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Ten Moons: Herbs for Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a transition. Not only for the new life that is created, but also for the woman who is becoming a mother. Whether it is her first time or her 5th, this is a sacred time for the woman to nourish and honor her body. So many women choose pregnancy as the time to start making healthier choices in their lives. They not only have themselves to worry about, but they also want to give the best possible start to their baby. It makes sense that during this momentous transformation period, the woman chooses to remove some old bad habits and learn new healthy ones that will carry on throughout her and her children’s lives.

One way that some women choose to take their health into their own hands is to save modern medicine as a last resort and use herbs and other natural remedies first. Let’s start with the most common thing that all pregnant women are encouraged to take: the prenatal vitamin. This is a gigantic horse pill that makes the average person gag, much less someone who has a sensitive stomach anyway! And how do we know exactly what we are absorbing and what is going to waste, so to speak? Pills have to travel through our digestive system, get broken down, and then some of it goes to our blood stream, and the rest goes, well, I don’t need to draw you a picture. Herbal infusions (strong teas brewed for several hours) like all liquids, get assimilated much easier and faster. So, after making sure you are eating nourishing foods-lots of proteins, healthy fats, fruits and veggies, if you drink a nice well rounded pregnancy support tea, you will be sure that your are receiving all the vitamins and minerals your body deserves. Most grocery stores sell prepackaged teas in convenient little tea bags, but how long have they actually been sitting there? My favorite way to make teas is to buy each individual herb and then blend it myself. For each cup. That way if I need a bit more of something, I can add it! For instance, if I’m low on calcium, I’ll add more nettles. Drinking 1-4 cups of tea a day not only is nourishing to your body, but to your soul.

Morning sickness is major complaint during pregnancy that many women are looking for natural ways to support. Recently, the FDA has issued a “potential safety issue” regarding using a popular anti-nausea medication. So, of course-alternatives are needed. One school of thought is that since the excess level of hormones in a women’s body during pregnancy is causing the nausea and vomiting, that helping the body process those hormones better will curb the morning sickness. One way to do that is to strengthen the liver. A very effective and gentle way is to use milk thistle seed in a tincture (herbal extract, usually in alcohol). Using milk thistle seed along with making your you are eating small frequent meals that are high in protein, and drinking your pregnancy support infusion, you should be able to reduce your morning sickness significantly.

One of the biggest constituents of most pregnancy teas is red raspberry leaf (RRL). Not only is RRL rich in iron, calcium, and vitamin E, it is a wonderful uterine tonic. Your uterus is a muscle and it needs to be nice and strong to effective birth your baby. One way to help strengthen and tone your uterus is to drink strong RRL infusions during the last month of your pregnancy. I usually would steep one ounce (in weight) of RRL in a quart of boiling water overnight. The next day, I would drink the entire quart throughout the day. This is only appropriate during the last month of pregnancy, as excess RRL can cause Braxton-Hicks contractions.

The postpartum period is a time that the mother really only needs to focus on nourishing herself so she can properly nourish her baby. She should not be hosting, cleaning, cooking, or any of those things that our society thinks women should magically be able to do! Continuing your pregnancy infusion during the postpartum period is a good idea-another idea is to have a postpartum tea that is nourishing, energizing, and soothing all at the same time (recipe below). This is wonderful to make by the gallon and drink hot or iced-great for the entire new family (except the baby)! Another great way to support your well being after birth is a bath. A blend of herbs to help facilitate healing, reduce inflammation, and encourage relaxation brewed into a bath tea is a lovely addition to any bath (during pregnancy, postpartum, menstruation, Tuesday, etc).

For women who choose to breastfeeding and are struggling with true supply issues, some herbs will help encourage milk productions. *Note: If you have a normal supply (most women) do not use herbs to increase your supply. Over supply is a real problem!  Herbs to increase milk supply: Nettles, Red Raspberry Leaf, Blessed Thistle, Fenugreek, Fennel Seed, Alfalfa, Oatstraw, Goat’s Rue (only in tincture).

Lastly, while a lot of herbs are safe and gentle, not all of them are. Some herbs are very beneficial for people who are not pregnant, but could pose a threat to a pregnancy. Some common herbs to avoid during pregnancy: pennyroyal, osha, blue cohosh, black cohosh, cottonroot, tansy, yarrow, tulsi, ephedra, valerian, mugwort, angelica, feverfew, sage, and wormwood.  Some of these listed are used by midwives to facilitate labor, so only use them under the guidance of your care provider.

