The Safe Use of Herbs During Pregnancy
Before there was a neighborhood pharmacy with the Rx sign outside, there was nature. For eons women have relied on traditional knowledge of herbal remedies and plant medicine. This knowledge has been passed down from great-grandmother to grandmother to mother to daughter, as women have used herbs to comfort and support the common discomforts of pregnancy and childbirth. When combined with the safety and assurances of contemporary evidence-based research, traditional herbal medicine is a natural way to ease everything from morning sickness to swollen feet.
Here are some safe herbal ways to nurture, comfort, and soothe yourself, whether you’re expecting a baby or not! Be sure to choose organic herbs whenever possible, both externally and internally, to help reduce exposure to potentially harmful pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.
Feeling queasy? Ginger root is a time-tested comfort for nausea of any kind, and research supports its safe use during pregnancy. Fresh ginger can be steeped as a tea, or nibbled in a candied concoction. Ginger essential oil is wonderful in an aromatherapy spray for a quick spritz of relief. It’s even safe to use for queasy, carsick kids and for anyone during flu season.
Swollen balloon-art feet and alarmingly expanding ankles are common in pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Those hard-working feet are carrying an extra load, so they deserve a warm footbath, with plenty of salt and soothing, aromatic and antifungal herbs like lavender and yarrow. Salt used externally soothes, refreshes, and can help ease swelling. But extra salt in a pregnant mama’s diet is a no-no!
Bottoms are a sore subject with lots of mamas-to-be and brand new moms as well. Witch hazel leaves and bark are naturally astringent and help shrink hemorrhoids and swollen tissues both before and after the baby arrives. For episiotomy or perineal bruising and tears, look for wound healing, antibacterial and antifungal wonders like calendula, plantain, or yarrow in external balms and sprays.
Stretching, itchy skin expanding to accommodate the brand new occupant is another pregnancy reality. One of the best ways to prevent stretching or scarring is to keep yourself well hydrated—inside and out. Massage on a light, organic oil or lotion with herbs like anti-inflammatory chamomile and wound-healing calendula to help ease the itching that stretching skin causes, and make you less prone to stretch marks.
So little room, so little digestion! Pregnant or not, heartburn is a very familiar problem. Gooey, coating marshmallow root and soothing digestive herbs like chamomile and lemon balm are well loved for their ability to turn down the heat. An herbal tea made from these herbs and a sprig of spearmint makes a deliciously soothing cup of tea.
- It’s the third trimester and time to tone the uterus! Red Raspberry leaf is a time honored third trimester herb to help prepare the uterus to show up for the big day and perform like a champ. Stinging Nettle is high in iron, which is essential since a pregnant woman’s blood volume is increasing daily. Her body also needs an extra dose of calcium since it is building a little someone’s teeth and bones. Calcium is naturally calming. Since oats are high in calcium, help yourself to a nutritious bowl of oatmeal or enjoy a calming cup of oatstraw tea.
A wee bit nervous? Chamomile, lemon balm, and of course oatstraw are reliable soothers, and can be steeped into a calming tea that settles busy minds any time, not just during pregnancy. (Note: People with allergies to plants in the asteraceae (daisy) family should not use chamomile.)
The way a herb is used — its concentration and whether or not it’s used topically or internally — can be as important as which herbs are used. (See 25 Common Herbs To Avoid During Pregnancy) A little sprinkle of herbs in small culinary amount can be just fine, while too much of a good thing can be problematic. For example, an herb like oregano is perfectly safe when eaten in small culinary amounts in your spaghetti sauce. But highly concentrated oregano essential oil should not be ingested during pregnancy. In other words, don’t ignore your innate mama-wisdom. But when in doubt, consult a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about the use of herbs in pregnancy.
It’s a lot of work growing a miracle! Pregnancy is pretty impressive work and deserves a round of applause. It’s key to remember that the discomforts of pregnancy are temporary, and common. And best of all, they can be safely soothed using nature’s herbal gifts.
25 Common Herbs to Avoid During Pregnancy
- Aloe (Aloe Barbadensis)
- Anise Seed (Pimpinella anisum)
- Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
- Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
- Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus)
- Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
- Cascara Sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana)
- Comfrey (Symphytum
- Ephedra (Ephedra vulgaris)
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
- Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
- Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium)
- Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
- Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
- Juniper (Juniperus communis)
- Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
- Oregano Oil (Origanum vulgare)
- Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium)
- Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
- Rue (Ruta graveolens)
- Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Senna (Cassia acutifolia)
- Thyme Oil (Thymus vulgaris)
**The information about the use of herbs and essential oils contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for seeking the advice of a qualified health care provider. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult your health care provider about the use of herbs and essential oils, especially during pregnancy, when nursing a baby or with children.
Melinda Olson started mixing organic herbal products for friends in her Oregon kitchen many years ago. Years of organic gardening, a passion for herbs and a need to find safe products for mamas and babies naturally led to founding Earth Mama Angel Baby, an industry leader in safe personal care for pregnant women, their babies and families. Earth Mama Angel Baby supports mamas and babies through the entire miraculous birth process, offering nature's perfect solutions to perfectly natural pregnancy discomforts.