There are many species of nettle, but stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is probably the best known. It’s native to much of the world, and has long been used as to increase milk supply, as a food, and as a treatment for a variety of health problems.
Nettle has dark green serrated leaves and short hairs that cause burning and blistering when touched. It achieves this sting with hollow hairs which inject histamine and other chemicals when contacted. It grows in moist soil, usually near streams and ditches.
Even though it may sting when gathered without gloves, stinging nettle is an excellent spring green in teas and meals. As a food, nettle is a rich source of iron, calcium and folic acid, vitamin K, and supports the kidney and adrenals. As a tea, it blends well with other herbs like mint and lemon balm, and its nutrients are important during pregnancy, so it’s a great one to drink when you’re expecting. It makes a wonderful substitute for spinach in any dish, such as lasagna filling. You’ll find some wonderful looking recipes online. Cooking nettles removes the stinging chemicals from the plant; they should never be eaten before cooking.
Nettle is an herb worth using on a regular basis. This spring tonic is loaded with nutrition and strengthens many body systems. It’s used as a treatment for arthritis, anemia, skin problems, urinary tract infections, small kidney stones, hay fever symptoms, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and even as a hair rinse to control dandruff and make hair more glossy.
The German Commission E lists no contraindications, drug interactions, or side effects for nettle. The American Herbal Products Association considers stinging nettle Class 1: safe when used appropriately.
As a galactagogue, Nettle is most effective as a tincture, as the dried form is difficult to take in sufficient quantities. Stinging Nettle is a herb included in many of our formulas, including More Milk Plus, More Milk Plus Alcohol Free, More Milk Plus Capsules, More Milk Special Blend, More Milk Special Blend Alcohol Free, More Milk Special Blend Capsules, More Milk, More Milk Two Alcohol Free.
Many herbs can help ease the pain of contractions:
Other herbs help with emotional balance during labor:
See our Plants page for photos and more detailed information on several of these herbs.
* This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with your health care provider for medical advice related to any of these products.
Alfalfa is a many-branched plant with square stems and leaves composed of three leaflets. It has blue to purple flowers turn into spiral coiled seedpods. Alfalfa grows to a height of up to three feet, and its deep taproot sometimes stretches more than 50 feet. This root system brings up many minerals, including trace minerals, from the soil, and also makes it drought resistant. It’s a tough plant whose seed system allows it to re-grow many times after being grazed or harvested.
Its English name derives from an Arabic term for “fresh fodder,” and it has been cultivated by humans since at least the 4th century and used in herbal medicine for an estimated 1,500 years. It’s used in agriculture as a forage crop for cattle and as hay, and in particular for high producing dairy cows due to its high protein content and highly digestible fiber. It’s fed to dairy goats to help them produce more milk, as well.
Alfalfa is rich in chlorophyll and vitamin K, which promotes clotting. It’s also high in protein, calcium, other minerals, and vitamins in the B group, vitamin C, vitamin D, and vitamin E.
The leaves and flowers make a mild tasting, nutritious tea that stimulates the appetite and aids digestion. Alfalfa is used for a wide range of ailments including kidney conditions, bladder and prostate conditions, high cholesterol, asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes. The National Institutes of Health rates it as “possibly effective” for lowering cholesterol.
Alfalfa is used commonly to increase breast milk, often in combination with fenugreek, marshmallow, and blessed thistle. Fenugreek and blessed thistle are contraindicated during pregnancy, but alfalfa is an herb that can be taken while pregnant.
According to The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk, alfalfa should not be taken by mothers who have lupus or other autoimmune diseases, as the L-canavanine contained in it may exacerbate symptoms.
Alfalfa is an ingredient in our More Milk Two Alcohol Free, our breastfeeding product for women who are nursing a toddler while pregnant. The alfalfa used in Motherlove products is certified organic and thus not genetically modified.
Blessed Thistle is an old friend to nursing mothers, so we thought we’d take a moment to share a bit about this versatile plant.
Blessed Thistle (Cnicus Benedictus, also known as St. Benedict’s thistle, holy thistle or spotted thistle), may have gotten its name from its use as a tonic by monks in the Middle Ages.
Its use dates to the 16th century for treating a variety of ailments including fever, anorexia, dyspepsia, indigestion, and even the bubonic plague. It is considered a hormone balancer, and some value it as an emotional ally to uplift spirits. It’s one of the best herbs, along with milk thistle, to support liver health and promote bile. It’s even used in some bitters formulas and as a flavoring for Benedictine liqueur.
Not to be confused with Milk Thistle, Blessed Thistle has fuzzy leaves and stems with yellow flowers and grows to about two feet in height. It is native to Europe and considered a weed in parts of North America. It’s a member of the Asteraceae family. Its thistle is not considered edible.
Blessed Thistle is a “bitter” that aids digestion, and is approved by the German Commission E for indigestion and loss of appetite. It is not recommended for use in pregnancy. It is also widely recommended, especially in conjunction with fenugreek, to increase breastmilk supply.
