Herb Uses



Infertility

What are the causes of infertility?

The number of couples who face challenges with conception has been increasing over the last decade. For many, the pace of living is faster and stress levels are higher. People are eating devitalized foods on the run, and our bodies are constantly exposed to environmental toxins in the soil, in the water we drink, and in the air we breathe. The causes of infertility can be physical, mental, or emotional. Difficulty in conceiving is an opportunity for you and your partner to re-evaluate your physical, mental, and emotional health in all areas of your life.

  • Get a complete physical exam to determine if the cause of infertility is in your reproductive organs. The fallopian tubes can be blocked by scar tissue. Endometriosis can cause infertility, as well as ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids. Ovulation may be irregular, so chart the days you are fertile using a basal thermometer. An insufficient number of eggs may be released at ovulation, or there may be an incomplete implantation of the eggs. Avoid melatonin supplements, which may inhibit ovulation. Make sure that there are no abnormalities that block the flow of sperm. Check that the sperm count and mobility are high enough for conception. A Vitamin B12 (chlorophyll is a good source of B12) deficiency reduces sperm count and sperm mobility. Sperm are easily killed by heat, so avoid hot tubs and hot baths.
  • Adequate nutrition affects fertility. Both partners should eat a healthy diet that has sufficient amounts of vitamins, minerals, and protein. Be sure your diet includes adequate amounts of the vitamins B6, B12, A, C, and E. (Vitamin E has been called the “fertility vitamin.”) The minerals calcium, magnesium, iron, and folic acid are also necessary to strengthen the endocrine glands. Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are necessary for normal glandular activity. EFA’s are found in black currant seed oil, borage oil, evening primrose oil, and flaxseed oil. Try to eliminate smoking and caffeine. Recent studies have shown that men can improve their sperm count after 4 months by taking zinc supplements.
  • Low body weight is a factor in conception. Maybe gaining 5 pounds is all that is needed for you to be able to conceive.
  • Consider your exposure to toxic substances in your environment: pesticides, household cleaning products, excess radiation, or water and air pollution, and eliminate what you can to create a healthier atmosphere.

What are some possible ways to treat infertility?

Begin by doing some body cleansing. An optimum functioning liver is important in reproductive health. The liver is the main organ that filters toxins and removes them from your body. Dandelion root and milk thistle seed are two excellent herbs for the liver.

  • Use nutritional tonic herbs that assist in building the reproductive system. These include raspberry leaf and red clover, two herbs that in combination have been used in folklore to promote fertility. Drink teas with nettle and alfalfa, two herbs that are very high in nutrition, including folic acid and trace minerals needed by the hormonal system.
  • Choose herbs that help to regulate your menstrual cycle so you know exactly which days you are fertile. Herbs which are considered hormone balancers include vitex, dong quai, sarsparilla, and red clover. These herbs should be discontinued after conception.
  • Low thyroid function can upset hormone balance, as well as health problems affecting the pituitary and adrenal glands, which regulate the menstrual cycle.
  • Use a basal body thermometer, available at most women’s clinics or drugstores. They come with instructions on how to use them so that you can establish the days that you are fertile each month. Take your temperature each morning, it rises slightly on the day you ovulate. Your cervical mucus also changes at this time. Over-the-counter ovulation test kits (which work much like pregnancy tests) can also help you determine which days you are most fertile.
  • If you feel fatigued, stressed, and overworked, chances are that your reproductive energy is exhausted also. Find ways to nurture yourself if you are planning to take on the constant care of another. Consider meditation and regular exercise. Try getting a massage enhanced with essential oils that are known to relieve stress and tension such as jasmine, rose, lavender, rosemary, and clary sage.
  • Taking herbs that are relaxing and help to build the nervous system can also be helpful. Common ones include chamomile, scullcap, oat, and lemon balm.
  • Consider bodywork to remove any possible blocks in the energy meridians. Examples of energy work include polarity, reiki, shiatsu and acupuncture.
  • Homeopathy uses vibrational remedies that treat overall patterns of an individual’s symptoms. In her book, Natural Healing for the Pregnant Woman (Perigree, 1997), Elizabeth Burch lists 10 possible homeopathic remedies to treat infertility along with the emotional and physical symptoms that each addresses. You may want to consult a homeopathic practitioner to find the exact remedy for you.
  • Remember that thought directs energy. Are you blocking your creative energy in any areas of your life? Are you blocking any of your emotions? Emotions affect hormones.
  • Visualize your reproductive organs full of life, alive with creative energy, and your womb as a welcoming, nurturing space.
Morning Sickness

What causes morning sickness?

