Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Must have herbs for Postpartum

Sometimes holistic practitioners are so busy taking care of others they forget to take care of themselves. I am often guilty of this. My first pregnancy I really was not prepared for postpartum. It was all about the baby, I remember the first few nights I could not even sleep because I was busy watching her, occasionally putting my head on her chest to make sure she was still breathing. Nursing was every few hours, I was lucky if I had time to eat the right foods. Of course I was not prepared with any help, we were short on cash so Tony was working a few 24 hour shifts along with his normal 40 hour a week work schedule the first few weeks Ella was home. It was blissful just being with Ella, all I could think about was this little miracle that was my new companion. To be honest, I don't know what kind of fuel I was running on, maybe pure happiness, but it did eventually catch up with me. I ended up playing catch up and contacting some of my trusted herbal friends for advise when I was on the verge of burnout. jim mcdonald saved me with his milky oats tincture when I could not find any to order to make my own tincture (as if I could wait the 2 weeks!)- I was not prepared. I was even out of my trusted pregnancy bulk tea blend. Immediately, once I realized what was happening I started nourishing my depleted body. Hopefully this little list will help others have a few things on hand ahead of time. Besides the advise to take care of yourself spiritually, mentally, and physically, eat right, get enough rest, make sure you have adequate minerals, take time out for you, get family support, here are some herbs that you should think about having on had for your postpartum journey.

Nutritive Herbs
Milky Oats- Milky oats helped me tremendously postpartum. It gave me instant relief right when I was on the verge of burn out & exhaustion, not thinking clearly, moody, and just plain DONE. Milky oats are nourishing for the nervous system and can be taken over a long period of time. I noticed the effects immediately, feeling revived and rejuvenated, I wondered how I was functioning without it for so long!
Alfalfa- Alfalfa is packed with nutrients, it is one of the ingredients I use for my "pregnancy tea" which can continue to be consumed after the birth of your baby.
Gotu Kola- Commonly used in Ayruvedic medicine, combined in a formula with other nervines, it reduces nervous exhaustion while at the same time promoting mental clarity. Another benefit of Gotu Kola is that it is a connective tissue tonic, it is excellent to include in formulas to restore uterine and ligament tone.
Nettle- One of the best nutritive herbs, it is also included in the pregnancy tea blend. This herb can be used daily. This is a great herb to use to revive if you are feeling overall drained. Kiva talks about using the seeds for as well for adrenal exhaustion, something a lot of mom's may experience postpartum when they have too many things on their plate and don't take the time to take care of themselves. Packed with trace minerals and vitamins, it is one of the most useful herbs.
Red Raspberry- Another herb in the pregnancy tea blend, this herb is useful to use all through your pregnancy and postpartum. This is generally nutritive, helps to tonify the uterus, and blends great with other herbs in teas and infusions.
Rose Hips- Another great herb to add to your pregnancy tea and continue with postpartum. They are a great source of vitamin C and tastes great too!

Milky oats (see above)
Catnip- This herb will come in handy for both momma and baby. Not only does it have a gentle relaxing effect, it will reduce colic in your baby both through the breast milk, used alone as a tea, or used in a "gripe water" formula. Catnip in a tea along with slippery elm, chamomile, fennel, and infant massage helped Ella with her colic symptoms tremendously.
Chamomile- Another great herb for both momma and baby, it is not only relaxing it is a natural antiinflammatory, and good for nervous tummies. So when your baby begins teething (before you know it!) chamomile is and excellent herb to have on hand to both relax you & your baby, and help with local inflammation of the gums of your baby. I like chamomile combined with lavender as a tea for relaxation for me (more than a few cups of lavender can be drying to some people however)
Lavender- Gentle and relaxing to the nervous system, it is good for insomnia, as well as milk production & the let down reflex, combined with other herbs such as chamomile, fennel, catnip.
Passionflower- I like this combined with other nervines in a night time tea, excellent for relaxation.
Lemon Balm- I like lemon balm combined with other herbs in a tea, gives a general over all good feeling:) I love the flavor. Calming effects will pass to your infant through the breast milk.
Motherwort- This herb is bitter, great for anxiety. I like this herb in tincture form. A uterine tonic, it will help with postpartum cramping & after pains as well.
Skullcap/ Blisswort- Here is another great herb that I wished I had had immediately postpartum, a few months ago I traded with Kiva Rose and was lucky enough to get some that she made and it is wonderful! I tend to over think things and loose sleep because I am on edge or excited, this herb really helps with this. For the mom's with so much on their mind, new changes, over stimulation, a touch of the blues, exhaustion from lack of rest, I think this herb is one of the most valuable. It will nourish & restore your nervous system Kiva has a great post that describes the wonderful attributes of this herb.
Vervain- This herb will help when you are irritable and on the verge of the angry "I've had it and I just might loose it" cry. Great to combine with the skullcap and or milky oats in tincture form. Good for the emotional mood swings of PMS when your moon starts again too. Safe to take over long periods of time.

Blessed Thistle- Great to take in the first few weeks, it will help with uterine bleeding and mild irritability. It also will help with milk production. It's bitter, it is good to take in tincture form. Good bitter for sluggish digestion as well.
Dandelion- Another herb to be included in the pregnancy tea- great to take all through the pregnancy and postpartum. The leaf can be eaten in salads, stir fry, the root roasted can be used as a coffee substitute and the dried root can be added to your tea blends. Very nutritive. If you are constipated you can use as a tincture.
Fennel- Fennel tastes great, is good for digestion, and is good for milk production.
Fenugreek- Can be taken as a tincture or tea, a classic herb used for milk production.
Nettle (see above)
Vervain (see above)

Shakes, chills, sweats after birth
Aviva Romm recommends Ginger tea (fresh grated root) steep 15 minutes -with
2t-1 teaspoon each of Panax Ginseng and dried licorice root added (steep 15 minutes before adding to the ginger tea). Sip warm 2 cups daily.This is a tonifying blend good for chills and sweats.

Cinnamon tea 1/2 teaspoon powder to 1 cup water, sweeten with honey and add milk if desired.
1/2 to 1 cup per day.

You may have vaginal irritation, tears or discomfort from hemorrhoids right after birth.
Have some sea salt and herbs such as witch hazel, calendula, myrrh, lavender, yarrow, sage and rosemary to blend an infusion for a sitz bath- You can use a peri- rinse with the strained tea of your choice (plastic squeeze bottle) or an herbal tea compress (a warm wash rag with the tea) for any discomfort as well.

Have a good massage oil, have your partner give you a rub down( the Kava Kava massage oil would be great! )

Resource: Natural Health after Birth Aviva Jill Romm 2002

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