By Susan Perri, Clinical Herbalist
The following herbs are for use throughout the whole pregnancy, well suited to all of its different phases, with emphasis on their long-term nutritive effects. These plants act as tonics, deeply nourishing to strengthen, restore, and enrich. These herbs are not only renowned for their beneficial action as uterine and reproductive system tonics, but also have direct action on major organ systems in the body, which can be stressed and burdened by pregnancy.
The regular use of one or all of these botanicals is an important aspect of prenatal nutrition, as the physiological actions of these herbs help to encourage a normal, healthy pregnancy and can safeguard against common complications due to lacking nourishment. These herbs are safe for extensive use, and in fact work better with long-term use by slowly building strength. Recommended use is an infusion form, which is a water based extract.
Infusions of any and all of these herbs, save yellow dock root, which must be prepared as a decoction, can be taken freely over a course of several months. Drink up to a quart (3 glasses) of infusion daily.
Red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus): due to its uterine tonic qualities and nutritive benefits, raspberry leaf is an excellent long-term pregnancy tonic. Regular use of the infusion can greatly improve uterine muscle tone and the efficiency of labor contractions. Many women with significant menstrual cramps report notable improvement with regular use of raspberry leaf infusion, and for the same reasons it can help ease the labor process if used throughout pregnancy. The fragarine alkaloid present in red raspberry leaves is the active constituent responsible for and improving uterine tone. It is abundant in calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamins B, C, and E.
Stinging nettle (Uritca dioica): a well-established member of the tonic group of plants, nettle has a definite affinity for women and the deep support of our transitions. A high vitamin and trace mineral content makes nettle a superb ally for helping to meet the intense physical demands of pregnancy. It is especially nourishing to the adrenals, and as such is invaluable where stress, physical and/or emotional, is a factor. Stinging nettle is rich in calcium and vitamins A, C, D, and K.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa): a wonderful nervous system tonic, alfalfa acts as a cellular de-stressor with its high potassium content. Potassium is a mineral that allows nerve cells to relax; without this vital nutrient, the nervous system would be in a constant state of excitation. Potassium helps to regulate a cycle of work and rest in the nervous system, helping the body to cope with a variety of stresses at any given time. Alfalfa also contains healthy amounts of calcium and magnesium, specific for bone formation. These two nutrients have a special symbiotic relationship, where one helps with the absorption and assimilation of the other. Calcium sold in supplement form is often paired with magnesium for this reason.
Yellow dock root (Rumex crispus): like the above herbs, yellow dock root is an amazing tonic plant, boasting a high iron content. This is a good option when faced with iron deficiency and various forms of anemia common in pregnancy. In addition, this high iron root can help with fatigue and low energy also connected to anemia. Yellow dock has the added benefit of being an alterative, or blood-cleansing herb. It has this effect in the body primarily by supporting and enhancing liver function, which has the natural capacity as a blood filter in the body. Building strong livers for both mother and child can help prevent postpartum jaundice. Yellow dock, being a root, should be prepared as a decoction. This root combines well with any of the other plants listed here, and they can be prepared separately and then combined for use. The tincture dose of yellow dock as a tonic is 20-30 drops twice a day.
This text intends to provide information on the traditional uses of native plants, not to prescribe. If you are not well, please seek the assistance of a competent health care provider.
Susan Perri is a Clinical Herbalist, author, and mother. The article is excerpted from her book The Complete Herbal for Pregnancy and Childbirth. For more on books and herbal medicine instruction, visit www.bcbotanica.com.