About 10 years ago, I studied a herbal medicine course.
I’m not a qualified herbalist by any stretch, but it paved the way for me to become a fully-fledged natural health fanatic.
Holistic health is a passion of mine – I love it sooooo much.
Perhaps because of the stark contrast, herbal medicine is to the protocol-driven healthcare I worked in for 15 years before becoming a mummy?
You see, throughout both my pregnancies and the postpartum period, I avoided anything made in a lab.
I didn’t even pop one paracetamol (seriously).
Best herbs for postpartum
I had a wonderful midwife-led experience with both my babies and relied on breathwork, affirmations, water, essential oils and herbal teas in pregnancy and labour.
And coconut oil massaged onto my bump every morning (needless to say, I have zero stretchmarks).
I was determined to have a home birth second-time round after my first baby was born in the local midwife unit, which was truly a dream come true.
“You won’t get a doctor touching me!” I fondly remember saying to my husband, who raised an eyebrow but agreed with my wishes.
And so it was.
Both pregnancies and labours were natural, with no doctor in sight.
I swore by ginger tea to help my nausea, and stocked up on herbal tea bags for steaming hot sitz baths post-birth.
So I thought I’d share a rundown of the best herbs I used for postpartum (based on my personal opinion only).
Note that these herbs are also useful for women’s health in general, but may not be suitable for pregnancy.
Always check with a recognised herbalist beforehand, and run anything you’re unsure of past your doctor.
Lavender Essential Oil
Simply for its relaxation properties, lavender is incredible.
It calms the nervous system and can be used in many different ways.
For example, I love to add a few drops to a natural carrier oil such as almond oil or jojoba oil, and rub it on my temples, wrists and behind my knees (I get wafts of it as I walk that way).
I also used it on my pillow at night to promote a sleepy state when I was on high alert listening out for my newborn’s breathing – this is one of my favourite lavender pillow sprays.
Another fab way to use lavender oil for new moms (and seasoned moms) is in a diffuser.
You mix water with a few drops of lavender oil (I recommend 10-15 drops as I like a strong scent) and then let the aroma steam its way into your living space.
Red Raspberry Leaf
This herb is traditionally known as a uterine tonic to help encourage a swift, easy labour. Helping strengthen and tone the uterine muscles, and help with efficient contractions.
I swear by the stuff in late pregnancy and drank two to three cups of red raspberry leaf tea a day from 34 weeks onwards.
I went full term in both cases and had good a labour both times.
(Disclaimer-I had low-risk pregnancies)
Postpartum, red raspberry leaf tea is fantastic to help the uterus contract back to its pre-birth condition. It’s packed full of antioxidants and vitamins, which help fight free radicals.
It can also help with upset stomachs and diarrhoea, and is an astringent as an external remedy – useful for cleaning wounds and mouth ulcers amongst other things.
This is one of the very popular herbs to use as a herbal tea. The nettle leaf is delicious and very, very healthy being full of vitamins.
It’s great for digestion and promoting efficient transit of food through your system. If you find yourself constipated or bloating a lot after giving birth (it happens, sorry) then nettle tea is your answer.
Nettle is a cleansing herb, meaning it’s great as a detoxifier, helping get rid of waste products from the body. It’s also an astringent, and in traditional medicine was believed to help with postpartum recovery.
Personally, I enjoy a cup of nettle tea most days. It has a soothing effect on me, but on others, it can energise and uplift.
Basically, it’s a great herb. You can also cook the nettle leaves if you pick them young enough (wear gloves!) and make nettle soup with them!
Witch hazel is a small tree growing up to 5 metres in height.
You can buy distilled witch hazel easily online. It’s fantastic to dab onto haemorrhoids (sorry if TMI, but they do happen let’s be honest).
It’s a great thing to have in your medicine cupboard for skin conditions too, as it has astringent properties, meaning it contracts the skin cells.
This is helpful to reduce bleeding and minimise infection risk.
Some studies show a promising link between lemon balm intake and a reduction in postpartum depression, as well as reducing anxiety and insomnia due to its sedative and relaxation properties.
You can easily find lemon balm tea in the shops. It has a delicate flavour similar in my opinion to nettle tea. I recommend always going for organic herbs, regardless of what you’re doing with them.
The reason is that many forced (sprayed) herbs do not have the same healing qualities within. So go organic – it’s worth the extra investment.
(Herbs that are particularly good for breastfeeding mums)
To help increase milk supply in breastfeeding mothers, nothing beats fennel tea.
Researchers have found that fennel seeds contain galactagogue, which helps promote milk production. However, there are still limited human studies on this.
I can only speak from personal experience here, but I drank at least two cups of fennel tea every day in the postpartum period, and my milk supply was oversupplied if anything.
I could literally feel my boobs refilling after a cup!
Fennel tea is also useful as an aid for colic in babies.
I gave a teaspoon size amount to both my boys when they had tummy pains as babies. Within half an hour, a smelly fart would pop out, and comfort would resume.
I still give it to them now over anything chemical-laden if bad tummies arise.
Here is an example of fennel tea for babies, but I personally used the normal fennel seeds added to hot water (you can get them in the supermarket) and gave a watered-down, cooled version on a teaspoon which worked well.
(Herbs for postpartum anxiety)
Chamomile is fantastic to aid sleep and relaxation in a herbal tea or in a diffuser with the essential oil.
It helps calm the nervous system, which is triggered when anxiety strikes.
I like to add a teaspoon of natural honey to my chamomile tea to sweeten it a little.
You can also use chamomile flowers (they are pretty, white petals with a yellow centre like a daisy) in your bath to give yourself some relaxation time.
Another wonderful herb to help combat stress and anxiety, holy basil helps lift a low mood and promote a calm outlook.
I had terrible baby blues for 2 weeks after the birth of my first child, and a cup of holy basil helped me feel comforted and grounded during the ‘mama head’ tear-strewn phase.
(Herbs for wound healing)
My best advice is to take herbal sitz baths (a posh name for a herbal bath in my opinion) to help speed up any wounds or tears after the birth.
You can make your own herbal concoction using the recipe I made up below.
A quick recipe for a herbal sitz bath
Throw in your bath while it’s filling:
1/4 cup (a handful) of Epsom Salts (you can buy them cheaply in the supermarket) or sea salt
10 drops of lavender essential oil
A few drops of witch hazel
(Optional) rose petals
Simply sink in and relax. Light some candles if you’re feeling fancy, and read a nice book while baby sleeps.
There is literally a herbal remedy for every ailment under the sun, but the postpartum period is a particularly sensitive time for the new mother and baby.
Herbs are safe on the whole, but there are some which are not recommended to use in the postpartum period. Do check beforehand by doing your own research on each herb if you’re ever unsure.
These effective herbs described in this post have all been used by me during my postpartum time with both my babies, which is why I’m keen to talk about them.
Natural herbal remedies work in my opinion just as well, if not better, than standard pharmaceuticals, which we tend to rely on a bit too much.
Please do ask me any questions in the comments section of this post. I hope you enjoyed this read.
Love Sophie x
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