitcher of iced nutritious deliciousness this way. If you’re having trouble getting in your daily pregnancy tea, try using an iced tea infuser so you’ll have iced pregnancy tea on hand when you’re thirsty. So yummy!

 

Takeya

You can get the Takeya Iced Tea Pitcher on Amazon.com (currently $24.99 on Amazon Prime, as of 8/14/16)

 

3. It’s a great source of iron.

The red raspberry leaf, alfalfa, and nettles in the tea are full of iron. Nettles, especially, is an especially potent source of herbal iron. If you’re trying to prevent or treat anemia, drinking at least a quart of strongly-brewed pregnancy tea daily can be an important part of your iron-boosting regimen.

4. Oatstraw is amazing.

Nobody every really talks much about oatstraw. It is often overshadowed by the red raspberry leaf, alfalfa, and nettles in the tea, but oatstraw is truly awesome in its own right. Oatstraw is high in magnesium, which helps your body to properly absorb calcium. It can be calming, lower your blood pressure, aid in your digestion, and lower your blood sugar. Oatstraw helps improve your sleep, too.

5. It’s like sending your uterus to the gym.

Your uterus is a muscle. It contracts off and on during pregnancy, and that’s normal. The red raspberry leaf in the pregnancy tea strengthens and tones the uterus, a bit like sending it to the gym. It causes contractions that are like exercise for your uterus — not strong enough to put you into labor or to be uncomfortable — just a gentle workout to build strength and uterine tone. This can help your labor to be more coordinated and help prevent excessive bleeding after the birth.

6. It’s a complex multivitamin in a cup.

The vitamins and minerals are easily assimilated by your body because they are from a food source. Seriously, this is powerful stuff. Here’s the list of vitamins and minerals we know are in the pregnancy tea:

Nettles

A, B complex, C, E, K1, folic acid, histamine, acetylcholine, formic acid, acetic acid, and butyric acid.10,21 The hairs are made of silica and inject neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, histamine, 5HTP (serotonin), moroidin, leukotrienes into the skin.

Oatstraw

Silicon dioxide occurs in the leaves and in the straw in soluble form as esters of silcilic acid with polyphenols, monosaccharides and oligosaccharides. Oat straw contains a high content of iron, manganese, zinc, chromium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, niacin and a variety of other nutrients, and saponins, alkaloids such as avenine, trigoneline, sterols, flavanoids, and calcium.

Red Raspberry Leaf

Red raspberry contains anthocyanidins, ellagitannins, flavonols such as quercetin and kaempferol, catechins, phenolic acids, fragrine, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, chlorogenic acid, glutathione, and alpha-tocopherol, iron citrate, pectin, malic acid, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and potassium sulfate.

Alfalfa

Alfalfa contains 2-3% saponins, sterols, alcohols, flavones and isoflavones (including phytoestrogens such as genistein and daidzein) coumarin derivatives, alkaloids, plant acids (including malic and oxalic acid) vitamins A, B1, B6, B12, C, E, K1, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid, amino acids (including valine, lysine, arginine, tryptophan, sugars, plant pigments such as chlorophyll, 17-25% crude fibers, 15-25% protein, minerals, and trace elements such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper.

In smaller amounts, the tea also contains:

Spearmint

Volatile oil, menthol, menthone, d-limonene, neomenthol, tannins and very small amounts of essential oil containing about 50% carvone.

Ginger

Ginger rhizome contains oleoresin composed of (phenols such as gingerols and their related dehydration products shogaols), fats and waxes, and volatile oils (1.0–3.3% the volatile oil contains sesquiterpenes, monoterpenes), 40–60% starch, 9–10% protien, 6–10% lipids composed of triglycerides, phosphatidic acid, lecithins, and free fatty acids, vitamins niacin and A, minerals; and amino acids.

Lemon Balm

flavonoids such as quercitrin, rhamnocitrin, and the 7-glucosides of apigenin, kaempferol, quercetin, and luteolin, phenolic acids and tannins such as rosmarinic acid, caffeic and chlorogenic acids, triterpenes, volatile oil composed of the monoterpenoid citronellal, geranial (citral a) and neral (citral b) and sesquiterpenes

Lemon Peel

Limonene and at least 45 other antioxidant flavonoids, pectin, vitamin C.

7. We have a special BOGO offer at Premier Birth Center for you!

Want some Organic Pregnancy Tea? Stop by Premier Birth Center for a free sample and pick up a bag of tea for $10. Blog readers can mention this coupon when they come to Premier Birth Center and get a BOGO special for extra savings!

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