Morning sickness is caused by the rapid change in hormonal levels that occurs during the first weeks of pregnancy, often resulting in nausea. Other causes of morning sickness may include diet and emotional factors. Strong smells and certain foods can trigger nausea, so avoid these if you can. There are a percentage of lucky women who never feel any morning sickness at all, and most women begin to feel better at the beginning of the second trimester. If you have severe and/or long-term nausea, consult a doctor before you get seriously dehydrated.

What can I do?

The following are some suggestions that can alleviate, to some extent, morning sickness. If you have considered doing body cleansers at any time, before conception is an excellent time for both partners to do a liver cleanse and upgrade their diets. And, a liver that is working at optimum efficiency can relieve PMS symptoms and may help lessen nausea during early pregnancy.

Herbs: The following herbs are recommended if experiencing morning sickness.

  • Ginger: recommended for both morning sickness and sea sickness. Drink ginger tea or “ginger beer”, or take ginger capsules (ginger tea with milk and honey will also help raise blood sugar.) Note: do not use excessive amounts of ginger.
  • Raspberry and mint tea.
  • Slippery elm: made into a nutritious gruel, is easily digested. You can also buy slippery elm lozenges to suck on.
  • Peach leaf tea.
  • Wild yam root tea or tincture in water.
  • Sucking on ice cubes made with any of these teas throughout the day may feel better than drinking cups of tea.

Nutrition: Eat small frequent meals with complex carbohydrates. Avoid high fat and junk foods. Eat a protein rich snack before you go to bed. Low blood sugar in the morning can cause morning sickness so eat something before you get out of bed. Drink plenty of liquids and remember that it may be easier to drink a nutritious broth for some of your meals. Take B complex vitamins, especially vitamin B6.

Homeopathy: Natural Healing For the Pregnant Woman, by Elizabeth Burch (see publisher information below), lists many symptoms of nausea along with specific remedies for each. Common remedies for nausea include ipecac, sepia, nux vomica, and arsenicum. Only take these remedies in a homeopathic form and consult a homeopathic practitioner if you have questions.

Flower Essences: Flower essences work on the emotions. They are made by placing flowers in a clear bowl filled with spring water, and infusing them in sunlight for several hours. The finished water is usually preserved with brandy or some other type of alcohol. Bach flower essences are probably best known because of Edward Bach’s work in discovering their use on healing emotions. Mimulus and Scleranthus are two flower essences used for morning sickness.

Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy involves using a plant’s essential oils, which are normally very strong, and should not be taken internally without supervision. Oils can be simply sniffed or used in a spritzer to relieve nausea, stress or headaches, or drops can be put on a handkerchief to inhale and use as a compress. Add a few drops of your favorite scent to a massage oil. Citrus smells help relax queasiness, so it may also be helpful to smell lemon slices.

Acupressure: Acupressure works by stimulating the energy meridians of the body, thus alleviating stress, increasing circulation, and relieving nausea and headaches. The acupressure points that control nausea are on the wrist crease, in line with the little finger, and in the hollow between the collarbones. Press and rub on these points throughout the day. Also, acupressure wrist bands are available in most drug stores for dealing with nausea and sea sickness.

Relaxation: Fears or apprehensions you may have of parenthood can cause stress. There are many ways to relieve this and other types of stress, so take the time to find those that work best for you. Quiet time alone, reading, and exercise can help. Fresh air also does wonders to relieve nausea, so get outside and breathe or keep the windows open to encourage air circulation. Daily meditation is very helpful — bring your focus to a place of calm and centered-ness repeating “I am peace.” Lay comfortably on the floor or bed and release any tension you have in your body. Start at your feet and work your way up your body, tensing and releasing all your muscle tension. Be sure to release all that you are holding onto in your belly. There are also relaxation tapes available on the market.

