Herbal Allies for Pregnancy

A few days ago I posted my basic ground rules for safely using herbs during pregnancy. I'd consider myself an herbal conservative when it comes to pregnancy, because I understand that herbs are medicine and I take my medicine seriously, especially when pregnant. However, I use pregnancy herbs almost daily, drawing from a wonderful assortment of plants that are either nutritious and tonifying or those that are useful in addressing pregnancy complaints like bloating, nausea, and so on. I tend not to use the same herbs every day, instead alternating so that one day I might just have a cup of chamomile tea, while the next day I'll do an infusion of oat straw, red raspberry and nettle, and the next I'll just do echinacea, depending on my needs.

Here's a list of my top favorite safe herbs.

Alfalfa is a good and surprising source of protein, and rich in vitamins A, D, E, B6, K, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, as well as containing digestive enzymes and trace minerals. It's in the pregnancy that I sell, and many others!

Burdock Root Burdock is a classic sweet and warming liver strengthener and also great for the urinary tract. It balances blood sugar, serves as a gentle laxative, helps with itchy skin, and can aid in preventing herpes outbreaks. I recommend it when someone is struggling with any skin stuff in pregnancy, or those with high blood pressure (because it helps the liver withstand hypertension).

  • ½ oz dried root to 1 qt water, boiled for half an hour, up to 2 cups daily as needed. It's great combined with other woody herbal parts, like dandelion root. For an immune tea, you can add echinacea.
  • Tincture: 20 drops daily (you can remove the alcohol by adding those drops to boiling water)
  • Food: Gobo root, stir fry

Chamomile is an excellent pregnancy herb (unless you're allergic to ragweed), and helps with nausea, heartburn, insomnia, cramps, constipation, prevents UTIs, and acts as a gentle nervine. A great after dinner herb!

  • 1 Tbs herb to 1 cup boiling water, steep 10 minutes uncovered, 1 cup per day as needed.

Dandelion Root is for those of you craving the flavor of coffee, as it's often used as the base for coffee substitutes. Perfect--it's a good digestive tonic, liver strengthener, and helps with the kidney and bladder, and is useful for blood sugar balancing and blood pressure regulation. If you've got iron deficiency anemia, take note: dandelion root helps to increase available iron in the body, especially when combined with yellow dock root.

  • ½ oz dried root to 1 qt water, boiled for half an hour, up to 2 cups daily as needed.
  • Use the bitter but delicious fresh greens in a salad or sauté. You can cut the bitterness with lemon and garlic, or I like to cook it in steak trimmings with onions.

Echinacea has been proven to be a safe herb for pregnancy. As it reduces the severity of and prevents bacterial and viral infections, it's a great flu-season herb, and it's a go-to for any colds and whatnot that crop up in pregnancy. I reach for it in the postpartum when breast engorgement is on its way to mastitis. 

  • 5 mL (1 tsp) of tincture 1-3x daily, depending on severity of symptoms

Ginger is another herb that has been extensively studied, and whose safety and efficacy has been shown. This is the go to herb for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, and helps with poor circulation, chills, and diarrhea.

  • 1 tsp fresh grated root per cup boiling water, steep 10-20 mins covered. 1 cup as needed in sips.

Kelp is great if you're someone who uses sea salt or Himalayan salt, because your salt most likely does not have iodine added. Kelp is rich in iodine, as well as other vitamins and minerals, and is great for the thyroid and other endocrine glands.

  • Add dried kelp flakes to soups, stews, and sauces.

Lavender is a lovely herb to promote sleep and reduce anxiety, and a wonderful oil to add to a massage blend. My labor massage oils almost always have lavender. Never use essential oils straight (always mix with a carrier oil), never take them internally, and don't use on broken skin.

  • Add small pinch of lavender flowers to chamomile tea.
  • A few drops of lavender essential oil in the bath or added to a massage oil.

Lemon Balm is another gentle nervine that promotes relaxation and also helps with heartburn. Combine with chamomile and lavender for a bedtime tea.

  • 1 Tbs dried herb per cup boiling water, steep uncovered for 15 mins.

Nettle is a classic tonifying herb for pregnancy because it's rich in vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin K (which passes through breastmilk to increase baby's levels after birth, aiding in blood clotting), and is wonderful for the urinary tract, allergies, and reducing varicose veins. As a blood nourisher, nettles decreases chance of hemorrhage and with its high iron content is excellent for anemia.

  • Infusions: one handful dried herb in 1 qt boiling water, steeped minimum of one hour, and even overnight.
  • Fresh nettle eaten (though you'd have to harvest it yourself, and be prepared for her gnarly sting!
  • Freeze-dried nettle taken in capsules (this is great for allergies)

Oatstraw is another nervine (you might notice the trend...), rich in calcium and magnesium, and prevents insomnia and cramps. I add it along with other nourishing herbs like red raspberry, rose hips, and nettle for a tonifying infusion.

Red Raspberry Leaf is considered to be the queen of pregnancy herbs. Red raspberry leaf nourishes and tones the uterus, which reduces the risk of postpartum hemorrhage by making the uterus strong and efficient. It's another herb with high vitamin and mineral content, especially iron, calcium and magnesium. It can cause Braxton-Hicks contractions, so if you're drinking a pregnancy tea with raspberry and they're driving you nuts, cut back or pick a different herb.

  • 2 Tbs dried herb per cup water or a handful steeped overnight in a quart of water.

Rose Hips Rose hips are an excellent source of Vitamin C, and I like to add it along with other nourishing herbs.

  • 1 tsp dried rosehips per cup water, steeped 20 minutes.

Pregnancy Dispatch from Week 16

Herbalism & Pregnancy: What's Safe, What's Not (Part I)