By Herbalist and Gardener Deb Soule, Founder of Avena Botanicals, and Author of Healing Herbs for Women, How to Move Like a Gardener, and The Healing Garden
Each pregnancy, birth, and baby are unique. So, too, are the herbs that support a person through this special time. There are several nourishing herbs that can be used throughout pregnancy and following birth to encourage overall well-being, ease occasional stress, help navigate natural hormonal changes, and support family members and caregivers.
Pregnancy can also be emotionally and physically unsettling. Please seek the appropriate support you need from your midwife, birth doula, close friends and family, and wise mothers and grandmothers (from your family or others whom you feel close and safe with). Consider gentle foot baths and full body baths for relaxing mind, body and spirit, and flower essences
for supporting emotional and spiritual shifts and changes. For example, Borage flower essence
instills "fresh courage, enthusiasm, and confidence" (Soulflower Plant Spirit Oracle Deck)
and Chamomile tea and Chamomile flower essence
reminds you that "your soul's warmth, serenity and equanimity is always present within, soothing and calming, helping you weather emotional storms"; releasing occasional tension in your stomach area, and returning you to a place of inner peace and stability.
Soothe and Nourish
During the first few months of pregnancy, it isn't unusual to feel tired, even exhausted. Nourishing foods, herbs and rest are essential (and still not possible for everyone because of economic disparity, racial injustices, and lack of access to good quality food and herbs). Dandelion root and leaves, Yellow Dock root, and Nettles can be taken as a tea or tincture two or three times a day to support and nourish a tired or weary body. Dandelion root and Yellow Dock root can be made into a tea or syrup and sweetened with black strap molasses, which adds vitamins and minerals. A tea made with fresh organic Ginger root, or taking a fresh Ginger glycerite supports the digestive system and promotes healthy energy levels.
Herbal teas offer nutrients and stress support for both mother and baby. Tea infusions made with Milky Oat seeds, Nettle leaf, and Chamomile can be taken throughout pregnancy. After the first trimester, herbal teas with Red Raspberry leaf, Alfalfa leaf, Lemon Balm, Lavender, Linden blossoms can be added alongside Milky Oat seed, Nettle leaf and Chamomile. Lemon Balm and Lavender glycerites are delicious and easy to take for easing occasional stress and tension and for supporting digestion.
Nettle, Stinging (Urtica dioica) – Nettle leaf is deeply nourishing and can be prepared many ways. Fresh Nettle leaves can be eaten steamed, made into a tea (fresh or dried leaves), and the fresh leaves can be tinctured in organic alcohol and organic apple cider vinegar. This nutrient-rich herb supports the body's overall energy and vitality, the musculoskeletal system, and the upper respiratory tract (especially during pollen season). Nettle leaf and seed also reinforce healthy kidneys.
Oats, Green (Avena sativa) – The Milky Oat tops offer deep nourishment to the nervous system. Drinking a cup of Milky Oats tea daily, combined with Nettle leaf, helps restore a sense of inner balance. Fresh Milky Oat seed tincture or glycerite nourishes and encourages vitality in the nervous system, and promotes healthy, restful sleep. This is the perfect herb for anyone who burns the candle at both ends to take daily.
Chamomile (Matricaria recuitita) – This gentle flower makes a relaxing tea for the nervous system and can be taken as a tincture, alcohol-free glycerite, or flower essence. Supports the digestive system throughout pregnancy, serves as an ally during childbirth, and is a calming, comforting and quieting herb for new parents, babies, and children. Chamomile encourages restful sleep when taken as a tea and used regularly in a footbath to relax the body, mind, and spirit. Chamomile also soothes occasional premenstrual and menopausal stress and tension.
Lavender (Lavendula officinalis) – Lavender glycerite is my favorite way of taking Lavender (avoid during the first trimester) for easing occasional stress, encouraging healthy sleep, and for maintaining overall vitality to the body, mind, and spirit. Lavender is uplifting to the spirit, shifts inner disharmony, and soothes an emotionally unsettled heart. A few drops of a pure lavender essential oil or lavender tea creates a relaxing and soothing footbath -- do foothbaths daily, when possible, to ease stress and support healthy sleep.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – This lemony tasting herb supports a balanced nervous system, eases occasional stress and irritability, quiets the mind in overwhelming moments, supports healthy sleep, reinforces mental clarity, promotes a healthy immune response, and supports the digestive system. Fresh Lemon Balm glycerite is my favorite way to take lemon balm. The beautiful fresh leaves add refreshment to a water bottle or sun tea. Fresh Lemon Balm creates a nourishing and uplifting foot bath and a warm, relaxing tea.
