Note: This is the last article in a 3-part series on the use of herbs during pregnancy. Parts 1 and 2 of the series provide useful background also applicable to this article. For general information about taking herbs, what to expect and detailed instructions on preparing herbal teas and tinctures, read Using Herbs during Pregnancy. And, for more information on herbs that are nutritive and supportive to the body’s systems most important for a healthy pregnancy, read Herbs for General Health during Pregnancy.
As joyful and exciting as being pregnant can be, it is not always pleasant. Whether you are battling morning sickness, insomnia, or general discomfort, there are natural, herbal remedies that can help. The following are some common pregnancy side effects and my favorite herbs that can help alleviate them. While these herbs can be helpful in easing some of the less than desirable side effects that come with pregnancy, many are also nutritive, making them beneficial for an overall, healthy pregnancy.
Ginger: The use of ginger has an established history of relieving digestive issues like nausea, motion sickness, pain and loss of appetite. There is even some research showing that ginger can help to reduce menstrual pain severity and other symptoms, as well as being modestly effective in helping with pain management for those suffering from osteoarthritis (due of its anti-inflammatory properties). Made into a tea, ginger is the classic herb to help with nausea and loss of appetite, making it a go-to for those suffering from morning sickness. Take in any of the following forms, as needed.
Cramp Bark and Black Haw:Cramp bark and black haw are helpful to “quiet the uterus”, prevent miscarriage and ease Braxton-Hicks contractions. Due to their ability to relax smooth muscle (uterus, intestines, airway) they are very important uterine antispasmodics. They are also great alternatives to NSAIDs when dealing with painful menstruation. And, unlike NSAIDs, there is no risk of liver damage from their use. They are best for acute situations, such as cramping, and pain management. Take in any of the following forms, as needed.
Capsules: 1-2 capsules of each, as needed, until pain subsides. Cramp bark can be taken on its own, although it is considered more effective when taken with black haw.
Red Marine Algae: This amazing sea plant has been extensively studied and it is now well established as an anti-viral, and can be taken in place of Valtrex or Acyclovir to prevent herpes (type 1 or type 2) outbreaks! Of course herpes are not a side effect of pregnancy, but if you have been infected, daily suppressive therapy or occasional therapy for outbreaks is your reality. For those with type 2 herpes this therapy is especially important toward the end of pregnancy to ensure you don’t have an outbreak at the time of delivery, which would require a surgical birth to prevent the baby from becoming infected. If you are pregnant and have type 2 herpes be sure to consult with your care provider to determine the best plan of action. Of course, it’s nice to just have something to suppress the outbreaks for your own sake as well. Type 1 and 2 are both painful and itchy, which I discovered the first time I got a cold sore, just in time for my 3rd grade photos.
Slippery Elm: Slippery elm is excellent for any type of mucous membrane inflammation and/or irritation. It can be used for colds, infections, vaginal irritations, and to treat and provide nourishment during morning sickness. It also soothes diarrhea. Take in any of the following forms, as needed.
Valerian Root: Valerian root is helpful in relieving restlessness, emotional stress and insomnia. It is especially useful for encouraging sleep and relaxation. However, in rare cases it can actually be stimulating. This is usually the case if you have ever been stimulated rather than sedated when taking Nyquil. I can personally vouch for this as I have taken both Valerian and Nyquil on separate occasions and been wide-eyed until about 4 am. I was so glad when I found more info on herblore.com that confirmed it wasn’t just me! Take in any of the following forms, as needed.
Tea: Drink 1 cup before bed.TIP: If you need to increase your tea dosage you may want to switch to capsules or tincture so that your sleep isn’t further disturbed by having to use the bathroom.
Vitex: Vitex (also known as chaste tree) has a beneficial impact on progesterone levels, the hormone responsible getting us and keeping us pregnant, so you could say it’s kind of a big deal! Although vitex does not contain any hormones, it stimulates the formation of the corpus luteum (responsible for secretion of progesterone) and aids the body in increasing its own production of luteinizing hormone (which promotes ovulation). This increase in luteinizing hormone boosts progesterone levels during the luteal phase. Because of this, vitex is good to take when trying to conceive. And, for those with a history of miscarriage, it is recommended that you continue taking it throughout the first trimester.
These herbs all have such different purposes and doses. If you are taking any of these herbs and not getting the results you want, I would recommend talking with a care provider who is well-versed in the use of herbs during pregnancy. Remember, nothing works every time, or the same way for everyone. You may need to try something else or adjust your dose.
Tell us about your experience with herbs during pregnancy. We would love to hear what worked (and didn’t work) for you!
About the Author:
Karly Nuttall is a in the Greater San Diego area, who provides prenatal, home birth, postpartum and monitrice services, as well as breastfeeding support and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN) services. When not busy delivering babies and caring for their families, Karly likes to get outdoors and travel. She also enjoys writing and playing music, singing, taking hip hop dance classes, meditating and book shopping on Amazon. You can connect with Karly online at www.KarlyNuttall.com, , , , and .
Sources for this 3-part series include: Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women: Simple Home Remedies for Women of All Ages. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. Print., www.susunweed.com, www.motherearthnews.com, www.herblore.com, www.kellymom.com, http://wellnessmama.com, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, http://justherpes.com
Disclaimer: These statements, products and stated indications are based solely on tradition, studies and clinical experience and have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. Always consult a healthcare professional before taking any supplements.