Growing a new life is one of the highest honors ever bestowed upon me.
And it’s hard work. Ain’t gonna lie.
During this special time, it’s important for me to nourish my body, and aside from a healthy diet, exercise, and efforts at relaxation; another important way I care for myself and my growing being is with herbs.
Not all herbs are safe for pregnancy, and herbs during the childbearing year may be right for some, but not for others. It’s important to be mindful of this when walking your herbal journey.
For me, I focus mainly on three herbs; nettle, red raspberry leaf and oatstraw, and drink daily herbal infusions of them.
What is an herbal infusion? Susun Weed, one of the wisest of herbal women, explains:
An infusion is a large amount of herb brewed for a long time. Typically, one ounce by weight (about a cup by volume) of dried herb is placed in a quart jar which is then filled to the top with boiling water, tightly lidded and allowed to steep for 4-10 hours. After straining, a cup or more is consumed, and the remainder chilled to slow spoilage. Drinking 2-4 cups a day is usual. Since the minerals and other phytochemicals in nourishing herbs are made more accessible by drying, dried herbs are considered best for infusions.
In essence, infusions are just a very strong tea. Infusions can be made from any herb, but targeting the right herb for your intention is key. In pregnancy especially, herbs are needed for additional nourishment, vitamins, minerals, and as a relaxation aid. I also rely on them heavily in postpartum and during nursing to care for my body and replenish what’s been depleted. An interesting tidbit from Susun pertaining to frugality and using infusions as supplements piques my interest, as I often feel I’m going broke on supplements:
…when you drink nourishing herbal infusions, you don’t need to take any supplements. Vitamin Retailer Magazine reports that the average American spends $100 a month on supplements; health conscious folk spend 3-12 times that much. If you buy dried infusion herb wholesale, you will spend less than $1 to make a quart of infusion using a full ounce by weight of dried herb. That’s $1 a day for optimum nourishment, nourishment that needs no digestion, nourishment that is absorbed directly into the blood and into the cells, nourishment that is loaded with chi, nourishment that nourishes the Earth, too, not the corporations and factories that make pills and supplements.
So lets take a deeper look into the three main herbs I use:
My personal favorite, “the list of vitamins and minerals in this herb includes nearly every one known to necessary for human health and growth.” You really can’t find a better herb, in my opinion. Abundant in vitamins A, C, D and K, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron and sulphur, nettle is an excellent choice for pregnant women. Some drink large quantities of it before labor in an effort to boost the amount of vitamink K present in the bloodstream. Nettle also provides iron support, which is important in the postpartum period. Nettle is reputed to relieve leg cramps and spasms, (which I suffer from in the third trimester), and helps to reduce hemmoroids, which we won’t talk about, and will just let the ‘the elephant in the pregnant woman’s room.’
The most well known of the pregnancy tonics and highly regarded as the safest, RRL contains fragrine, an alkaloid which gives tone to the muscles of the pelvic region, including the uterus itself. What pregnant woman wouldn’t want a little help with that? 😉 RRL is abundant in vitamins C and E, and contains noteworthy levels of phosphorus and potassium, as well as calcium and iron. According to Susun the plentiful benefits of drinking red raspberry leaf throughout pregnancy are:
~ Preventing miscarriage and hemorrhage. Raspberry leaf tones the uterus and helps prevent miscarriage and postpartum hemorrhage from a relaxed or atonic uterus.
~ Easing of morning sickness. Many attest to raspberry leaves’ gentle relief of nausea and stomach distress throughout pregnancy.
~ Reducing pain during labor and after birth. By toning the muscles used during labor and delivery, Raspberry leaf eliminates many of the reasons for a painful delivery and prolonged recovery. It does not, however, counter the pain of pelvic dilation.
~ Assisting in the production of plentiful breast milk. The high mineral content of Raspberry leaf assist in milk production, but its astringency may counter that for some women.
