Herbalists provide complimentary healthcare services to those seeking natural remedies for ailments. In the United States, no official license exists to become an herbalist. However, many institutions offer certification courses which explore how plants can address diverse health issues. Typically, an individual attends a two to four year program to qualify as an herbalist, although shorter programs do exist.
Herbalism shouldn’t be confused with homeopathy. Herbalism refers strictly to the use of plants to treat illnesses. Herbalists may treat a woman with medicines made up of flowers, roots, seeds, leaves, and/or the bark of plants. Homeopathy refers to using any natural ingredients, including animal or mineral substances in addition to botanical ones.
Herbal medicines have been used for centuries by peoples from every culture. Often, knowledge of plants and their healing properties are passed down from generation to generation. Many cultures have used and continue to use herbs to support a woman during her pregnancy, childbirth and recovery. Herbalists believe that natural, plant-based remedies are the most effective and gentle treatment with minimal if any side effects. Many women prefer herbal remedies to drug therapies as they are much safer for the baby, and often have fewer side effects. However, it is important to make sure that the botanical ingredients are organic and free from chemicals—especially pesticides.
Herbalists are trained in the knowledge of how to grow plants, their medicinal applications, how to prepare them, and how to diagnose health issues in their clients. Many midwives and doulas obtain training as herbalists to assist women through pregnancy and childbirth. They use herbal remedies to help women naturally deal with a variety of ailments including nausea, mood swings, anxiety, hypertension, pain and insomnia.
Unlike proscribed medication, herbalists can create a customized herbal remedy for each client to deal with the specific issues she suffers from. A qualified herbalist will consider the unique needs of each woman and create a natural remedy specific targeting her needs. During pregnancy, the body demands higher amounts of vitamins, minerals and nutrition. An herbalist can help a women develop a well-balanced diet and offer supplements to meet her increased nutritional needs while avoiding chemical supplements.
Specifically in regards to childbirth, several herbal medicines are useful in inducing labor and reducing its pain. An herbalist can help a mother accomplish her goal of natural birth, which minimalizes the need for medical interventions or a C-section. After birth, herbal medicines can nourish a woman and newborn. Several herbs can help the healing process while others, such as Fenugreek, can stimulate and increase the milk supply. Herbalists support breastfeeding, and can be an excellent support to a new mother.
Many mothers turn to herbalism post-birth to treat a variety issues including infections, hair loss, mood swings, excessive bleeding, and general aches and pains. Herbal medicines provide natural relief and are traditionally safer for nursing infants then their medical counterparts.
A woman should consider consulting an herbalist if:
Herbalists are meant to provide complementary care to pregnant women, and should never be a sole medical provider. Those practicing herbalism are not qualified to deliver babies, and should defer judgment to a licensed medical professional for high-risk pregnancies as more factors come into play for both mother and baby. When choosing an herbalist, always inquire regarding their training, philosophy, and references, especially in regards to treating mothers.
Kathryn is a baby-wearing, cloth diapering, DIY mom to her quickly growing and pretty cute toddler. When she isn't researching and writing about natural approaches to pregnancy and parenting, she's acting out her favorite children's books or singing off-key made-up songs.