Herbal Remedies during Pregnancy

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Article By Meg McGowan - Consciouschoice.com

Pregnancy is a time of heightened awareness. Self-care becomes a priority, as caring for the self also nurtures a new life. What goes into a woman's body acts not only on herself, but on her fetus, whether positively or negatively. Some of the primary choices for a healthy pregnancy, decisions about what not to allow into one's body and one's life, presage the choices that will later create a healthy family life -- physically, mentally, and spiritually.

While warnings against tobacco, alcohol, and drugs have become almost redundant, other cautions against hormone-laced meat and dairy products, genetically modified food products, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals and plastics are just beginning to hit mainstream culture. For many women, pregnancy creates a time frame for implementing a healthier lifestyle, a deadline for good intentions. Ideally, for a planned pregnancy, self-care and awareness should begin before conception. Beyond the obvious goal of delivering a healthy, well-nourished baby, pre-pregnancy modifications can enhance the chances of conceiving and of sustaining an early pregnancy. Dr. Andrew Weil, for example, recommends in Natural Health, Natural Medicine (Houghton Mifflin, 1998) that "if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, be aware that coffee may increase the risk of miscarriage."

Numerous herbal remedies should likewise be avoided both before and during pregnancy, for their potentially contraceptive properties or their menstruation-inducing actions. Blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus syn. Carbenia benedicta, Carduus benedictus) and elecampane (Inula helenium) have traditionally been used to treat amenorrhea, the cessation of menstrual bleeding. Dong quai (Angelica sinensis syn. A. polymorpha) also promotes menstrual flow, and is used in the Chinese herbal tradition to regulate a woman's menstrual cycle. Celery juice (Apium graveolens) is cited in Earl Mindell's Herb Bible (Simon & Schuster, 1982) as "a popular folk remedy to promote the onset of menstruation." Thus, Mindell recommends avoiding both celery juice and celery oil during pregnancy. For the same reason, he advises against using parsley (Petroselinum sativum) juice or oil. Artemisia species from tarragon (A. dracunculus) to wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) are also known to stimulate menstruation with effects ranging from mild to potent. Many of the Artemisia species are extremely strong herbs that should generally be regarded with caution.

Some other herbs to be avoided during pregnancy include: angelica (Angelica archangelica), blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), ginseng (Panax ginseng), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), juniper berries (Juniperus communis), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), myrrh (Commiphora molmol syn. C. myrrha), sage (Salvia officinalis), senna (Cassia senna syn. Senna alexandrina), vervain (Verbena officinalis) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). This list is by no means complete. It is advisable to check several references before taking any herbs while pregnant, and preferable to do so in consultation with a medical practitioner. Each entry in The PDR Family Guide to Natural Medicines & Healing Therapies, edited by David W. Sifton (Three Rivers Press, 1999), includes special information for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The American Pharmaceutical Association Practical Guide to Natural Medicines by Andrea Peirce (Stonesong Press, 1999) and The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants by Andrew Chevallier (DK, 1996) also provide relevant cautions.

Essential oils should be used judiciously, as they are highly potent. Chevallier recommends avoiding German chamomile (Chamomilla recutita syn. Matricaria recutita) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris) essential oils. In The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy (New World Library, 1991), Valerie Worwood suggests using only the gentler oils during pregnancy, specifying citrus and florals. Particularly during the first three months of pregnancy, it is best to use any herbal remedies only if necessary.

Morning sickness, which occurs mainly during the first three months of pregnancy, is one instance where herbs can offer gentle relief. According to Worwood, a drop of spearmint essential oil on the pillow may be helpful. Infusions of fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare) or ginger root (Zingiber officinale) sipped throughout the day may relieve symptoms. Other forms of ginger may be equally effective, including capsules, candied ginger, and true ginger ale. Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), spearmint (M. spicata), and chamomile tea may ease nausea as well. Homeopathic remedies, selected according to a woman's individual disposition and symptoms, offer another option.

When it comes to the prevention of stretch marks, there are numerous recommendations for herbal preparations. Aubrey Organics offers Rosa Mosqueta Rose Hip Seed Oil, which is wonderfully hydrating and healing. Aloe vera gel (Aloe vera) is also reputed to be effective. Valerie Worwood successfully uses a base of two tablespoons almond oil, one tablespoon wheatgerm oil, ten drops borage seed oil, and five drops carrot oil combined with seven drops of rose bulgar (Rosa damascena) or rose maroc, six drops of lavender (Lavandula officinalis syn. L. angustifolia) and five drops of tangerine (Citrus reticulata) essential oils.

Heartburn often causes discomfort in the later months of pregnancy. Chevallier suggests drinking a cup or two of a meadowsweet infusion (Filipendula ulmaria). Burdock seed (Arctium lappa) can be helpful during the last trimester if water retention is a problem. Susun Weed recommends dandelion leaves (Taraxacum officinale) for their nutritious benefits during the last two months of pregnancy and while nursing. She notes that "many midwives suggest regular use of nettle infusions during the last trimester of pregnancy to add a plentiful supply of vitamin K and iron to the blood." Nettles are also reputed to reduce the chance of postpartum hemorrhaging.

Traditionally, herbs such as raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus), black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), motherwort (Leonurus caridiaca) and pennyroyal have been used to speed labor and delivery. Raspberry leaf is known to tone the uterus, and Mindell suggests sipping several cups a day beginning in the eighth month. A mild infusion is best. Black cohosh, motherwort, and pennyroyal should not be used until labor is imminent. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), one of the milder members of the genus Artemisia, may also be helpful at this time. Named for the goddess Artemis, the herb carries a history of sustaining female energy along with a reputation for aiding in difficult labor. Any herbal treatments should be coordinated with the attending physician or midwife.

Pregnancy is a time of deep connectedness. A woman's connection to herself is strengthened at the same time that she intimately joins all living things in the cycle of life, dancing on the threshold between the past and the future. Seeking birthing wisdom that transcends the medical knowledge of present Western thought affirms those deeper connections. Centered in herself, in community and in time, a woman can claim rather than surrender her power of creation.

DISCLAIMER: Choosing a holistic approach to medicine means choosing personal responsibility for your health care. It is in no way intended as a substitute for advice from a health care practitioner.

Article By Meg McGowan - Consciouschoice.com


Must all the primary signs of ovulation be present for a woman to know she is ovulating? Is 2daysmenstral period healthy?

I last had my periods on 20th of June 2009, i didnt have my periods the whole of July and i thought i had all the pregnancy signs, then got my strange periods that lasted a day and a half on the 6th of August 2009, the pregnancy test and the scan was negative, how else can i do it apart from that because i cant understand this? Please help


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