~ Providing a safe and speedy pariuntion. Raspberry leaf works to encourage the uterus to let go and function without tension. It does not strengthen contractions, but does allow the contracting uterus to work more effectively and so may make the birth easier and faster.
So, uh, where do I sign up… Right!?
A delightful little herb with an impressive resume, oatstraw is a nervine–‘nourisher to the nerves’ and many sing the praises of oatstraw’s cooling, calming ways. Oatstraw contains vitamin B (complex) along with copper, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and silica. Oatstraw’s high vitamin B content can aid in producing a more restful sleep, and can help to balance feelings of stress and anxiety. Sometimes complimented by chamomile and lemonbalm, but not necessitated by, oatstraw can make a gentle, yet amazingly effective soother. Naturally anxious, I highly value the work that oatstraw does for my body, especially during the childbearing year!
Putting it All Together
I love the earthy flavor of the nettle when paired with the slightly grassy and light flavor of the oatstraw. Red Raspberry leaf rounds it all out by tasting ‘just like iced tea!’ I enjoy the flavor of pregnancy tea alone, but it also has some delightful compliments. Another way to make it would be:
In reality, I grab equal-sized large pinches of nettle, red raspberry leaf and oatstraw, and pour boiling water over the top. For highest potency, I leave my gathered herbs intact whenever I can, and crush them between my fingertips just before using. In the photo above, I chopped them all to make it pretty for you. Aren’t I nice? 🙂 I throw my herbs into a quart-sized mason and pour boiling water atop. I often do this before bed and drink it the next day. I also have been known to make an infusion any ‘ol time, and aim to be patient for as many hours as I can before drinking it. Lastly, I make a regular ‘ol tea and chug on. Infusions make awesome chilled teas!
Whatever my fancy is, you can be sure I’m going to suit it. 🙂
Take care to note that infusions are most beneficial and effective when used regularly–5 times per week, but still have slight benefits and nourishment when taken sporadically.
I wildcraft my herbs whenever possible, and view gathering as a sacred act and a therapy. I whole-heartedly agree with Susun when she says the expectant mother benefits from the, “stretching, bending, breathing, moving, touching the earth, [and] taking time to talk with the plants and to open herself to their spiritual world.”
I understand that gathering isn’t always possible and when my supply dwindles, I order from Mountain Rose Herbs because I appreciate their philosophies and sustainable practices. I know I’m always getting a high quality at an affordable price.
**Do you wish to deepen your herbal knowledge? Or, are you just starting out on your herbal journey? Cultivate your knowledge with one of the most respected online herbal academies around, The Herbal Academy of New England. They have courses for beginners and intermediates, host an online Herbarium, and give herbal info freely on their website and blog.
Since you understand that vitality grows naturally from the way you live your life, and health doesn’t come from a plastic bottle, you may be interested in investing in it. Check out the herbal courses at HANE, and the many things they offer.
We are herbalists, a spirited group of individuals from all walks of life, joined together by our gratitude for nature and our desire to live and heal with plants.
Along our herbal journey, we have grown closer to the earth and closer to the fellow beings whom it sustains. We have learned and continue to learn how even the smallest, seemingly insignificant plant has value. Real value — to its ecosystem and to us.
This connection that we share, this knowledge that we have gained, and all that we have yet to learn.
My favorite HANE resource is the HERBARIUM!
The Herbarium is a digital transformation of the traditional herbarium– a collection of dried plants used as reference, to share herbal experiences, discoveries, and lessons through beautiful visuals. HANE has made a digital herbal compendium complete with constantly updated herbal monographs, photographs, thoughtful articles, and educational podcasts, videos, tutorials, and teaching charts. As part of The Herbarium community, you will have all of these resources and more right at your fingertips, enriching your life-long journey through herbalism.
Disclaimer: Remedies discussed in this blog post may not be right for everyone. Proceed with caution when using herbs during pregnancy as they are not tested for use during pregnancy. Always check with your own doctor regarding the choices you make in your own pregnancy. In other words, don’t just take my word for it. Do your own research. I’m not a healthcare provider 🙂
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