Many women use herbs during pregnancy in a supplemental way, as well as to prevent mild complications such as edema (swelling due to fluid retention). It is important to understand that the quality of your herbs depends on two things: Freshness and Source. The source of your herbs should be reliable, which involves doing research not only on the herb itself, but the manufacturer as well. Freshness is obvious: the fresher the herb, the better the quality. Which is why growing your own herbs is always the freshest option (and then you will also know the source). Here I would like to discuss several of the more popular herbs and supplements that are safe to use during pregnancy, and the many forms you can find them in.
The most popular form of herbal supplement would have to be tea. Many people drink tea regularly, probably without even realizing that it is herbal. All fresh brewed teas are derived from herbs and botanical substances, and have unique, oftentimes medicinal, properties to them. Most people buy tea bags and dip the bags in hot water to steep their tea. You can also buy bulk herbs and make your own tea creations. Just about any herbal supplement you can think of can be used in tea form.
Another way to ingest herbs is in pill form. In this case, the herb is crushed and placed into a gel capsule that dissolves, releasing the herbs as it is digested. These can also be made at home, but are easily found at many stores. Once again, it may be best to go to a health food store and ask the owner to recommend the best brand.
Herbs also come in tinctures, or decoctions, both of which are highly concentrated liquid forms. They can be added to juice, food or smoothies. Herbs often come in all three forms. Some herbs to consider during pregnancy include:
Red Raspberry Leaves: Contain vitamins A, B and E, as well as calcium, phosphorous, iron and an acid neutralizer. It also helps to tone the uterus. Some women only use it toward the end of pregnancy for this reason. Others consider it safe throughout all three trimesters.
Nettles leaf: A blood-cleansing and blood-building herb with high iron content. It is nourishing to the kidneys and liver, and helps to prevent or treat edema. I used nettles throughout my pregnancy and did not develop edema.
Alfalfa contains many vitamins as well as calcium and phosphorous and is high in Vitamin K. It can help to stave off hemorrhaging during and after delivery. It is also great for the milk supply.
Rose Hips contain the entire vitamin C complex. Taking a vitamin C source along with your meals can increase your iron stores. Rose hips can help prevent vascular problems like varicose veins and hemorrhoids and boost the immune system.
Spearmint or Peppermint aids in digestion and is soothing to the stomach. I rubbed this into my stomach during labor and breathed it in a warm cloth to alleviate labor pains. It has a very energizing effect.
Red Clover is good to use during illness and for high blood pressure as it purifies the blood.
Echinacea has always been known to boost the immune system. I have given it to my infant because I understand it to be safe.
Herbs should always be stored in air-tight containers in a cool, dark place, and should be used within a year. Herbs and homeopathic remedies are generally not endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration, so talk to your health care professional about the supplements you are using.
Be sure to read my entry on Herbs To Avoid During Pregnancy, and Let’s Talk About Morning Sickness for more on herb use. You can also visit the alternative medicine blogs for more on herbs and natural remedies.