Visualization: Is there anything in your life that is making you “sick to your stomach?” Visualize yourself moving through it and letting go. See yourself as the radiantly healthy being that you are, creating a perfect vehicle for the soul that has chosen you to be its mother. You are part of a miracle!

Herbs to Avoid While Pregnant

This list is compiled from the American Herbal Product Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook, not to be used while pregnant unless otherwise directed by an expert qualified in the appropriate use of this substance.

Which cleansing herbs are too strong or irritating?

Which laxative herbs are too strong to use at this time?

  • Aloe vera
  • Buckthorn
  • Butternut
  • Cascara sagrada

Which herbs that affect hormones are contraindicated during pregnancy?

  • Borage
  • Damiana
  • Dong quai
  • Licorice
  • Sarsparilla
  • Siberian ginseng
  • Vitex (can be used the first trimester)

Which herbs bring on contractions or bleeding?

  • Angelica
  • Birthwort (bethwort)
  • Black cohosh (may be used in the last 2 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Blue cohosh (may be used in the last 2 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Cotton root
  • Elecampane
  • Fenugreek
  • Feverfew
  • Goldenseal
  • Horehound
  • Lovage
  • Mistletoe
  • Motherwort
  • Mugworts
  • Myrrh
  • Osha
  • Parsley
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rue
  • Sage
  • Tansy
  • Thuja
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric
  • Wormwood
Useful Herbs During Pregnancy

Several herbs have been safely used by women for generations that are an excellent source for the increased vitamins and minerals needed during pregnancy. These herbs can easily be made into teas and incorporated into meals on a regular basis. Every person is different, and your body may react differently now to foods than it did previously, but used wisely and in moderation, these herbs make wonderful teas and foods.

  • Raspberry leaf is best known for strengthening the uterine muscles so they work more efficiently during labor. Drink raspberry leaf tea throughout pregnancy, with its easily assimilated content of calcium and magnesium, to relieve leg cramps. Also high in iron, the leaves and berries help prevent anemia. Raspberry leaf soothes an upset stomach and will help alleviate mild morning sickness. Taken after birth, it slows bleeding, helps the uterus regain tone, and increases breast milk.
  • Nettle leaves are a storehouse of nutrition, with high iron and calcium contents, as well as an excellent source of folic acid, an essential nutrient during pregnancy. Nettle strengthens the kidneys and adrenals, while it relieves fluid retention. Because nettle also supports the vascular system, it can prevent varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Postpartum, it increases breast milk. Nettle tea has a rich, green taste and can be mixed with other herbs. Cooked nettle is a mineral-rich substitute for spinach and an excellent side dish with a dash of lemon juice and sesame seeds. Try substituting nettle in lasagna. Pick it fresh from spring until mid summer, but be sure to wear gloves to protect your skin. Its nickname is “stinging nettle,” but this sting disappears when cooked. Pick extra to freeze and have on hand for the winter months.
  • Oats, another herb high in calcium and magnesium, builds healthy bones and nourishes the nervous system. This is the perfect herb to relieve nervous exhaustion and allow for relaxed rest when sleep is difficult. An easy way to incorporate the healing power of oats, and its high fiber content, is to eat oatmeal cereal in the morning, along with oatmeal bread. Oatstraw tea has a mild flavor that can be used alone or mixed with other herbs. And a warm oatmeal bath is not only relaxing, it softens skin and relieves the itch of a growing belly.
  • Dandelion root tea increases digestion and promotes bile to relieve constipation. It is one of the best herbs for cleansing and strengthening the liver, our main detoxifying organ. The liver breaks down hormones no longer needed by the body after birth, and any drugs that may have been given at birth. Containing calcium and iron, roasted dandelion root’s coffee-like flavor, is an excellent morning beverage. Add a handful of the fresh leaves, high in vitamin A, to other greens in salads. Drink dandelion leaf tea if a diuretic is needed to relieve fluid retention. Because of its high potassium content, it does not deplete the body of this important mineral, as other diuretics are known to do.
  • Alfalfa, with its deep root system, contains many essential nutrients including trace minerals, chlorophyll and vitamin K, a nutrient necessary for blood clotting. Many midwives advise drinking mild tasting alfalfa tea or taking alfalfa tablets during the last trimester of pregnancy to decrease postpartum bleeding or chance of hemorrhaging. Alfalfa also increases breast milk, as alfalfa hay is fed daily to milking goats and other dairy animals.