Blessed Thistle is an ingredient in these Motherlove products: More Milk Plus, More Milk Plus Alcohol Free, More Milk Plus Capsules, More Milk Special Blend, More Milk Special Blend Alcohol Free, More Milk Special Blend Capsules, More Milk
Witch Hazel is an herb many mothers come to swear by after pregnancy and childbirth, and we thought we’d take a moment to share some details about this powerful (some mothers might say sanity saving!) plant.
But first, what does this plant have to do with witches? It’s likely an etymological mix-up, stemming from the Middle English term “wiche,” which means pliant or bendable and has nothing to do with witches. Or perhaps the use of the branches of the plant as divining rods is related the name.
Witch hazel is a shrub or small tree growing in the rich soils of the eastern part of the United States. The star shaped leaves become brilliant colors in the fall while the round fruits, which have projections, shoot their seeds several feet as they ripen.
Witch hazel leaves and bark contain astringent tannins which stop internal and external bleeding. Both the bark and leaves are used to treat hemorrhoids, varicose veins, swelling and bruises, and sore nipples. Internally it stops diarrhea, vaginal discharge and excess menses. Witch hazel is an ingredient found in eye drops and many skin ointments. It was used widely by Native Americans for medicinal purposes.
And of course it’s used widely after childbirth to soothe sore perineal muscles, reduce swelling, slow bleeding, and help ease the discomfort of hemorrhoids. Used in a bath, as a spray directly on tissues or on a pad, or as a balm on hemorrhoids, it’s an effective herbal remedy recommended by moms and doctors alike.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
But there are some herbs which are healing when used externally, but are not safe for ingestion. One such herb is Comfrey.
We often hear from mothers who have questions and concerns about the use of comfrey in breast compresses and nipple creams, so we thought we’d share this information to clear up some of the confusion.
Comfrey is an herb recognized for its value as both a fertilizer and a healing herb. It’s native to Europe, grows in damp, grassy locations, and has a bell shaped flower often in a blue or purple color.
Comfrey has long been valued for its ability to reduce skin inflammation. It is also thought to stimulate cell growth and repair. One of Comfrey’s nicknames is “knitbone” because it was traditionally used to aid the healing of bone fractures.
While healing when used externally, Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which can cause veno-occlusive disease if used internally.
The Botanical Safety Handbook, published by the American Herbal Products Association, classifies Comfrey as Class 2a – for external use only, Class – 2b not to be used [internally] while pregnant and Class 2c not to be used [internally] while nursing (parentheses ours, for clarification). In 2001, the US Food and Drug Administration advised makers of dietary supplements containing Comfrey to remove their products from the market and label products that contain Comfrey ‘for external use only.’
Comfrey has great value as a healing herb, but should not be included in any product that could possibly be ingested by a baby.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Morning sickness is caused by the rapid change in hormonal levels that occurs during the first weeks of pregnancy. This change often results in nausea. There are a some women who never feel any morning sickness at all, and most women begin to feel better at the beginning of the second trimester. If you have severe and/or long-term nausea, if it’s accompanied by fever or pain, or it it continues well into the second trimester, be sure to consult your health care provider.
Herbs: The following herbs are recommended if experiencing morning sickness.
Nutrition: Eat small frequent meals with complex carbohydrates. Avoid high fat and junk foods. Eat a protein rich snack before you go to bed. Low blood sugar in the morning can cause morning sickness, so eat something before you get out of bed. Drink plenty of liquids and remember that it may be easier to drink a nutritious broth for some of your meals. Take B complex vitamins, especially vitamin B6.
Homeopathy: Natural Healing For the Pregnant Woman by Elizabeth Burch, lists many symptoms of nausea along with specific remedies for each. Common remedies for nausea include ipecac, sepia, nux vomica, and arsenicum. Only take these remedies in a homeopathic form, and consult a homeopathic practitioner for a personalized care plan.
Flower Essences: Flower essences work on the emotions. They are made by placing flowers in a clear bowl filled with spring water, and infusing them in sunlight for several hours. The finished water is usually preserved with brandy or some other type of alcohol. Bach flower essences are probably best known because of Edward Bach’s work in discovering their use on healing emotions. Mimulus and Scleranthus are two flower essences used for morning sickness.
Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy involves using a plant’s essential oils. These oils are normally very strong, and should not be taken internally without supervision. Oils can simply be sniffed or used in a spritzer to relieve nausea, stress or headaches. Drops can be put on a handkerchief to inhale and use as a compress. Add a few drops of your favorite scent to a massage oil. Citrus smells help relax queasiness, so it may also be helpful to smell lemon slices.
Acupressure: Acupressure works by stimulating the energy meridians of the body, thus alleviating stress, increasing circulation, and relieving nausea and headaches. The acupressure points that control nausea are on the wrist crease, in line with the little finger, and in the hollow between the collarbones. Press and rub on these points throughout the day. Acupressure wrist bands are available in most drug stores for dealing with nausea and sea sickness.
