There are many herbal allies for women’s health. This month’s column will focus on the childbearing year, including pre-conception, pregnancy, and the post-partum months. There are many herbal allies for regulating menstruation, promoting fertility, healthy pregnancies, and supporting post-partum health.
Menstrual Cycle: Emmenagogues are herbs that bring on menstrual flow. Some good emmenagogues are Ginger Root, Blue and Black Cohosh root infusion or tincture. Other herbs to bring on menstruation include Balm, Basil, Catnip, Mugwort and Chamomile. Herbs used to ease menstrual cramping include those containing high amounts of calcium, such as Oatsraw, Red Raspberry, Comfrey Leaf, Nettle, Dandelion Leaf, Horsetail, and Chickweed. These herbs should be used as tonics, used regularly to tone the body and increase calcium levels. You may choose one of the herbs and drink an infusion one or two times per week, or choose several herbs and rotate their use as infusions. Other herbs that help to ease cramping associated with menstruation are Cramp Bark or Black Haw, Valerian Root, Chaste Tree Berry, Motherwort and Ginger Root. These herbs can be used as a “rescue remedy” in tea or tincture form. Wild Yam Root is a multipurpose herb for women’s cycles. It is known for it’s progesterone increasing properties and steroidal saponins that regulate hormones and act as a contraceptive—Wild Yam Root was formerly the source of diosgenin used in production of birth control pills. Wild Yam Root is also used to regulate a woman’s cycle, to prepare for conception and to ease morning sickness. Licorice Root is estrogenic and has other steroidal properties that make it useful as a hormone and cycle regulator. The glycyrrhizin found in Licorice Root aids in addressing infertility due to hormonal imbalance. A potential side effect of Licorice Root use is high blood pressure, as the glycyrrhizin acid in the root increases water retention which may trigger high blood pressure.
There are several herbs used to regularize the menstrual cycle. Dong Quai Root (Angelica sinensis) has been found to help make women’s cycles regular and to stimulate ovulation by virtue of regulating the cycle. For those using Dong Quai to stimulate ovulation, this herb should be used from the beginning of menstrual flow until ovulation and then ceased until the next cycle. Most healthcare providers advise using this herb for several months before attempting to conceive and then ceasing use when you try to conceive. Similarly, False Unicorn Root is believed to help regulate the menstrual cycle by toning the uterus and stimulating a normal cycle, including ovulation.
Fertility: Herbs to promote fertility include Red Clover flower (infusion only), Nettle, and Red Raspberry. These are very gentle herbs that can be used daily in infusion form. Other herbs useful in promoting fertility are Lemon Balm, Skullcap, Lady’s Mantle, Licorice Root, and Watercress. Please see your healthcare provider if you are trying to conceive or believe you have conceived.
Pregnancy: The most renowned supportive herb during pregnancy is Red Raspberry. It is a uterine tonic that prepares the uterus for child birth, and is also used to ease morning sickness. Red raspberry brings vital nutrients to the body, including calcium. Nettle is another important herb to use in pregnancy as it provides nourishment, eases muscle spasm, prevents varicose veins and hemorrhage and reduces hemorrhoids. Seaweeds (kelp, bladderwrack) supplies necessary calcium in pregnancy. Peach leaf may also help ease morning sickness, as may the Mints, Ginger Root, and Wild Yam Root.
Strawberry Leaf is nutritive and may help to prevent abortion. Other anti-abortives include Wild Yam Root, and Lobelia. Use only under a healthcare providers care. For hemorrhoids, use a Plantain or Plantain/Yarrow ointment. A Comfrey poultice will ease bleeding, swelling and pain. To prevent constipation, eat plenty of fresh Lamb’s Quarter’s and Violet Leaves. Slippery Elm Bark and Mints are good remedies for heartburn.
For headache or insomnia, Hops, Skullcap and Catnip tea is safe and effective.
Late in pregnancy, Squaw Vine Leaf tea and Blue/Black Cohosh Root tea or tincture help prepare the uterus for contractions and birth.
Birth: Frozen chips of Red Raspberry infusion will keep the uterus toned and working smoothly through your birth. For nourishment, try warm milk with honey or miso broth. To help expel the afterbirth, Dong Quai tincture or Blue Cohosh works quickly. To prevent hemorrhage, use Nettle or Alfalfa leaf infusion throughoutyour pregnancy. Motherwort tincture after the child is born will help prevent hemorrhage. Shepard’s Purse also helps to coagulate the blood taken via tincture. Birthroot tea (Trillium) will help to contract the uterus after birth. Please note that Trillium is an endangered woodland herb and should be collected ethically or bought from a source that wildcrafts ethically.
Post-Partum: Preparing Comfrey and Plantain poultices prior to giving birth will give you relief from the pain of perineal tears and help speed healing. A sitz bath of Comfrey Leaf infusion will prevent infection and aid healing. Try also Yarrow, Rosemary, Golden Seal, and Witch hazel in a sitz bath. Motherwort tincture will help with after pains. Mild depression may be eased with Motherwort, Lemon Balm or St. John’s Wort. Please speak to your care provider immediately if you experience post-partum depression or anxiety.
Galactagogues, or herbs that increase milk supply, include Borage, Fennel Seed, Fenugreek Seed, Blessed Thistle Leaves and Hops Flowers. For painful breasts, try poultice of cold raw potato or cabbage leaf, and hot compress of Comfrey Leaf or Parsley. Comfrey or Plantain ointment will relieve caked nipples.
We hope this information is helpful to you and gives you ideas about how many ways there are to naturally support women’s health, fertility and pregnancies.
*This column does not constitute medical advise. Seek medical advise from your healthcare professional.