These common herbs are available in most natural health food stores and are well-worth using for their nutritionally-packed support during these special months of nurturing mother and child.

Birth

Can I Use Herbs During Labor?

Yes, herbs can be very useful during labor and after birth to ease pain, calm emotions, and help speed recovery. The following herbs have been use for years by midwives and birthing women. See what herbs Kathryn, the founder of Motherlove, used during her three births

  • Blue cohosh and black cohosh are two herbs that work synergistically to bring on labor (but do not use them before the last two weeks of pregnancy). During labor they can make contractions more efficient in a long, stalled labor, and help the uterus clamp down after birth.
  • Raspberry leaf (tea or tincture) is one of the best uterine tonic herbs to prepare uterine muscles for an efficient labor. Its astringent action slows bleeding and helps to expel the placenta. Have the tea on hand or make raspberry tea ice cubes to suck on during labor.

Many herbs can help ease the pain of contractions:

  • Crampbark can be used for uterine cramping during labor, and after birth to eliminate after birth cramping pains.
  • Scullcap and catnip relieve pain, as well as calm and relax the body.
  • Chamomile helps control pain during labor by relieving tension.

Other herbs help with emotional balance during labor:

  • Motherwort is one of the best herbs to give immediate emotional balance during the ups and downs of labor, but it may increase uterine bleeding.
  • Rescue Remedy, a Bach flower remedy, is excellent for bringing one quickly into focus when under stress or shock during a difficult labor. It can also be put on the baby’s forehead or wrist after a stressful birth.
  • A massage oil, enhanced with herbs, will relax the muscles and ease back labor pain. Use relaxing, aromatic herbs such as chamomile, rose, and lavender. Rubbed on the perineum, it helps prevent tearing as the baby crowns and ease swelling and burning.
  • Essential oils in a mister can give clarity and focus. Clary Sage gives a sense of well being and combats mental fatigue. During birth it helps focus breathing and calm anxiety. Geranium essential oil balances emotions and works well for perineal massage, as it stimulates circulation. Lavender is calming and strengthening, relieving depression and irritability. Citrus essential oils are clean, refreshing and uplifting. Be sure that essential oils are used in a carrier oil or mister and not applied directly to or on the skin.
  • Shepherd’s Purse tincture is the best herb to quickly stop postpartum hemorrhaging. Every midwife should have it with her in case an emergency situation arises.
  • After the birth, use a sitz bath to soak the perineum, heal any tears, shrink swelling, and slow bleeding. It helps the perineum to heal quickly, and makes walking more comfortable. Herbs to use include yarrow, uva ursi, witch hazel, Shepherd’s purse, and garlic.
  • Fill a plastic squirt bottle with a strong herbal tea of these herbs to squirt on your perineum as you urinate to lessen any burning and heal tears.
  • Homeopathic arnica pills, taken every few hours for several days after the birth, help reduce bruising and swelling of the perineal tissue. Be sure you are taking arnica internally only in homeopathic form, as arnica tincture prevents clotting and should not be taken internally.

Kathryn Higgins writes on the births of her three daughters:

I decided on a home birth with my first child, but we lived in the mountains in Colorado, far from a hospital. When my water broke and I went into labor, my husband and I drove to my midwfe’s home in town, where we would be closer to a hospital in case of any unforeseen emergency. An intense, 30 hour labor, gave me plenty of opportunity to use pain-relieving tinctures of crampbark and scullcap. But I had only dilated to three centimeters, and it was time to go to the hospital because of the increasing chance of infection. Now, hooked up to fetal monitors and pitocin, my cervix still would not dialate. Our first daughter (Silencia Deva) was born by cesarean with her head tilted back, and the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck three times. I was told she would have suffocated had she ever entered the birth canal. I was grateful for the herbs that helped me through a long labor, as well as for the medical expertise that saved our lives. As soon as I returned home from the hospital, I put mashed comfrey leaves on the cesarean cut and today I happily have no visible scar.