Support and Comfort
Morning sickness can begin during the early stages of pregnancy and, for some, it can last the duration of nine months. The herbs used will vary from person to person. Some supportive teas or tinctures include Meadowsweet, Chamomile, Dandelion root, fresh Ginger tea or fresh Ginger glycerite, and Fennel seed. Seek support from an acupuncturist and midwife who uses herbs as soon as possible, especially if nausea continues into the second and third trimester.
Herbs to Avoid During Pregnancy
(This is a basic list, please consult your midwife for further information)
- Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
- Black Cohosh
- Blue Cohosh
- Calendula (safe topically)
- Juniper berries
- Poke root
- Uva Ursi
- Yarrow (safe topically)
Herbal Oils and Rosewater for Breast Health and Soothing the Perineum (before, during and after birth)
Calendula Oil (Calendula officinalis) –
Calendula oil is supportive to tender breasts in pregnancy as well as and sore and cracked nipples while nursing. Calendula oil may also be used on vaginal and perineal tissue before and after birth.Hypericum / St. John's Wort Oil (Hypericum perforatum) –
We make a beautiful deep red oil from fresh St John's Wort flowering tops. It is one of the most important herbal oils for massaging the perineum before and during labor, and for supporting sore and stretched labia and perineum tissue after birth. Keep a bottle of oil next to your toilet and one next to your bed for using as often as needed after giving birth. Rosewater – This
is valuable to keep as a spritzer in your bathroom for application to labial and perineal tissue after giving birth. First, spritz the tissues with cooling Rosewater, and then apply Hypericum oil on the tissues, several times a day. Avoid using a salve on nipples or breast tissue that contains Comfrey leaf or root during the months you are nursing.
Herbal Support When Baby Arrives
Soothe and Nourish
Settling into a routine with a new baby takes time. Supporting the nervous system regularly with some of the herbs offered below, as well as taking Lavender
and Lemon Balm
glycerites, help with navigating occasional stress and support healthy energy levels and vitality.
Relaxing foot baths:
Place a few drops of pure Lavender, Holy Basil, or Rosemary essential oils, or pour a quart of relaxing herbal infused tea into your footbath basin (Chamomile, Holy Basil, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Rose, Rosemary). Footbaths are a simple and deeply restorative practice for coming back to moments of calm when overwhelmed and promoting healthy sleep. Consider soaking your feet while nursing. Keep a towel next to your foot basin for tucking your feet into when the bathwater gets cool. If another member of your household is around, they can pour more hot water into your foot basin so you can soak your feet for at least 10-15 minutes while nursing, singing, or rocking your baby. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) –
An excellent postpartum tonic for supporting healthy energy levels and milk production. Can be taken as a powder
, ½-1 tsp, 1-2 times per day, for 6-12 months in warm dairy or non-dairy milk with honey and a dropperful of Rose Petal Elixir
. This root supports the nervous system, the mind, healthy endocrine function, and promotes healthy, restful sleep. A wonderful warm milk for parents and caregivers to enjoy daily. Avoid Ashwagandha during the first trimester; during any acute infection; or if your thyroid is overactive. Also avoid using if allergic or sensitive to plants in the nightshade family (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes).Blessed Thistle (Cnicus benedictus) –
This bitter tasting herb, taken as tea or in tincture, supports a healthy liver, hormone balance, and digestion following birth (and during menopause). Healthy liver function is important following birth as the liver is the organ processing a variety of shifting hormones. A tea blend with Blessed Thistle, Fennel seed, Fenugreek seed, Red Raspberry leaf, Nettle leaf
and seed, Lady's Mantle leaf and flower, and is especially nourishing.California Poppy (Eschscholziae californica) –
Fresh whole plant California Poppy tincture
is excellent for the nervous system, serving as an ally during occasional stress and moments of overwhelm, especially due to racing thoughts. Supportive to the musculoskeletal system. Quiets the restless spirit and promotes healthy sleep. A wonderful herb for both adults and children. Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) –
This sweet-tasting adaptogenic herb supports the body's natural ability to adapt to a range of stressors –
physical, emotional, and environmental. It reinforces healthy energy levels, stress hormone levels, mental clarity, and the endocrine system. I feel like I am standing on solid ground when I take Eleuthero tincture
daily for at least 6 months. Avoid during acute infections.
