Herbs for Childbirth

Herbs are a safe, natural way to support new moms emotionally and physically during labor. If you plan on having a natural childbirth, or just want to reduce the medications that your infant is exposed to during the birthing process, herbs are a great, effective alternative to pharmaceuticals.

The last few weeks of pregnancy are a great time to start putting together your herbal birthing kit. Having everything in order can help set your mind at ease as your due date approaches. The following preparations are helpful to have on hand for a smooth, natural child birth.

Tea

Labor Support Tea Blend

  • 1 part raspberry leaf
  • 1 part nettle leaf
  • 1/2 part chamomile

Make a large batch at the first signs of labor and drink freely as labor progresses. You may want to have the herbs blended ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it when labor begins.

To prepare: Add 1-3 tablespoons of above herb mixture to a strainer or tea ball and place in a cup. Bring water to a boil. Pour hot water over herbs and cover. Let infuse 15 minutes to an hour and then strain out herbs.

When drunk throughout labor, raspberry leaf helps the uterus work strongly and smoothly. This helps the birth effort and facilitates placenta delivery. Nettle leaf is helpful throughout the birthing process as it aids in preventing post-partum hemorrhage and helps to restore energy and vitality. Chamomile is helpful during labor as well due to its calming, relaxing, and pain reducing effects.

Tinctures

St.John’s Wort

St. John’s wort tincture can be used during labor to ease pain. It is also helpful for controlling spasms in the back, sides, and uterus. Dose: 25-30 drops at 30 minutes intervals.

This herb combines particularly well with Skullcap for pain control. Dose: 25 drops of St.John’s wort tincture combined with 3 drops of Skullcap tincture for pain, as needed. Take as often as every half hour.

Motherwort

This herb is an lovely ally throughout the birthing process. For labor pains, try 5 drops at half hour intervals. The effects will be felt in 20 minutes and will fade over 1-3 hours. This dose can be repeated as needed.

When taken after birth, motherwort helps to prevent hemorrhage & shock, soothes & calms, and tones the uterus. Dose: 10 drops tincture post-partum.

The tincture can also be helpful in easing after birth pains and for helping the mother adjust emotionally after the birth. Try 5 drops in water, repeated as needed, to relieve tension and confusion of overwhelming emotions post-partum.

Blue Cohosh

Blue cohosh encourages the uterus to start contracting and increases the force of these contractions. Using 10-20 drops of tincture in water repeated hourly as needed will produce regular and coordinated contractions.

This herb also promotes the release of oxytocin and helps the uterus to contract, close rapidly, and quickly regain its pre-pregnancy shape post-partum, which helps to decrease after birth pains.

Blue cohosh works synergistically with black cohosh, so midwives often use these two herbs together as the combination is more effective than using each herb on its own.

Black Cohosh

This herb aids in softening and ripening the cervix and helps the uterus contract in a coordinated and effective way. It works synergistically with blue cohosh to help strengthen or restart contractions during stalled labor.

Skullcap

This herb is a valuable remedy for pain. Taking 3-8 drops of tincture in water will help with the pain of cervix dilation. This dose can be repeated as needed, but watch out for the herb’s sedative effects.

As previously mentioned, skullcap combines well with St. John’s wort for pain relief during labor.

Post-partum, skullcap is helpful for fatigue and tension. It is an effective sedative that will bring sound sleep to an over-excited, exhausted new mom. It can be used in large doses if needed when being used for promoting sleep, as it has no negative side effects.

Shepherd’s Purse

This herb is a blood coagulant and vasoconstrictor that is particularly indicated for treating post-partum hemorrhage. Taking several dropperfuls during labor can help prevent excessive bleeding and help to form blood clots after birth.

When used post-partum, it promotes uterine contractions, helps the uterus clamp down, and stops bleeding quickly. Dose: 1 teaspoon or 150 drops, repeated every minute as needed.

Post-Partum Tincture Blend

  • 1 part shepherd’s purse tincture
  • 1 part motherwort tincture
  • 1/2 part blue cohosh tincture
  • 1/2 part black cohosh tincture

Dose: take 1 dropperful under the tongue. Repeat in 1 minute, as needed.

When taken post-partum, this tincture blend:

  • helps the uterus to clamp down
  • promotes the release of oxytocin
  • prevents shock
  • stops excessive bleeding
  • helps blood clots to form
  • relieves pain
  • calms and aids in the processing of emotions

 

Other Preparations

Lavender essential oil

Lavender is calming and helpful for boosting spirits during labor to aid in the birthing process.