Relaxation: Fears or apprehensions you may have of parenthood can cause stress. There are many ways to relieve this and other types of stress, so take the time to find those that work best for you. Quiet time alone, reading, and exercise can help. Fresh air also does wonders to relieve nausea, so get outside and breathe or keep the windows open to encourage air circulation. Daily meditation is very helpful — bring your focus to a place of calm and centeredness, repeating “I am peace.” Lay comfortably on the floor or bed and release any tension you have in your body. Start at your feet and work your way up your body, tensing and releasing all your muscle tension. Be sure to release all that you are holding onto in your belly. There are also relaxation and meditation tapes and digital recordings available for purchase.
Visualization: Is there anything in your life that is making you “sick to your stomach?” Visualize yourself moving through it and letting go. See yourself as the radiantly healthy being that you are, creating a perfect vehicle for the soul that has chosen you to be its mother. You are part of a miracle!
At Motherlove, we treat every week as an opportunity to honor and celebrate breastfeeding. Here are some of our favorite reasons why:
Breastfeeding is the natural way for your body to continue nourishing your baby, just as you did during your pregnancy.
Breastfeeding promotes bonding between you and your baby, releasing the “love hormone,” oxytocin.
Babies are born to breastfeed, and will even crawl up their moms’ chests right after birth!
Human milk is made for the specific needs of human babies.
It’s what breasts are for! Your breasts are the only organs which don’t fully develop until pregnancy and production of milk for a baby.
Breastfeeding promotes morality and compassion in children.
World wide, increased breastfeeding rates could save more than a million lives annually. In the U.S., it could save nearly 1,000 lives and $13 billion per year in health care and other costs.
Breastfeeding is naturally eco-friendly. It’s a renewable resource!
Of course, there are many more reasons to love breastfeeding. What’s your favorite?
But did you know that what you put on your skin holds the same potential? And when it comes to the delicate skin of your baby, it’s even more important to use only those products that are gentle and nurturing. Unfortunately, many popular body care products contain chemicals of concern.
We can’t rely on regulation to protect us from potentially dangerous chemicals in our body care products. The FDA has banned just nine chemicals from cosmetics, while the European Union has banned more than 1,000.
Shopping “natural” or “organic” is no guarantee that your products are free of dangerous chemicals. A product that is labeled as being “natural” may be mixed up with synthetic dyes or fragrances. Buying higher cost products is no guarantee either – many are full of the same ingredients and harsh chemicals as the less expensive brands.
So, what can you do to make sure you’re buying products that are safe and pure? Shop for products that don’t contain the chemicals listed below, in either their ingredients or their packaging. You’ll find a detailed explanation of the risks they pose on our website.
Want to find products that don’t contain these ingredients? Use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database to search for safe products.
At Motherlove we’ve been committed to making safe, toxin-free, herbal products made with organic ingredients for mothers and babies for over 20 years. We were recently named a “Champion” (the highest level of compliance) of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics. Our products are all rated a zero (the lowest rating) the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, and we are proud to publish our complete ingredient lists. Motherlove uses safe, recyclable packaging for our products, and they are free of “shelf life” preservatives and any artificial ingredients. You expect that from “real food.” You should expect that from your body care, as well.
If you’re new to composting, here are some basic composting instructions to get you started.
And here are six ideas for composting projects – big and small – you can do with kids:
In/Out List Poster. Kids can create a poster showing what can go in the compost pile, and what stays out. They can also decorate the kitchen compost container!
Turning the pile. If you have a compost container which tumbles, kids will love to turn it. If you turn your pile by hand, help kids with the pitchfork or shovel, and make sure they get to feel the warmth coming off of it! When turning the pile, kids get a chance to see how much decomposition has occurred. Which items are fast to decompose, which are slow?
Decomposition experiments. Is there anything more gross (and therefore cool) than decomposing food? Kids can measure and chart the temperature of the pile, examine compost components under a microscope, and measure and chart the height of a pile under different weather conditions (does decomposition speed up when the weather is warmer?). And of course there’s the science fair standby, the decomposing food experiment!
Chore Wheel. Kids can create a chore wheel to keep track of whose turn it is to take out the kitchen bucket or turn the pile.
Compost tea party! Okay, not really a tea party, but you can involve kids in making compost tea.
Worm composting. Worm composting is great for your garden, for reducing kitchen waste, and it’s a natural for kids! There are many activities kids can do with your wiggly vermicomposting friends.
School composting. While a bigger project that requires lots of adult help, bringing composting to your kids’ school is a very worthwhile and educational project. Kids can collect data and graph waste diverted, educate other kids about composting and what goes in and stays out, and even monitor the bins at lunchtime. In addition to reducing waste and teaching kids, school composting spreads composting habits to an entire community.
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