Must-have Mama Herbs

Herbs for Mums

Get the insights from a herbalist here on the must-have herbs for mums including what action classes they belong to and why they’re so essential for the post-partum period!

The most common herbs used for natural healing in new mums are those that combat and relieve the after-effects of the powerful and transformational experience of birth. There is a long history of the use of herbs during early motherhood, speeding up wound healing, enhancing nutrition, calming the nervous system and boosting energy. Indeed in some cultures post partum herbs are an absolute necessity.

For example, almost all new mothers (and many new fathers) that I meet would do anything to achieve more sleep. It is so vital to our general well being to get adequate good quality rest.

There are plenty of natural ways to achieve this and much more. We will take a look at some common herbs and homeopathic medicines used to boost energy, relieve stress, combat pain and lift mood.

One word of advice is when using herbs during gestation and birth the advice of a qualified herbalist must be sought, no question about that!

Herbs for Energy

The herb Oats (Avena sativa), is better known as a breakfast meal these days, however its value as a nervous system tonic is unquestionable! In the United States oats ranks as one of the top seven herbal remedies sought by consumers as alternative medicine either eaten as a food, or taken as a tea or better still in tincture form. It is renown for boosting energy levels and fighting fatigue at the same time as calming the nerves. This is possibly due to the avenacosides it contains such as avenin  which stimulates neuromuscular activity.

British herbalist Douglas Schar [1999:98] recommends oats for also boosting sex drive by increasing sexual desire and improving sexual satisfaction, and speeding up recovery after surgery. Eating a bowl of oats a day can help, Schar says, to improve focus and mental acuity later in the day especially for busy people who are short on time. If indeed you are pressed for time, get yourself some oats tincture in drops form and take it throughout the day, whenever you feel you need a boost.

This provides a more potent dose of the herb and is an easy enough practice for most of us to maintain. Oats are suitable in drop dose for long term use as well.

Picture credit: Sue Halliburton

Herbs for Stress

Stress is a major issue for new parents when they find that the rhythms and routines of their daily life has been irrevocably changed by the arrival of a delightful new soul. But the key to stress is not always about avoiding or reducing the level of stress, it’s about how you handle stress.

Improving the health of your nervous system improves your coping ability and lessens the perception of stress. Oats again is the herb of choice, because it such a great source of nutrition for the nerves. Take it daily in tincture form.

Also, surrounding yourself with the aroma of lavender, chamomile and wild rose will also help as these exert calming effects on the body. Lavender and chamomile have been used historically to calm the emotions and create more inner peace. They are very different plants, one incredibly touch and resilient, the other extremely delicate. Yet they both contain substances that do very similar things like reduce inflammation, prevent infections and improve sleep!

Wild rose is an emotions harmoniser and often used in beauty and skincare products as it suits many skin types and is deeply nourishing. Gentle flowing massage with products containing these plant oils and extracts is another way to introduce their therapeutic abilities into the body, and good medicine for the nervous system.

Picture credit: Rebekka D

Herbs for Pain

Pain and bruising from birth are best healed with the homeopathic Arnica. It contains chemicals called sesquiterpene lactones that quickly permeate the skin to reduce inflammation and post-surgical bruising. The results of modern clinical trails suggest that the effectiveness of any Arnica product depends entirely upon using a strong and potent plant as the raw material, supporting the use of organic and biodynamic Arnica products.

For best results use homeopathic Arnica immediately from birth and throughout the post partum period to speed up healing and reduce discomfort.

The best homeopathic potency is 30C for healing after birth. Along with Arnica, another plant that is very useful for pain relief is St Johns Wort (Hypericum), a herb known well for alleviating mild depression. The black spots on the leaves reflect its usefulness is healing puncture wounds and stabbing pains.

The homeopathic preparation of this herb harnesses the powerful anti-inflammatory actions of the plant and works to relieve pain that is sharp and shooting in nature. Dugoua et al [2006:e272]

It’s important not to ignore pain as there is a recognized link between pain and depression, with almost 30% of people who complain of chronic pain also experiencing depression.

Furthermore, there is evidence that women may actually have a lower tolerance for pain than men due to reduced activity of pain-suppressing chemicals called opioids in a womans brain compared to a mans. As one would expect, Opioid activity really jumps up before and during childbirth! [Smith 2004:20]  However after birth, women are prone to experiencing depression as sensitivity to this chemical gradually falls back to normal levels.

Sustaining the process of pain relief after birth can be aided with both Arnica and Hypericum as homeopathic remedies and also by self-loving practices such as massage therapy, time with friends, time spent doing things you love, and of course, the companionship of a partner.

Herbs for the Baby Blues

It is not surprising that along with lack of sleep, exhaustion and stress one may start to feel more than a little blue. Symptoms of the Baby Blues include irritability, self-blame, feelings of panic and overwhelm, feeling gloomy, insomnia and weepiness.

To calm your nerves and help you to cope with the challenges of this time use St Johns Wort. This herb has been shown to be more effective than some pharmaceutical medications in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. The therapeutic ingredients found in this bright yellow flowering plant include hypericin which is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (meaning it keeps levels of serotonin high preventing a dip in mood).

St Johns Wort is generally considered to be safe to use during lactation with only a very low risk of lethargy and colic. It can be found in many forms including teas, tincture preparations, homeopathics and infused oil all with their distinct therapeutic uses. Also look to aroma as a powerful mood lifter.

The scent of wild roses has a particularly good harmonizing effect on the emotions, and both chamomile and lavender are soothing and relaxing to the nerves.

This article was written for Julie Clarke’s Transition into Motherhood. 2008

References:

  • Jean-Jacques Dugoua, Edward Mills, Daniel Perri, Gideon Koren (2006) “Safety and Efficacy of St. John’s Wort during Pregnancy and Lactation” Canadian Journal of  Clinical Pharmacology, v.13, pp.e268-e276
  • Douglas Schar (1999) “7 Super Herbal Tonics”, Prevention v.51, iss.1 p.98
  • Gerard DiFiore (2004) “Arnica’s mechanism explained”, Original Internist, v.11, iss.3, p.4
  • Smith, Susan A. (2008) “Double trouble: the axis of pain and depression.” Psychology Today v.37, iss.4, p.20 

Hey there! Welcome to my world of totally natural and powerful healing medicines. Medicines from nature. Medicine from Source. I’m a naturopath and herbalist with extensive clinical experience working with a range of health conditions including hormonal, metabolic, mental health, sleep and more.

I’ve brought together years of clinical and teaching experience, academic skill and curiosity to bring you this blog. I hope you enjoy it! If you do, leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

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