Bach’s Rescue Remedy

Rescue Remedy is a blend of flower essences that helps to bring calm and relaxation in times of stress or trauma.

Raspberry leaf infusion ice cubes

As previously mentioned, raspberry leaf is helpful when taken throughout labor. Sucking on ice cubes made with the infusion is a refreshing way for mom to get the benefits of this lovely herb.

Herbs or Flowers

Fresh or dried herbs and bouquets of flowers can bring a touch of beauty and vitality to the birthing space. Traditionally, sprigs of lavender, lemon balm, and rosemary were placed in the birthing room to help bring courage to women in labor.

 

For more information on using herbs to nourish and support baby and mother throughout pregnancy, check out my post, Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy.

Herbs are great allies post-partum too! Check out this post from the Herbal Academy to learn more: Gentle Herbal Support for New Mom’s. 

 

[Resources]

Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women.

Levy, Juliette de Bairacli. Nature’s Children.

Weed, Susan. Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year.

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Resources for New Herbalists

A newly found interest in herbalism can spark ones curiosity in a serious way. There is much to know about the many different wonderful medicinal plants – how to grow & harvest them, how to prepare them, how to use them, and so on.

The following list is a compilation of some wonderful blogs & websites, books, and a few other resources to get you started on your green journey.

Many of the blogs listed are favorites of mine, ones I turn to often for inspiration, to learn something new, or to rediscover a plant I haven’t used in awhile. The books listed are ones that I have personally read and enjoyed. There is lots of great literature on herbs and various aspects of natural medicine, but I chose to list books that will be helpful to lay some groundwork as you delve into herbalism. You will also find these books useful later on as references.

I’ve also included links for some herb and seed suppliers to help get you started with herbal preparation and cultivation.

Best wishes as you embark on your adventures in herbalism!

Websites

herbcraft.org – Michigan based herbalist jim mcdonald’s website. Here you will find info about a variety of herbs, as well as some recipes and how to’s. There is also a schedule of his upcoming herb walks and classes (which are really informative, fun, and worth attending if you live in the area!)

matthewwoodherbs.com– Herbalist, Matthew Wood’s, website has links to many of his writings on topics related to nature and herbalism, including detailed information on specific herbs and his thoughts on nature wisdom, the philosophy of healing, energetics, and lots more.

Kiva’s Enchantments – Folk herbalist, Kiva Rose’s, blog where she shares herbal recipes, information about using specific herbs, musings about herbalism, and a lot more.

7song.com – Herbalist 7song’s website links to lots of great PDFs covering botany, medicinal preparations, and specific herbal treatments useful for first aid, various health issues, and the different body systems. It also includes information about classes and apprenticeships at the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine.

Mountain Rose HerbBlog– Mountain Rose Herb’s blog is a collection of awesome DIY herbal how to’s, recipes, product profiles, and other feature stories about different projects they’re involved in.

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Holistic Treatment of Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac Rash

Photo Credit: WebMD

If you live in the United States (or parts of Canada), there’s a good chance that you are all too familiar with the effects of a run in with poison ivy, oak, or sumac. These plants contain an oil called urushiol (you-ROO-shee-all) that causes an itchy, blistering rash when it comes in contact with the skin. This rash often goes away within a few weeks, but can cause a lot of misery in the meantime. Try the following suggestions to avoid getting poison ivy, oak, or sumac this summer.

Preventative Measures

If you live in an area where one or more of these plants grow, learning to identify them is an important first step to avoiding exposure in the first place. Once you know these plants, be careful to respect them and keep your distance.

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac grow prolifically and vigorously throughout the United States. The below images from poison-ivy.org map out specific areas where you can expect to find each of these plants.


This PDF from Michigan herbalist, jim mcdonald, is helpful for learning to ID poison ivy. Poison-ivy.org also offers information on identifying the different types of poison ivy, oak, and sumac.

You can sometimes prevent an outbreak of a urushiol rash by washing well with fels naphtha soap. (You can find it online or in grocery or drug stores.) Try this if you have been walking or working in an area where poison ivy, oak, or sumac grows. The sooner you do this after possible exposure the better. It takes about 12 to 72 hours for a rash to form after coming into contact with the plant, so you will want to wash off the urushiol oils long before then to avoid an outbreak.

If you do end up with a rash from exposure to poison ivy, oak, or sumac, the following holistic treatment plan can help speed recovery time and reduce symptoms, without the use of conventional medications, such as antihistamines and steroids.