Recipes

Pregnancy Tea:

  • 3 parts Red Raspberry Leaf
  • 3 parts Nettles
  • 2 parts Dandelion Leaf
  • 1 part Oatstraw
  • 1 part Alfalfa
  • 1 part Rosehips

Add one ounce of tea blend to a quart of boiling water (in a mason jar, if you have one). Cap the jar. Allow to steep for at least 30-45 minutes, preferably several hours up to overnight. Strain and sweeten as desired. Drink 1-4 cups per day.

Awesome Mama Postpartum Tea

  • 3 parts Lemon Balm
  • 3 parts Comfrey
  • 2 parts Chamomile
  • 2 parts Hibiscus
  • 1 part Rose Petals and Rose Hips
  • 1/8 part Lavender Buds

Add one ounce of tea blend to a quart of boiling water (in a mason jar, if you have one). Cap the jar. Allow to steep for at least 30-45 minutes, preferably several hours up to overnight. Strain and sweeten as desired. Drink 1-4 cups per day.

Pospartum Sitz Bath

  • 1 part St. Joan’s Wort
  • 1 part Comfrey
  • 1 part Uva Ursi
  • 1 part Calendula
  • 1 part Shepherd’s Purse
  • Yarrow

Steep one ounce of herbs in a quart of boiling water for 45 minutes. Strain (very important!! No one wants to clean herbs out of a bathtub!) and add tea to bath with sea salts.

**This article is for informational purposes only. Any advice given has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not meant to treat or diagnose. Consult your primary care provider.

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Featured Herb: Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

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Chances are, you’ve seen this lovely lady waving at you as you’ve traveled around lately. And, if you have seasonal allergies, chances are Goldenrod has been wrongfully accused of causing such allergies.

In reality, Goldenrod’s pollen is very sticky and doesn’t leave the plant. You are NOT allergic to goldenrod. But, guess what? Ragweed blooms at the exact same time, and it is a MAJOR allergen. That’s probably what you are reacting to.

It gets better. Not only is Goldenrod NOT the culprit of your sneezing and itchy eyes, but she can also help alleviate those symptoms! That’s right! Goldenrod has antihistamine properties!!

Nothing in nature happens without reason or randomly. Mother Nature/God/Goddess/etc. gives us exactly what we need.  We just need to learn how to listen again.

Other uses for goldenrod:

  • Cold and flu relief;
  • Colic and gas relief;
  • Lowers fever;
  • Powdered Goldenrod root helps heal wounds;
  • Goldenrod Vinegar helps prevent kidney stones and boosts immune responses; and
  • Can help with other kidney and bladder issues.

 

 

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Featured Herb: Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

YarrowYarrow is definitely one of my herbal allies. She literally grows all over my entire yard! Enough that I have been able to share it with a pretty large handful of friends.

I usually put off the first grass cutting of the year until I get a nice harvest of yarrow. When harvesting, I make sure to get the flowering tops along with some of the leaves and stem. It grows so abundantly, that I don’t have to worry if I don’t get enough in a day, because it will surely be back! It is considered a ground cover, so it spreads nicely and transplants take root very easily. So, if you are local to me and want to grow your own, let me know! I have more than enough to share.

Yarrow is one of those awesome all purpose plants. Fever reducing, anti-infective, insect repellent, pain reliever, blood purifier, and stops bleeding!

Yarrow is one of the herbs that I definitely recommend keeping on hand in tincture form in a travel first aid kit. You can put it directly on wounds to clean them and stop the bleeding, you can use it diluted in a spray bottle as an insect repellent, I also use it in a spray bottle for things like strep throat and tonsillitis.

As a fever reducer, it is best prepared as a tea. Now, it can be quite bitter, so mixing it with some more palatable herbs is probably the way to go.  Be on the look out for a fever busting tea soon!

**Unfortunately, pregnant women should not take yarrow in any form, as it may cause uterine contractions.**

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Featured Herb: Elderberries!

elderberry stuff

So, in a few weeks, our children will be congregating in mass quantities. Yes-going back to school. Aside from the enormously wasteful piles of paper they will be bringing home for you to fill out for the umpteenth time, they will be bringing home all kinds of fun viruses and bacteria to ensure your immune system gets a nice workout.

