Plants contain the energies of sun, soil, wind, water, and the exhale of our breath. And so we are connected. Herbs are the Earth and Sky manifest. They are blessings with nourishment, nutrients, healing and power – at once mysterious, ethereal, earthy and simple.
For the pregnant woman, they can be soothing and balancing, as well as nourishing and nurturing. Their cherished importance is not only found in the healing properties they may safely provide, but in their simple gift of sustenance. Thus for self-care and wellbeing of the pregnant woman, the greatest value of herbs can be found simply in their powers of prevention. Herbs nurture, nourish and tonify first – and heal second. With care, respect and understanding, herbs can be used to prevent so many ailments, illness and discomforts throughout the childbearing continuum, before and beyond.
I’ve been using herbs as both food and medicine for twenty five years. Can I say I am an expert? No, I can only say I have found a resonance with this natural healing and healthful modality, and enhanced my intimate connection with the land through the power of plants. I love to share herbal lore and wisdom, and likewise, continue to learn, grow, and connect with the power of plants. It is an ongoing, ever evolving relationship, alive and breathing.
For those who are experienced or just awakening to the wisdom of herbs, please remember this. Your connection will be personal too. Plants are not generic formulas. They are living entities and energies. Get to know each one personally, intimately. Use them wisely, with honor, with respect. Remember too that what works for some may not work for you. Turn to books and experts for advice, perhaps an introduction and new information – and then look inside yourself for your own inner wisdom and your truth. Create your own connection and understanding. It is there and then you will find and be able to use the strongest power of your herbal allies for health and healing.
Let us begin by simply considering the humble cup of tea.
With that warm and soothing cup in your hands, you can connect with these great mysteries, as well as nature and the natural realm. Breathe in the essence of the earth. Sip in the soothing brew. Allow the healthy and healing energies to enter, absorb and in kind, pass through you. From the earth and sky it came, and shall return. Honor this simple, grounding practice with reverence.
Sun tea, moon tea, infusion or the perfect pot. Consider if you will the tea ceremony. A wonderful way to seemingly self indulge while caring well for yourself is through the tea ceremony. If you have time, treat yourself. Every day. Better yet, several times a day. It’s not just drinking a cup of tea. Rather, it is sitting down to honor yourself, your herbs, your body, your baby, and your connection with the earth and plants. A regular practice, taking the time for tea can be healing, soothing, joining you with the Earth and her abundance with gratitude. You may wish to treat yourself to a beautiful loose leaf teapot and cup. Then find the herbs that resonate with you. If you remember, bow your head in a simple blessing as you pour a cup. Honor the Earth and Sky for providing them for you, as well as the water with which your tea is made. Enjoy the warmth in your hands, in your mouth, within you. Warming the little one within you too. Sharing in this blessing together.
Whether you are enjoying a cup of tea, taking a tincture, or using essential oils for self care or aroma therapy, enjoy getting to know your herbs. There are some herbs that are counter intuitive – and possibly dangerous – to consume and/or use during pregnancy. Some herbs commonly suggested to avoid at least during parts of if not throughout pregnancy are: Squaw Vine, Blue and Black Cohoshs, Pennyroyal, False Unicorn Root, and Dong Quai.
Find what works for you. Use care, caution and respect. And use your intuition. If you’re not familiar with herbs, start slow. They will show you the way. Do your research with reverence for the plant and your person. Get to know one at a time. Honor and respect each one as your healing sister of the Earth.
For a healthful, soothing and nutritive tea to make throughout your pregnancy, start by getting to know Nettles and Raspberry leaf. Maybe Peppermint is calling you, or Dandelion wants to join you too. A jar of each on your counter, and a pinch of each in your tea pot blending in harmony together is a healthy daily ritual for body, mind and soul.
The classic nourishing formula to drink daily throughout pregnancy begins with Red Raspberry Leaf. Raspberry Leaf is widely known and appreciated for its beneficial source of vitamins and minerals and its value as a uterine tonic. Of special interest to the pregnant woman, Raspberry Leaf is a good source of vitamin C, and shares vitamins A, B and E, as well as the important minerals of calcium, iron, phosphorous and potassium.
