How to figure out what to use?
Pregnancy can seem like a long list of “don’t do this or don’t do that” We already covered what herbs NOT to use in this post last week. However it can also feel like you are being bombarded by dozens of different suggestions for supplements, vitamins, and herbs TO take during your pregnancy, and if you don’t use them then you risk having an unhealthy pregnancy, sickly baby, or pathetic milk supply. What is a tired, nauseous, overwhelmed mama to do?
Learn HOW to think about the herbs you take during pregnancy so you have general guidelines to pick which herbs to use.
I originally meant for this post to be a collection of herbs that are safe & recommended for use during pregnancy. Then I stopped and thought a bit more. I may want to use an herb that is not on this list. You may come across an herb that seems helpful but is not on any “top 10 herbs” lists. How do we know if they are safe to use?
We can learn about the herb then use the principles of which herbs are safe or unsafe to take during pregnancy.
I’ve already covered the principles of WHY you shouldn’t take certain herbs during pregnancy. Now I want to take a positive approach. Here are some basic, common sense guidelines that I have gathered from my research online and from Rosemary Gladstar’s book, Herbal Healing for Women, along with some of my own thoughts thrown in.
Guidelines on HOW to use herbs during your pregnancy
- Focus on herbs that are used as food or tonics because they are generally more gentle. Rosemary includes alfalfa, nettle, dandelion, rspberry leaf, oat straw, melissa, and chamomile in this list.
- Value your herbs for the nutrition they provide. “During pregnancy, herbs provide an excellent source of concentrated nutrition. Because they are naturally biochelated, their high vitamin/mineral content is easily assimilated.” (Rosemary Gladstar) This has been an excellent reminder for me. I often find myself looking at herbs as one looks at conventional medicine; use herb X to treat symptom Y, feel better, and move on. My family is missing out on so much of what herbs can offer because I am not looking at them as supportive “multivitamin foods” of sorts that can maintain our health. Side note; it can be scary to use food to satisfy your vitamin quota instead of just popping the commercial vitamins, but it is worth learning about if you get pregnant and can’t keep your vitamins down! For some reason in the 1st trimester I love kale , but will throw up my multivitamin. It is good to know my babies are still getting folate from the greens in that yucky first trimester even if I can’t tell you just how many milligrams I’m consuming. ( I do try to get my vitamins down as soon as I can)
- Don’t use herbs on a regular basis that are generally used for treating specific ailments, because they may be too strong for your body. However, if you are sick, Rosemary does encourage women to wisely evaluate the sickness and the specific herb while not being afraid to use small amount of stronger herbs to heal themselves. The bigger thing to remember is not to use strong herbs generally valued for treating specific ailments flippantly as a tonic.
- Start without; be on as few medicines and excessive supplements as possible when you are trying to conceive or when you first find out you are pregnant. Of course, some vitamins and herbs are very important to help you conceive or to maintain your health. My rule of thumb when taking something is, “If I find out I am pregnant in 4 weeks, would I regret taking this for the health of my baby?” Our family is working hard to stay healthy by eating almost completely unprocessed, organic food with as many greens as possible and taking a few supplements like a good multivitamin, some elderberry syrup as needed, etc. I would have no regrets finding out I was pregnant while using this regime. However, if you are taking tons of cough syrup, popping pain medication, or even taking herbs like black cohash or other uterine stimulants that you may not need, you might have some concerns.
- Use the lowest possible dose that will give you your best results. More is not always better! A certain herb might not be on the banned list, but why inundate your body with it and risk a negative reaction when a small amount would work? Yes an entire quart of soothing tea might be safe before bed, but why take it if one cup has the same effect? (especially when you are already running to the bathroom every other minute!)
- Know the nature of the herb industry; it is not regulated by the FDA. This is fine, but it also means that there can be a large disparity in the quality of products that are available. Buy only quality herbs & supplements. Even if something is more expensive, it can be worth paying more because it is more effective and may eliminate the need to take additional herbs or supplements because it is a higher quality. Do your research, talk to other moms, and ask your natural-health minded doctors for advice (if you are lucky enough to have one!)
Knowing the principles of how to use herbs can help you benefit from them effectively and confidently. Check back soon for my list on what herbs are in my pregnancy stash and why I would use them! Also check out these other posts for more info that you might find handy!