Holy Basil / Tulsi (Ocimum tenuflorum, O. sanctum) – Holy Basil glycerite
and tea help the body's resilience, well-being, and feeling of balance in times of occasional stress. Its aromatic qualities support respiratory and immune system health. Holy Basil is my favorite glycerite for helping open the mind and emotional heart, inspiring inner harmony and spiritual clarity, uplifting feelings of love and compassion, and strengthening one's inner capacity for compassion (for self and others).Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) –
Fresh Lady's Mantle flower and leaf tincture is a very good herb to call on to support healthy emotional balance following a birth (also following a miscarriage or during menopause). It supports healthy uterine tone, the bladder, and the urinary tract. This special herb energetically offers protection during times of transformation and change such as bringing a baby into the world. This is a beautiful perennial to grow in full sun or partial shade. The leaves exude their own magical water droplets, which I like to collect and take when I need the guidance of alchemists.Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) –
Fresh Motherwort leaf and flower tincture
is a steadfast herb to call on during the stress and tension of labor (combine with Skullcap) and in the months following birth. An herbal ally that offers gentle, grounding support for new parents in times of change and tumult, when some moments can feel like a little "too much."Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) –
Passionflower supports the nervous system, quiets an overactive mind, and encourages healthy, restful sleep. A dropperful of a fresh Passionflower tincture
or tea nourishes the spiritual heart and gives the spirit a peaceful place to rest.
Rose (Rosa rugosa) – Rose Petal Elixir
is one of my favorite herbal preparations for supporting a calm emotional heart and healthy, balanced nervous system. Rose is an ally during times of occasional stress and emotional agitation. It uplifts the emotional heart and gives the spirit a peaceful place to rest. Rose is comforting in times of grief and loss, and helpful for celebrating love with a glad heart. A friend to call on premenstrually or during menopause.Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) –
Fresh Schisandra berry tincture
is my favorite tonic for reinforcing emotional and spiritual resilience. I use it daily, placing a dropperful in my quart water bottle. The red berries encourage healthy function of the liver and kidneys and support the cardiovascular, nervous, and respiratory systems. The Heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine is said to house the Spirit, Shen, one's Divine nature. Schisandra holds the emotional heart steady so one's inner light can truly shine. Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) –
Fresh Skullcap tincture
or glycerite is supportive during times of occasional nervous tension and stress. It promotes healthy function of the nervous system and peaceful, restful sleep. Skullcap calms the emotional heart and offers safe harbor to the spirit when life feels stormy. Supports a balanced mood during stressful postpartum, premenstrual, and menopausal moments. Skullcap and Motherwort can be taken together to ease the stress and tension that comes naturally with labor and after birth.Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis) –
A gentle, calming, and grounding herb. Wood Betony Tincture
has a unique ability to unite the nervous and digestive systems when there is a feeling of disconnectedness, ungroundedness, nervousness, and tension. Offers a sense of security and ease to support healthy digestion, assimilation, and confidence as well as normal clarity of mind and cognitive strength. You can also take it as a flower essence
Herbs that Support Healthy Sleep (after giving birth)
Herbs for Vitality and a Healthy Response to Stress (for new parents)
To offer support during times of stress, calm the mind in overwhelming moments, and support overall vitality and energy
Postpartum Herbs for Supporting Adrenal Health and Healthy Hormonal Balance
Herbs to Support Healthy Milk Flow
- Exploring our collection of Blended Tinctures that contain different combinations of the herbs above
- Working with flower essences, homeopathy, and anthroposophical remedies (consult a trained homeopath, anthroposophical doctor, midwife, or nurse)
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