Herbs for Mother's Care Postpartum
by Demetria Clark

[Editor's note: This article first appeared in The Birthkit Issue 44, Winter 2004.]

Mint

[Photo by Heather Long]

Mint

The following herbs for common postpartum problems support mother in a holistic fashion. If she has been given any type of drug, please properly research the drug and herb combination.

Moms will need extra nutrition, and this tea is a staple in my herbal and doula practice. Clients love it, as do the midwives and family members.

YOU ROCK! Mamma Tea and Infusion

  • 2 parts chamomile flower (Matricaria recutita)
  • 2 parts hibiscus flower (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
  • 1 part rose petal (Rosa spp.)
  • 1/8 part lavender flower (Lavendula officinalis)
  • 1/4 part rose hips (Rosa canina)
  • 3 parts lemon balm leaf (Melissa officinalis)

Make this by the gallon. It is rich in nervines, vitamins and minerals. Mom, family and care providers can drink this throughout the day, hot or cold.

Delayed Placenta

  • For a delayed placenta you can use angelica root extract (Angelica sinensis). Place a drop under the tongue and drink with a swig of water. This will swiftly bring the placenta.
  • Hot basil leaf (Ocimum basilicum) infusion smells and tastes great, as well as producing results. Drink this by the cupful.
  • Make a feverfew flower (Tanacetum parthenium) infusion when labor starts by adding four teaspoons of the herb to a quart jar, fill with boiling water and cap. Allow to sit at room temperature for thirty minutes, then refrigerate. This keeps the infusion fresh, in the case of a longer birth.

Hemorrhage

All hemorrhage mixtures should be made ahead of time.

  • Prepare a hemorrhage extract from:
    • 1 part yarrow flower extract (Achillea millefolium)
    • 1 part shepherd's purse seed, leaf or flower extract (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
    Drink a half-teaspoon in warm water every half hour.
  • Make an infusion using equal parts raspberry leaf and nettle: This can be drunk as a beverage.
  • Make an extract blend using this recipe:
    • 1 part shepherd's purse seed, flower or leaf (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
    • 1/4 part blue cohosh root (Caulophyllum thalictroides)
    • 1 part motherwort leaf (Leonurus cardiaca)
    • 1 part witch hazel leaf or bark (Hamamelis virginiana)
    Give mother two dropperfuls orally. You can follow with juice. Repeat in one minute, if needed, then again in ten minutes.
  • Or use:
    • 1 part motherwort flower and leaf extract (Leonurus cardiaca)
    • 1 part witch hazel leaf or bark extract (Hamamelis virginiana)
    • 2 parts shepherd's purse flower, seed and leaf extract (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
    • 1 part bayberry bark or root extract (Myrica cerifera)
    Use two dropperfuls as above and repeat if needed in ten minutes.

If a woman is hemorrhaging, please follow proper protocols and seek appropriate medical attention. Transport if the herbs are having no effect.

Afterpains

Afterpains are caused by the contraction of the uterus. They are generally worse after the second child.

  • Alleviate pain by having the mother relax and nurse regularly (this will really hurt, but it will contract the uterus faster), and try the following herbal extracts or combine them in an extract blend: cottonwood bark, black haw and cramp bark. This can be prepared as a tincture and given in doses of 20 drops two to three times a day.
  • Apply the following after birth pain relief extract
    • 2 parts motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
    • 1 part lavender flowers (Lavendula officinalis)
    • 1 part chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
    • 1 part cramp bark (Viburnum opulus)
    • 1 part lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
    Use 20–30 drops two to three times a day.

Night Sweats

Yarrow

[Photo by Heather Long]

Yarrow

Make a tea from strawberry leaf. Drink a cup before bed.

Varicosities

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) serves as a base for many remedies for varicose veins, vaginal area varicosities and hemorrhoids.

  • 1 cup 80 proof alcohol
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup witch hazel leaves (Hamamelis virginiana)

Cover the leaves with the alcohol and water. You can add more leaves if you want. After four weeks strain and bottle. Add five to ten drops cypress oil, if desired. Apply to affected area with a cool cloth.

Hemorrhoids

  • Apply the following herbal teas, once cooled, to the area: St. John's wort, witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), plantain leaf (Plantago major), sage (Salvia off.), parsley (Petroselinum crispum), shepherd's purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris).
  • Extracts or tinctures of these plants can also be used as a compress.
  • Create afterwipes by applying witch hazel extract (Hamamelis virginiana) to soft tissue or cloth and using it to wipe the affected area if traditional wiping is uncomfortable. These can also be used for tears and swelling. Cotton pads from the drug store placed in a small plastic food container and covered with witch hazel extract (Hamamelis virginiana) also make wonderful healing wipes for mom. I suggest using cotton flannel cloths.

