Long before pharmaceutical companies convinced everyone that their products could cure anything, women relied on traditional herbal remedies to combat a variety of issues. Herbs have been used for centuries to treat a wide array of physical and emotional issues, especially issues pregnant women experience such as headaches, nausea, swelling, and mood swings.
Herbal remedies exist as a safer alternative to their synthetic drug counterparts. First, herbal remedies are made from botanical ingredients; being naturally derived from the blossoms, leaves, stems, and roots of plants make most herbal medicines easier on the body. Second, natural ingredients within herbal medicines tend to have few, if any, side effects for the mother and baby. Third, herbal remedies can be applied in a variety of ways; they may be consumed in pill or tea form, or absorbed through the skin in lotion or essential oil form.
Herbal remedies typically appear in one of three forms: capsules, tea, or infusions. Capsules are typically smaller than a multi-vitamin, but similar in form and function. Teas may be purchased or made from dried leaves, and should be consumed one or more times daily. Infusions are a liquid form, and often more concentrated. Some herbs, such as saw palmetto, goldenseal, cohosh, and pennyroyal, among others, should be avoided taken orally—especially in the first trimester. It's also important to remember that although some herbal remedies should be avoided during the first trimester or throughout pregnancy, consuming the same herbs as part of a meal is often okay as herbs used in cooking are significantly less concentrated than when found in an herbal remedy.
Interested in herbal remedies that work? Here are five great herbal remedies to relieve those aches and pains associated with pregnancy:
Peppermint tea is an excellent remedy for addressing morning sickness and gas. One cup in the morning and after meals can drastically reduce nausea and embarrassing public moments. A dab of peppermint lotion or essential oil on the wrists or temples can also reduce headaches.
Ginger teas are also a good remedy for addressing morning sickness. If you can't take peppermint any more, try a spicy and warming ginger tea. And if you're not a tea drinker, crystallized ginger is a great option, available in many grocery stores. Ginger root is also an excellent option to help sore throats and digestive issues.
One of the oldest herbal remedies used to aid mamas-to-be, red raspberry leaves address many of a pregnant woman's needs. The leaves are high in iron, which a pregnant woman requires in increasing amounts. Studies indicate that these leaves also possess high amounts of A, C, E, and B vitamins as well as minerals including calcium and phosphorous. Herbalists believe red raspberry leaves can increase milk supply as well as help to tone the pelvic region muscles, which can decrease the labor time.
Red clover can address a variety of issues, ranging from insomnia to constipation. Studies support it as an aid to the liver; it may also help improve appetite! Many herbalists believe it can enrich a mother's breast milk as it contains high amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Psyllium possesses high amounts of soluble fiber, which keeps the bowels regular and combats constipation, a common complaint among pregnant and lactating women due to their high levels of hormones which slow the digestive process and lead to constipation.
Obviously, before jumping into the world of herbal remedies, it's a good idea to seek the knowledge of a qualified professional. If you're confident in your ability to dry herbs and create teas and infusions, then by all means, go for it! If you're buying plants to make your own remedies, be sure to inquire about the farmer's growing philosophy; ask about pesticide use and the freshness of the plant. However, it's important to discuss any actions beforehand with your medical professional. It's also important to read ingredient lists on products you buy such as tea blends; some herbs possess compounds that could cause contractions or blood thinning and should be avoided, especially during the first trimester.
As with anything you put into your body, know where it comes from. Herbal products are not regulated by the FDA, so the quality of a product may vary greatly from company to company. If available and within your budget, opt for organic versions whenever possible to reduce the potential of any chemical residue within the product. Before beginning a course of treatment, always discuss your options with your health care professional; your OB, midwife, or naturopath will be able to provide you with a wealth of information regarding safe herbal remedies to take during your pregnancy.