Less commonly known but of equal wholesome value is Nettle Leaf. Nettles, one of the most nutrient rich wild greens, are known for providing healthy amounts of chlorophyll as well as vitamins A, C, D and K, and minerals calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron and sulfur.
Dandelion is a personal favorite of mine, one I enjoy honoring and harvesting while others may be cursing and spraying. Due to the increased demand on the liver and endocrine system during pregnancy, both of which are supported by this common “weed,” I consider this tonifying herb to be of great value. You may wish to add some dried leaves to your tea blend to support your liver function and the cleansing and balancing attributes dandelion offers.
Oat Straw is new for me, old for so many, and I’m finding fabulous nourishing benefits hidden in this simple, earthy offering. Oat Straw is wonderfully rich in calcium, and also adds traces of well needed vitamins B, C, D, E and K, and minerals silica and magnesium. Added bonuses may be seen in your uplifted energy, mood and sense of sexuality!
For flavor, and additional benefits, look into adding some of the mints, especially Peppermint and Lemon Balm. Peppermint is said to sooth a queasy stomach as well as boost the immune system. It also has antimicrobial and antioxidant qualities. Lemon Balm is considered uplifting of body, mind and spirits! In addition, this herb is purported to sooth nerves, calm an upset stomach and balance your thyroid function.
Some experts recommend consuming each herb individually, thus each cup of tea would honor each herb uniquely. Me, I love blending the energies. When I have found the combination and concoction that works for me, I create my own special blends. In a large canning jar, I add desired proportions of each herb to complete a whole, and then gently rock the jar back and forth, up and down to allow the dried herbs to blend. Each day, I shake out enough for a pot in the morning, and a pot in the afternoon. I also have preferences for morning herbal blends and evening herbal blends, so you may find several jars on my counter.
As well as being a part of your daily nurturing and nutritional intake, they can be healing, helpful and a powerful source to turn to when need be. Please see the post on The Wise Woman Tradition for more on the healing aspect of herbs, and when to turn to their healing powers.
If you can grow the herbs you wish to consume by yourself, wonderful! The fragrance and freshness in your garden or sunny window are a welcome addition. Consider too wild harvesting, responsibly. In purchasing, I suggest buying in bulk. There’s less packaging, less waste, it’s more economical, and somehow seems to create a closer connection when you actually hold the herb in your hand rather than pull out a pre-packaged teabag. For purchasing dried herbs, try to find a local source. As with most anything, that’s the easiest on the environment, and brings you closest with the plants. If you are unable to find or work with a local source, you may turn to Mountain Rose Herbs, a great on-line source (and print catalogue) for whole and loose leaf herbs, as well as teapots and other dangerously delicious products. They have a good explanation of each herb, so read up on each one before you order. Make sure it is not only in tune with your body and energy needs, but safe and healthy for consumption or use in pregnancy. Likewise, be aware than many “modern” medicine practices put up undue warnings for herb in their ignorance. I tend to feel nature’s medicine is preferable to some chemical concoction for most conditions I am looking to treat.
Herbal wisdom is not only natural, wholesome and healthy, it is as personal, unique and intimate as every blossom, every leaf. As no two plants are exactly alike, nor are any two people who turn to the wisdom and energy of that plant. Respect and honor the differences. Enjoy finding your herbal allies and strengthening your herbal wisdom, now during your beautiful pregnant stage, and onward, throughout your life and the life of the child within.
Following are my favorite four books which have served to introduce me to this knowledge, and to which I turn regularly still to enhance my own sense of connection with and understanding of plants and their nourishing and/or medicinal values.
Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year by Susun Weed. Yes, I’ve mentioned this one before and probably will again. This book served me well in my pregnancy twenty something years ago, and continues to serve me well today working with new mothers.
Herbal Healing for Women by Rosemary Gladstar. This book was one of my greatest introductions to the use of herbs for a healthful, healing life. I like all of Rosemary’s books – they are good introductions providing comfortable hands-on understanding.
The Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Romm. Also see Aviva’s book Naturally Healthy Babies and Children as an essential resource for healthful choices when caring for a little one.
The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook by James Green. A great resource (and fun read) for actual hands-on stuff. He keeps it simple and real and do-able.