Difficulty Urinating

  • Add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to the toilet before mom goes to the bathroom. Relaxation and deep breathing also helps.
  • Encourage the mother to use a vaginal steam. Find an old chamber pot chair or cut a hole in the seat of a thrift store chair and chop the legs down to a foot and a half. Then when the mother feels she needs to go but is unable, place a bowl full of hot water with steeping lavender flower (Lavandula officinalis), peppermint leaf (Menthe piperita) and comfrey leaf (Symphytum officinale) under the chair. Wrap the mother in blankets and have her sit over the steam. (Don't fill the bowl completely, in case the mother accidentally urinates in the bowl. This may happen when she feels soothed and her body relaxes.) Make sure the steam is not too hot or too close, so she will not get burned. Women can also use the steam for yeast infections, vaginal infections and so on.

For Tears and Episiotomies

I suggest allowing a small tear versus a large cut. The body can repair itself much more easily.

  • A perineum wash can be made with a diluted infusion of lavender flower. To a cup of warm water add 1/4 cup of lavender infusion. Add a drop of tea tree or patchouli oil to a liter of water or the lavender infusion. Rinse the vulva after urinating. This is used to sooth swollen and sore vaginal tissues after birth.
  • Apply ice immediately after the repair to decrease swelling.
  • Apply aloe vera gel (best if extracted directly from the plant, as commercial types can contain irritating preservatives). You can break off a leaf and squeeze out the fresh gel and apply to the affected area.
  • Encourage the mother to get plenty of fresh air. Exposure to sunlight speeds healing. This is at times an unrealistic recommendation. I just encourage mom to get fresh air, as exposing the bottom to the air is not always easy or appropriate for your neighborhood!
  • Have mother decrease activity; severe tears heal faster with bed rest.
  • Increase mother's internal dosage of vitamin E to 600 mg/day.
  • Use comfrey leaf (Symphytum officinale) for compresses and sitz bath. The mother can also drink it to promote healing.
  • Calendula flower (Calendula officinalis), comfrey leaf (Symphytum officinale), St. John's wort flower (Hypericum perforatum) and plantain leaf (Plantago major) are all used as ointments or in sitz baths.
  • Recommend sitz baths with infusion of vulnerary herbs (see below).

Sitz Baths

Sitz blend:

To 3 cups simmering water add:

  • 2 tablespoons comfrey leaf (Symphytum officinale)
  • 2 tablespoons St. John's wort flower (Hypericum perforatum)
  • 4 tablespoons calendula flower (Calendula officinalis)

Turn off the heat. Allow it to steep for 20 minutes. Pour into shallow bath. Add four drops lavender essential oil (Lavendula off.) and two drops cypress essential oil. Mix well to disperse essential oil.

Postpartum Sitz Bath:

  • 2 parts plantain flower (Plantago major)
  • part calendula flower (Calendula officinalis)
  • 1 part comfrey leaf (Symphytum officinale)
  • 1 part burdock (Arctium lappa)
  • 1/2 part violet flower and leaf (Viola odorata)
  • 1 part yarrow flower (Achillea millefolium)
  • 1/2 part lady's mantle flower and leaf (Alchemilla vulgaris)
  • 1/2 part lemon balm leaf (Melissa officinalis)

Mix well. You can add sea salt to the mixture if you wish. Add approximately one cup of herb and salt blend to six quarts boiling water, strain and add to shallow bath. You can also use as a compress.

Or try the following blend:

  • 1 part uva ursi leaf (Arctostaphylos uva ursi)
  • 1 part shepherd's purse leaf, seed (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
  • 1/2 part myrrh gum powder (Commiphora momol)
  • 1/2 part garlic (Dried or fresh. If fresh, use 1–2 cloves. Use whole; do not cut or smash as fresh oil can be very strong and irritating.)
  • 1/2 part comfrey root (Symphytum officinale)
  • 1/2 part sea salt (optional)

Prepare in same manner as Postpartum Sitz Bath (see above).

Another popular sitz bath blend contains:

  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1/2 cup plantain leaf (Plantago major)
  • 1/2 cup calendula flower (Calendula officinalis)
  • Use six cups of water.

Oak bark (Quercus robur), rosemary leaf (Rosmarinus officinalis), witch hazel leaf or bark (Hamamelis virginiana) and yarrow flower (Achillea millefolium) are great for healing sitz baths. If the mother is stitched, limit the bath to once a day. Other great herbs and herbal sitz baths for the perineum are calendula flower (Calendula officinalis), St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) and essential oil of cypress or lavender

Handling postpartum issues naturally gives the mother more control and is generally less invasive then going to a doctor. Make sure the mother knows when to seek additional medical care.

Demetria Clark is the director of Heart of Herbs Herbal School in Vermont (www.heartofherbs.com) and a labor support doula.


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