I was confident that I could have a successful vaginal birth with my second child, but my husband was not willing to try a home birth again. The local hospital had beautiful birthing rooms, where I was encouraged to use my herbal tinctures during labor when I needed them. Soon after the birth of our second daughter (Zenna Serene), I took crampbark tincture to prevent any afterbirth cramping and slow after birth bleeding. I continued to take this tincture several times a day for three days.

Zenna’s heart defect was discovered the day after she was born. The sitz bath and homeopathic arnica were invaluable to me, as I walked and sat comfortably through three days of tests and many appointments.

I was two weeks overdue in my third pregnancy. After consulting with my nurse midwife, I took a dose of blue cohosh tincture. Six hours later I went into labor. When we arrived at the hospital, once again I was only dilated to three centimeters. But in less than an hour of soaking in a warm tub, with my oldest daughter pushing the pressure points on my lower back, I was ready to push. The birth of our third daughter (Jasmin Jencine) went very quickly. I walked and squatted as we waited for the placenta to expel. But unknown to us at this time, the placenta had adhered to the uterine wall at my previous cesarean scar, and I was hemorrhaging internally. The warm blood came gushing out as the doctor on call prepared to do an emergency hysterectomy. My husband squeezed a dropperful of fresh shepherds purse tincture into my mouth. Almost instantly the bleeding “miraculously” stopped, and an incredulous doctor removed the placenta with a D&C, instead of the planned hysterectomy.

So remember to call on herbs to help you, as they did me, minimize the pain, promote rapid healing after the birth, and reduce the need for drug interventions, as you go through this joyous time of transformation.

Postpartum Depression

What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?

Childbirth takes a huge amount of energy, and after birth, there is a rapid change in body chemistry. It is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed and anxious about the many responsibilities of having a newborn. Symptoms of the “baby blues” include fatigue, crying, insomnia, anger, feelings of being alone, and the inability to concentrate. These symptoms are usually short-lived. However, if you are not feeling better after 2-3 weeks, or if your symptoms get more severe, you may have serious postpartum depression. Please seek medical advice.

What Can I Do?

Herbs: Hormonal imbalances and the rapid drop in progesterone after birth can create feelings of depression.

  • Vitex helps stimulate progesterone production and balance the hormonal cycle.
  • Motherwort and lemon balm can help with mood swings and emotional balance.
  • Scullcap, oats, and chamomile are tonic herbs for nerves and stress.
  • St. John’s wort is also used by nursing mothers.

Nutrition:

  • Calcium and magnesium soothe nerves and promote sleep.
  • Get adequate folic acid in your diet.
  • Cut down on coffee and caffeine.

Homeopathy: The following remedies are recommended for PPD: Sepia, Pulsatilla, Ignatia, Natrum mur, and Arsenicum album. Consult a homeopathic doctor to get the correct remedy for your specific symptoms.

Aromatherapy: The smell of clary sage, sandalwood, and citrus uplifts the spirits, so use these essences in a massage oil, bath, or sleep pillow. Put drops on a handkerchief to sniff throughout the day. Aromatherapy inhalers and spritzers are available at natural food stores.

Bach Flower Essences:

  • Gorse: for discouragement and despondency.
  • Mustard: for deep gloom for no reason.
  • Sweet Chestnut: for mental anguish, hopeless despair, sorrow, exhaustion, loneliness.

Other Suggestions

  • Meditation: follow your breath, focus on an uplifting word or phrase.
  • Visualization: visualize “what brings me joy,” or your radiant face, with a sparkle in your eyes and joy in your smile.
  • Start doing simple exercises to get movement flowing through you.
  • Get help with housework, cooking, and other small children.
  • Talk with close friends, or get professional help from a counselor.