Thankfully, the earth has decided to bless us with this immune support-elderberries. They are fruiting right now here in South Carolina. I just strolled around my neighborhood earlier today and harvested a basketful.

Elderberries have flavonoids that are powerful antioxidants and protect our cells from damage. These flavonoids also boost the immune system and strengthen our immune response to attacks from viruses. That combined with its HIGH Vitamin C content, you really can’t go wrong!

So, head on over to our shop  and stock up on Elderberry Syrup for the kids or Elderberry Tincture for yourself.

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Connection

Most people don’t realize or have never thought about the fact that everything EVERYTHING is connected.  Not only are people connected to each other, but we are also connected to our environment.  Our ancestors knew how to listen to nature, and they knew what to look for. It really is quite fascinating! For instance, those of you who are somewhat knowledgeable about herbal properties know that there are so many plants that are beneficial to women’s health. Why is that? Why do we have countless plants that are connected to women? Well, in ancient times, women were the healers. They were the the ones that spoke to and listened to the plants.

Last year, a wise woman said that there is a bumper crop of elderberries this season. So, in her mind, that told her to prepare for the flu season. And sure enough, it hit early and hard.

Over the past few years, as I’ve been spending more time in my yard, I’ve noticed just how abundant it is. I’ve also learned to look for cues and to listen to what the plants are telling me. We have a pretty gnarly ant problem. I would get bites constantly. I began to notice that near every ant hill, I have a crop of plantain growing! Plantain soothes bug bites and removes the toxins from their bites!

This spring, I dug up a portion of my front yard to plant my herb garden. As it grew in, I noticed something interesting popping up all over:

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At first, I thought, weird-why is there a succulent growing all in my herb garden? I didn’t plant it, and  it wasn’t in the yard before I dug it up. When I was weeding, I decided to leave it be because I thought it was pretty.

A fellow herbalista friend came by and I asked her about it, she didn’t know what it was.  A few weeks went by…and an article popped up from one of the pages I follow on Facebook about this very plant! Purslane!! Score!!! Purslane is a powerhouse green. It can be sauteed or eaten in salads. It is rich in omega-3s, calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, and E, potassium, AND has properties that counter depression.  How amazing is that?? What is even more amazing, is that somehow, it is exactly what I need.

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Backyard Salad

This salad was brought to you, courtesy of my backyard. The base is baby spinach and green leaf lettuce that I purposefully grew. However, I added some local lovelies that have blessed me with abundance:

  • Plantain
  • Curly Dock
  • Chickweed
  • Violet leaves and blossoms
  • Dandelion leaves and flowers
  • Wild onions

Wild greens are so nutritious! Chocked full of vitamins and minerals. Like potassium, iron, calcium, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, beta-carotene, and more!

First, make sure your yard is NOT being treated with any toxins-pest or weed control. Secondly, don’t harvest where your pets do their business. And third, always only harvest 1/3 of what you see and give thanks for your bounty.

So, before you cut the grass, harvest what you can! Just remember, if you are making a salad, use a healthy oil based dressing to break down those cell walls and use the nutrients locked inside.

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Chickweed! My Little Star

 

I.Love.Chickweed. Chances are, it is growing in your yard! My entire side yard is covered with it.  Anti-inflammatory, loaded with nutrition like magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron, and even eliminates fat cells!  A chickweed poultice will reduce external swelling and inflammation. A tincture made from fresh chickweed taken daily has been known to dissolve ovarian cysts! I love to put a handful in a salad or smoothie. You can even make a tea out of it.

Think before you treat your lawn. You can find all kinds of beneficial plants gifted to you by nature. I have found that if you hang out in your yard, or among nature, your herbal allies will show themselves to you. I know, I know, that sounds hooky. But, seriously! Once I gave the lawn mower a rest, I discovered so many friends just waiting for me to utilize them! Chickweed, plantain, yellow dock, wild violets, yarrow, and cleavers are all over my yard! And I realized, the more I needed something, the more it showed itself to me.

So, if any of you need any chickweed, just let me know! I have more than enough to share.