Cleanse & Support the Liver

The liver plays an important role in cleansing the blood and ridding it of metabolic wastes and environmental toxins. An unhealthy liver that isn’t functioning properly can cause issues with kidney, heart, skin, respiratory, and glandular functions. Thus, when skin problems manifest, it is important to boost liver health as support therapy to help the body regain balance.

The following regime will help improve liver health:

Liver Cleansing Tea

  • 3 parts dandelion root
  • 2 parts burdock root
  • 2 parts cinnamon
  • 2 parts licorice root
  • 1 part pau du arco
  • 1/2 part yellow dock
  • 1/4 part echinacea

Combine about 3 tablespoons of the above herb mixture per quart of water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture slowly to a boil, then simmer gently for 20-45 minutes. Then remove from heat and strain the herbs from your tea. Drink 2-3 cups daily.

 

Liver Tonic Tea

  • 3 parts peppermint
  • 2 parts lemon balm
  • 2 parts red clover blossom
  • 2 parts nettle
  • 1 part alfalfa
  • 1/2 part parsley
  • 1/4 part stevia

Add 1-3 tablespoons of above herb mixture to a strainer or tea ball and place in a cup. Bring water to a boil. Pour hot water over herbs and cover. Let infuse 15 minutes to an hour and then strain out herbs. Drink 2-3 cups daily.

Switch to a Cleansing Diet

To support the body during flares of any skin related problems, the diet should be cleansing and eliminative in nature.

Eat light simple foods, including:

  • Miso
  • Vegetable broth
  • Millet
  • Brown rice
  • Tofu
  • Steamed veggies

Avoid:

  • Sweets, chocolate, and foods high in sugar (even fruit and juice)
  • Alcohol
  • Fatty foods
  • Large or complex meals
  • Processed or refined foods

 

Relieve Stress & Support the Nervous System 

Supporting the nervous system is especially important during flares of skin issues, like poison ivy, oak, or sumac, as the rash and itching can cause stress and increased inflammation.

Try one or more of the following to help soothe nerves and reduce irritation.

Peppermint-Valerian Tea

  • 2 parts peppermint
  • 1 part valerian
  • 1 part milky oats and/or oat straw
  • 1 part licorice root

Combine water and licorice root in a saucepan. Bring the mixture slowly to a boil, then simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add other herbs, and let infuse for 45 minutes. You’ll want to use about 3 tablespoons (total) of herbal blend per quart of water. Strain the herbs from your tea. Drink as often as needed throughout the day.

Nerve Soothing Tea

  • 3 parts chamomile
  • 2 parts lemon balm
  • 1 part milky oats and/or oat straw
  • 1 part lavender

Add 1-3 tablespoons of above herb mixture to a strainer or tea ball and place in a cup. Bring water to a boil. Pour hot water over herbs and cover. Let infuse 15 minutes to an hour and then strain out herbs. Drink as often as needed.

Valerian tincture

Take 1-2 teaspoons diluted in water or tea 3 times daily or as often as needed.

Skullcap tincture

Take 1/4 tsp diluted in water or tea 3 times daily.

Reduce Further Irritation

Dealing with poison ivy, oak, and sumac rashes can be pretty miserable. Do yourself a favor and don’t make things worse! Try the following suggestions to avoid further exacerbation.

  • Avoid hot showers, water, & heat. For a relieving soak, add baking soda to lukewarm bath water.
  • Avoid oil based treatments, like salves and ointments.


Internal & External Treatment

The following natural treatments will help to dry up poison ivy, oak, or sumac rashes, relieve itching, and speed recovery.

  • Drink drying, astringent teas of mugwort, oak bark, or witch hazel.

  • Mix clay with enough apple cider vinegar to form a paste. Spread into the affected area and let dry. Rinse with cool water.

  • Apply yogurt to affected areas. It is slightly astringent and drying. It is also a good option for topical treatment for the skin around the eyes, as other treatments may be too harsh.

  • Dilute the below linament with a little cool water and apply to affected area.

The following recipe is adapted from Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss.
Jethro Kloss’ Herbal Linament

  • 1 oz golden seal root
  • 1 oz myrrh gum
  • 1/4 oz cayenne
  • 1 pint rubbing alcohol

Combine ingredients in a glass jar with a lid that fits tightly. Cover and let sit in a warm place for 2 weeks or more, shaking daily. After 2 weeks, strain well and store in a glass jar.

  • Mix green clay, sea salt, & water till a paste forms. Stir in a few drops of pure peppermint essential oil. Apply to affected area as needed. Store in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.

  • Apply the following tincture to affected areas frequently.

