Herbal Remedies After Childbirth
Herbal remedies have long played a part in the journey of motherhood around the world. In the postpartum period, a time of healing, restoring, and re-connecting with oneself, natural remedies can be used to not only support physical resilience and recovery, but also to aid in the emotional shifts that occur.
Women are turning to herbal remedies after childbirth more and more, given how gentle and effective herbs can be when used appropriately and when indicated.
From herbs that promote milk supply to those that support postpartum mood, here are my top 10 favourite herbal remedies for new mothers. All of them can be taken in the form of an alcohol extract, or tincture, unless otherwise indicated, and all are considered safe while breastfeeding.
1. Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graceum)
Fenugreek is probably one of the most commonly relied upon herbs to help women increase their milk supply. While we know that milk needs to be expressed in order to be made, sometimes the use of a galactagogue (a substance that promotes lacation) will help when boosting production is the goal. Many mothers will crush up fenugreek seeds and make a tea with them which can be consumed several times a day. While taking fenugreek, you can look forward to giving off a ‘maple syrup’ type smell!
2. Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus)
Blessed Thistle is another great galactagogue that is commonly used in conjunction with Fenugreek. As a bitter herb, it also helps to stimulate appetite and promote digestion; so for those women who are struggling in this area, the herbal remedy might be one to consider.
3. Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)
This herb is commonly used to help the body regulate stress and belongs to the herbal category of adaptogens. While traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine, it has been appreciated all over the world for its ability to support the immune system, calm irritability, and improve memory (as you struggle with "baby brain"!).
4. Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
Skullcap is a great mood-supporting herb for those who are working through anxiety, stress-induced restlessness, and poor sleep. This natural remedy is definitely one to consider for women experiencing mild postpartum mood concerns.
5. Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)
This is another great herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to support resilience against long term stress, improve energy levels, and benefit mood in the case of mild depression post-childbirth.
6. Nettle (Urtica dioca)
The dried nettle leaf makes a nutrient-rich tea, helping in the treatment of anemia and blood sugar regulation. It is often used both throughout pregnancy and in the postpartum period given how nourishing it is. I usually recommend to steep a small handful of the herb in a litre of boiled water overnight. A splash of apple cider vinegar can be added to help extract the vitamins and minerals. The fluid that remains should be consumed throughout the following day. Add the juice from half a lemon and a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses for a bit of extra iron if that is needed.
7. Oats (Avena sativa)
Different parts of the oat plant provide different benefits in the postpartum period. Many mothers turn to a bowl of oatmeal each morning and report that it helps with their milk supply, but oats are also soothing to the nervous system. Making a tincture from their seeds is great for calming the mind and body.
8. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
This commonly used herb can be helpful in promoting relaxation for mothers who need to help shut their minds off before catching some sleep. It is also relaxing throughout the digestive tract and thus may help move the bowels for those with postpartum constipation. Chamomile is best enjoyed as a tea.
9. Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula offers wonderful help in treating damaged and inflamed tissues. For women who are looking for support with perineal healing, calendula tea makes a great addition to a bath for soaking, in a peri-bottle as a spray, or applied directly to the perineum using a washcloth or sanitary pad.
10. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
This herb is also helpful in treating inflamed tissues. It is a strong astringent meaning it helps to close up wounds and stop bleeding. Add some witch hazel to your calendula bath for extra perineal healing!
There are so many useful herbs to serve women after birth. If you have any questions or concerns about using herbs in the postpartum period, be sure to consult your herbalist or naturopathic doctor.
*Originally published November 14, 2016
Hoffman, David. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.
Romm, Aviva. (2010). Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. St. Louis, Missouri: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.