New mothers and expectant mothers alike have a lot on their plate. Some of the strongest and happiest emotions come to us as we form our new lives with our little ones. Never before have I felt such tremendous love and joy accompanied by the sudden onset of anxiety and feelings of exhaustion. It’s the wonderful complex roller coaster of emotions (and hormones) that is motherhood. You are strong. You’ve got this. But, if you’re like me, you may be searching for a little bit of help. Enter the world of herbs and ancient plants that may change your life for the better. As an herbalist and a member of a community of strong women, I have leaned on plant medicine to help me on my new journey in motherhood.
Herbs for Immunity
Being a mom can be exhausting. Your new lifestyle can really take a toll on your immune system. While nothing can replace a nutrient dense diet (think green smoothies, healthy proteins, and unprocessed foods), medicinal mushrooms can lend a helping hand. Reishi and Chaga mushrooms are easily accessible, relatively palatable, and can give your immune system a boost in times of need. Look for sources that use mushroom “fruiting bodies” as they are stronger and grain-free. Take daily as a preventative measure, or increase your dose when going into an immune compromising situation. Mom life is much easier when you and your family are healthy and happy.
Herbs for Mama’s Sanity
Many moms reach for a glass of wine when their baby goes down for the night. While there is nothing at all wrong with a glass of wine here and there, (and we all love antioxidants) nonalcoholic alternatives can help us relax and calm our nerves without any guilty feelings. When my six month old finally falls asleep, I whip up a hot chocolate concoction and super charge it with Ashwagandha. This ancient Ayurvedic herb helps me wind down, lowers my stress and anxiety, and has anti-inflammatory benefits. Also in my nighttime drink is powdered Reishi mushroom. These two herbs work synergistically to help calm the nervous system and reduce cortisol levels. Another superstar herb for stressful mama times is Astragalus. This herb, like most others, can be taken as a tea, in capsules, or in my personal favorite form; a tincture. When I first had my son it took me a few months to feel settled into a daily routine with him. Each day when nap time came around I would go into panic mode. I always had a long list of things to accomplish in this two-three hour time period and it became so stressful for me that I almost began to dread nap time. Everyone kept telling me that I needed to take advantage of this time and relax; take a shower and a nap. Yeah right! Yes, I know, moms should use that time to catch up on sleep and/or relax but it just doesn’t always happen for me. I take a dose of Astragalus root, a deep breath, and get to work. Astragalus eases my nap time anxiety and helps me to focus more on what really needs to be done. After just one dropper full the pile of dishes suddenly appears smaller and I begin to realize that the laundry doesn’t exactly need to be put away right this minute. If you find yourself starting to go crazy during a tantrum or crying fit, take a deep breath to center yourself and reach for some Astragalus. Astragalus helps to lower cortisol, is immune boosting and helps lower inflammation.
Herbs for Mama’s Milk
At one time or another, you are likely to notice that your milk production is fluctuating. You may feel completely engorged, or you may feel like you don’t have enough to adequately feed your hungry little nugget of joy. The latter can be source of worry for any mom. Enter galactagogues: herbs and/or foods that can help us produce more milk. The queen of the galactagogues is Fenugreek. This easy-to-find supplement can make a profound difference on your milk supply in a matter of hours. It can be found as an encapsulation, or in tea bags. Caution: consuming fenugreek can make you (and your pee) smell like maple syrup. Pancakes anyone? Fennel seed, like the kind found in pasta sauce, sausage and other Italian foods, is another common galactagogue. Fennel has the added benefit of helping to soothe a baby’s bellyache by helping her break up and release gas. Some herbs may need to be avoided due to their ability to diminish milk supply. Herbs like mint, sage, lemon balm and basil can be drying. Culinary amounts may not be detrimental, but common teas can be enough to make a negative impact.
Herbs for the baby
Like fennel seed, other herbs can be taken by mama and can pass through the milk to help baby. Additional herbs that can be used in this manner include my personal favorites; ginger and chamomile. Both of these help to soothe upset tummies, and they taste good! You may have seen “gripe water” on the shelves of your local health food store. These are a class of herbal infusions designed to help a whiny baby with tummy troubles, irritability, or trouble sleeping. Common herbs found in gripe water include; chamomile, fennel, ginger, and passionflower. Gripe water has helped my son tremendously, as he suffered from lots of gas in his first few weeks of life. I was eventually able to keep a diet diary and figure out what I was eating that caused him so much pain but in the mean time gripe water was my saving grace. Some gripe water companies include sweeteners like agave nectar. While this has been marketed as a healthy sweetener, it is very high glycemic and may not be the best thing to feed your precious babe.
De-stress hot chocolate:
Warm milk of your choosing; I prefer to use organic almond, cashew or coconut milk
2-3 heaping spoonful’s of organic raw cacao powder
½ tsp Ashwagandha powder
½-1 tsp Reishi powder (follow dosing on package)
Stevia or honey to taste
Blend all ingredients on high for 30 seconds
Optional: other herbs can be added, I like to take my daily dose of fennel in this concoction as well because I don’t love the flavor and really, what new mom has time to make multiple healing potions throughout the day.
Bonus: Raw Cacao is high in magnesium which most of us are deficient in, magnesium is a crucial nutrient needed for more than 300 chemical reactions in the body, including the production of energy.
Shopping for herbs:
The majority of the herbs mentioned above can be found in tincture form at your local health food store, purchased at your local apothecary or found online from retailers like Mountain Rose Herbs or Amazon.
*THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE OR TREAT ILLNESS OR REPLACE INFORMATION GIVEN BY A HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONAL. CONSULT A PHYSICIAN BEFORE ADDING ANY HERBS OR SUPPLEMENTS INTO YOUR DIET*”¨ “¨
*ALL OF THE HERBS MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE CONSIDERED SAFE FOR BREASTFEEDING HOWEVER NOT ALL ARE SAFE FOR PREGNANCY*”¨ “¨ “¨
ABOUT EMERY/ My name is Emery Golson. I live on a farm in Laporte Colorado with my husband and six month old son. I have studied herbalism at the Equinox Center of Herbal Studies in Fort Collins, CO and at the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism in Boulder, CO. I am passionate about health and wellness and teaching others about healing their bodies with nutrition and plant medicine. I am currently taking courses to become a certified health coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Feel free to email me with questions or coaching inquires at: firstname.lastname@example.org