Earthy nettle, tart hibiscus, effervescent spice from ginger kombucha, and a feminine note of rose: meet the “moon mother elixir”, a pregnancy mocktail recipe from Lauren Haynes of Wooden Spoon Herbs, the author of this guest post on herbalism for pregnancy, the first in a series of two posts, the second being on postpartum herbs for the new mom. She’s an Appalachian folk herbalist & medicine maker, and she sells homegrown & hand-gathered botanical remedies in her shop, including a both a new mom kit, a new mom sitz bath, and a pregnancy kit among many others including a traveler kit. She’s certainly got all of my bases covered. We’ve known each other since college poetry class days, and I’ve so loved watching her herbalism repertoire bloom (pun intended…sorry, guess the class did me no good.) She is a fellow Chattanoogan, and I couldn’t think of a better person to write this series. While this recipe is written with mama’s to be in mind…if you’re not expecting and/or never intend to be (for whatever reason, including being a dude), I’d still recommend this drink for deliciousness alone. Click read more to find the recipe as well as her insight & advice about herbs during pregnancy…
When we talk about herbs for pregnancy, we are talking about deeply nourishing and supportive herbs. You won’t find heroic actions or miracle cures, but rather the benefits of a sustained intake of mineral and vitamin abundant herbs. Most of the herbs used in pregnancy need to be used regularly to build up their tonic action. Dosage wise, this means 1-2 cups of herbal infusion per day.
“A tonic is to the cell as exercise is to the body: not much use when done erratically,” Susun Weed.
Herbs work on an individual level and what is a panacea for one may cause a reaction in small doses to another. Always use common sense, begin in small doses, and find what works for you. During the first trimester we don’t introduce herbs in a pointed way but rather encourage focus on hydration, rest, fresh air, sunshine, relaxation and nutrition. The body knows what it’s doing. Introduce them slowly, beginning in the 2nd trimester. Moderation is important.
A side note: a lack of protein or minerals can cause cravings for sweets. Be mindful of this, and try to opt for snacks such as nuts, yogurt, fruits, popcorn, and vegetables. Foods high in sugars can create blood sugar imbalances that cause inflammation and irritability.
- Infusion vs. Tea:
Infusion ratio: 1 cup dried herbs to 1 quart hot water. Steep covered for 1-8 hours. This is what we mean when we say herbal infusion – a strong brew.
Tea ratio: 1 teaspoonful of dried herbs to one cup water. Steep covered for 5 minutes. Not as strong. More of a beverage tea.
- First Trimester Dietary Recommendations:
Spirulina, bee pollen, nettles, alfalfa, nutritional yeast, yogurt, kombucha, seaweeds, pastured eggs, leafy greens, organ meats, wheat germ, seeds, nuts, dried figs and apricots
- Herbs to help nearing the end of pregnancy: (I recommend also doing your own research)
Black and Blue Cohosh
St. John’s Wort – for uplifting and easing nerve pain and back during labor
Skullcap – a great herb to ease anxiety quickly, for the laboring mother and anyone in the laboring room
- Herbs for pregnancy in order of importance (in my opinion):
Red Raspberry – #1 herb for female health. Tonifying. Safe throughout the pregnancy. Astringent. Tightens, tones, and strengthens pelvic muscles with an affinity for the uterus, the container for your new baby. Rich in vitamins and minerals. Calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, vit. E, b, c. like a multivitamin. Also helps enhance the flow of breastmilk. 2-3 cups per day. A staple in herbals since Pliny’s herbal in the 1500s.
Nettle – mild diuretic and super rich in vitamins and minerals. Helps improve elasticity of the veins, preventing varicosities. Combats fatigue and exhaustion by building up the iron and other minerals in the body. Increases natural energy levels when used over time. One of the most important herbs during pregnancy.
Oatstraw – eases nervous stress and tension. strengthens capillaries, thus helping prevent varicose veins. Rich in calcium, magnesium, and b vitamins. Food as medicine, too. Oatmeal counts. Promotes a relaxed sense of being and promotes muscle function. Helps with cramps and insomnia. Also a great remedy for yeast infections that may occur in pregnancy. Oatmeal as a food works the same way.
Alfalfa – rich in vitamins and minerals and safe throughout pregnancy. Great for limited diets – vegan, food allergies, etc. because it provides so many nutrients.
Lemon balm – uplifting, calming, great for digestion. Use in moderation. Headache, depression, insomnia, allergies (antihistamine, in combination with nettles)
Chamomile – calms, eases nausea, eases anxiety, helps relieve insomnia, nourishing. No during first trimester. Avoid if you have a history of miscarriage. Good for swellings and achyness.
Ginger – soothes stomach issues. Nausea, sick to your stomach. Use a low dose and use cold. Sip until you feel better, then stop. Good if you have a cold or flu, as well.
Burdock – grounding. High concentration of vitamins and minerals. Helps support liver and urinary system. Was used by ancient herbalists to strengthen weak uteruses. Mild diuretic.
Dandelion – a bitter, nutrient rich herb that helps ease digestion and supply with minerals. A great source of folic acid and iron. Not many other food sources have such high amounts of vitamin a, iron, potassium, and calcium. Healing to the liver, which is working overtime filtering all the body’s extra blood.
Yellow Dock – a great source for bioavailable, easily assimilated iron that won’t cause constipation. Insanely nutrient dense and grounding.
Lavender – insomnia, calming and strengthening, emotionally. Relaxing. Stimulates appetite.
Rose and Rosehips – tension, calming, cooling, uplifting, rich in vitamin c, flavonoids, astringent, mildly diuretic
These herbs are great in sips of tea, hot or iced, and can be hugely helpful when frozen into ice cubes, as labor can create heat and tension.
- Recommended Reading:
Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed
Herbal Healing for Women by Rosemary Gladstar
Hygieia by Jeannine Parvati
Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
The Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Romm
- Herbal Remedies by Symptom:
Lowered Immune Response – ginger in tea or glycerite
Nausea/Indigestion – fennel, chamomile, ginger, lemon balm, peach leaf tea
Sore Nipples – comfrey and calendula cream or salve
Relaxation – chamomile, lemon balm, skullcap
Swelling//Poor Circulation – hawthorn
Iron/Calcium Defeciency – yellow dock, dandelion, nettle, alfalfa, oatstraw, red raspberry
Low Energy/Fatigue – nettle, red raspberry, oatstraw, rest, bee pollen, spirulina
Morning Sickness – red raspberry, fennel, chamomile, ginger
*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and probably never will be. Lauren Haynes is an herbalist, not a doctor, and does not intend to treat, diagnose, prescribe, or cure any disease or condition. Herbs work best when used over time as a part of a healthy lifestyle. They are very powerful and must be used carefully. Consult a trusted herbalist or healthcare practitioner if you have questions about using herbs, and empower yourself by doing your own research.