Poison Ivy/Oak Tincture
Fill a jar with wilted fresh mugwort and cover with apple cider vinegar. Cover jar and put in a warm place, out of direct sunlight for 14 days. Then strain and add 2 tablespoons of salt per pint of tincture.

To use: dilute a small amount with water and apply as needed.

 

The consequences of a too close encounter with poison ivy, oak, or sumac can certainly be uncomfortable, however, hopefully with increased care and awareness when working or walking in areas where these plants grow can help to reduce these types of run ins for you in the future. And if you do end up with a poison ivy, oak, or sumac rash, it is nice to know that there are natural options for treatments, as antihistamine and steroid medications can often have unpleasant side effects.

If you’re struggling with why “pesky” plants like poison ivy even exist, you may want to check out this short video featuring jim mcdonald. He offers a more positive point of view on poison ivy that may be helpful to you. Best of luck this season as you share the woods and fields with these powerful plants!

Have a favorite natural remedy for poison ivy, oak, or sumac that I didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below!

 

[RESOURCES]
Gladstar, Rosemary. “Herbal First Aide: Skin Problems and What to Do About Them.”

Gladstar, Rosemary. “Herbal Therapeutics for the Liver.”

Kloss, Jethro. Back to Eden.

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac.” American Academy of Dermatology. 6/21/2017.

Tierra, Michael. The Way of Herbs.

A Holistic Treatment Plan for Seasonal Allergies

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you know how frustrating the symptoms can be. Dealing with running, itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing can make life very uncomfortable and unfortunately, prescription allergy medications can leave you feeling groggy and tired. There are ways, however, to treat allergies holistically. The results are not immediately effective, however, when the treatments are done faithfully, the result is permanent relief from seasonal allergies and better health overall.

PREVENTATIVE PROGRAM

It is best to start this part of the treatment when you are having the least amount symptoms, well before the onset of an acute allergic reaction. Continue the below program for 6 months to a year.

Support the Liver with Diet & Herbs
Allergies occur when the liver over reacts to foreign protein bodies in the environment, including things like plant pollens, dust, animal hairs, chemicals, foods, and cosmetics. Usually, this hypersensitivity to environmental factors is caused by a weakness or breakdown somewhere in our internal system.

If cellular wastes are not being efficiently broken down or eliminated, they build up and begin to weaken internal tissues and organs. This excess protein build up in the blood triggers white blood cell activity, which activates other defense systems in the body. This creates a state of chronic low level agitation in the body that makes it hypersensitive to foreign proteins, also known as antigens.

When an antigen enters the blood stream, the body produces antibodies to “protect” itself. This reaction causes the production of histamine, which is toxic to membranes. This substance causes blood vessels to dilate and makes them more permeable. Histamine is responsible for causing allergy symptoms, like swelling of the mucous membranes in the nose, eyes, and lungs, and the contraction of air passages that results in wheezing and edema.

The liver is responsible for deactivating poisonous substances in the body, even those that the body itself creates. When the liver is healthy, it is able to produce an enzyme, histaminases, which is a natural antihistamine. However, when the liver is stressed, it can not produce enough histaminases to eliminate the histamine the body produced and allergy symptoms continue. Thus, a healthy liver is crucial to being able to eliminate allergies.
Because the liver plays such an important role in the allergic process, the first step to treating hay fever and getting rid of allergies is cleansing and toning the liver.

Diet

Most liver imbalances can be classified as deficiencies or excesses. A person who suffers from hay fever tends to be liver deficient.

In this case, the liver function is slow and weak. Cellular wastes are not properly eliminated, and the body is polluted with its own toxic metabolic wastes (as described above). A liver deficiency results in poor use of ingested nutrients and inefficient uptake of the proteins and cholesterol the body needs to regenerate cells. Diet is crucial to helping to improve the health of the liver and establish balance in the body.

Deficient livers are often caused by a diet that includes too many simple carbohydrates and not enough quality protein and fats. Usually, too much emphasis has been put on raw, or cold “yin” type foods; dairy, fruits, and carbs. So in general, a corrective diet for a liver deficient person should include more high quality proteins, fats & oils, and warming foods, as well as:

  • dark leafy greens
  • fresh sprouts – especially clover, fenugreek & alfalfa
  • fresh, steamed vegetables – especially beets and other root veggies
  • whole grains
  • seeds – especially sesame
  • raw almonds
  • fresh, alkalizing fruits, like lemon & grapefrui

Foods to Avoid 

  • alcohol
  • cold drinks and foods
  • fried, fatty, oily foods
  • dairy
  • food preservatives and additives
  • sweets, sugar, and fruit juices
  • raw fruits and vegetables

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