Green Parenting

This category contains 35 posts

Herbal poultices for engorgement

406px-Kamomillasaunio_(Matricaria_recutita)There are many remedies for breast engorgement, ranging from massage, to cold packs, to cabbage.

But did you know that herbs – in the form of a poultice – can also help reduce swelling and inflammation associated with engorgement?

What’s a poultice?  It’s an age-old way of treating soreness and inflammation, using moist herbs applied directly to the skin, usually held in place with a cloth.

Herbs that work well in a breast compress are anti-inflammatory and reduce swelling (comfrey, chamomile, calendula, lavender), increase lymph circulation and drainage (cleavers, burdock root, yarrow), and draw out infection (slippery elm, marshmallow root).  Mullein leaf relieves pain.

To prepare, pour boiling water over the herbs and steep for 10-15 minutes.  When cool enough to touch, apply herbs as a poultice directly to skin.  You can also dip a cotton cloth in the warm infusion, wring it out and wrap around the breast and under the armpit.  Keep the poultice on until it cools.  Reapply throughout the day.  If infection is present, a clean poultice or cloth should be used every time.

For a comprehensive discussion of engorgement, including prevention, treatment, and when to seek help, see this page on

Image credit:  Chamomile, Wikimedia Commons

Winter blahs? Try these herbal scents.

GrapefruitEssentialOilIt’s been a long winter in many areas of the country.  And it’s prime season for the winter blahs – fatigue, lack of motivation, and poor mood.

But there’s good news: the scent of herbs may help lift your spirits.  Scents can be powerful mood changers, stimulating many regions of the brain and influencing emotional, immune, and hormonal functions.

The essential oils of a number of herbs can be helpful at this time of year.  You’ll find them in lotions, bath salts, and massage oils.  You can use them in an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer.  Or you can create a quick steam inhalation bath by putting two drops of oil in a tub of hot water and leaning over it while covering your head with a towel (*Kathryn – are all of the oils below safe to inhale in these small amounts?).  Just remember that essential oils generally shouldn’t be applied to the skin in undiluted form.

Here are a few of our favorite scents to lift the spirits in winter:

Citrus fruits (lemon, orange, grapefruit) have invigorating scents which many people find energizing.  Research has even found that they can reduce stress and improve mood.  Other energizing scents include basil, ginger, lemongrass, juniper, mint, sage, and thyme.

Lavender is a familiar, clean and crisp scent.  It’s traditionally used to relieve headaches, depression, exhaustion, and to promote relaxation and sleep.  You’ll find the herb and scent used in many herbal body care products, sachets and sleep pillows.  Other soothing and relaxing herbs include:  chamomile, elder, hops, jasmine, rose, and valerian.

Pine.  When you’re stuck indoors, the scent of pine can bring your mind right back outside.  Pine has been used traditionally for many purposes, including stress reduction, pain relief, and for strengthening concentration.  Research suggests that it’s an effective mood-elevator.

Rosemary is another energizing scent to lift late winter spirits.  It’s used for stress, anxiety, depression, and even strengthening brain function.  Its strong scent may also be useful as a decongestant for winter colds.

Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons

Three easy herbal crafts you can make for holiday gifts

Freshly_cut_lavender_flowersAt Motherlove we are always grateful for the many powers of herbs.  We use herbs in our products to support breastfeeding, to heal, and to soothe.

At this time of the year we also love using herbs in fragrant, beautiful, and useful gifts.  Our founder Kathryn Higgins has taught classes with kids during the holiday season, helping them create potpourri, wreaths, and bath bags for their parents.

These crafts make great gifts for teachers and day care providers, colleagues, and friends.  And they’re simple enough to make with kids.  Here are some of our suggestions for making your herbal gifts!

PotpourriFragrant herbs in potpourri sachets, placed in clothes drawers, closets, and even in cars provide a lasting reminder of the generosity the season.  For an energizing blend, use herbs such as citrus, ginger, lemongrass, mint, and rosemary.  For an uplifting blend, use herbs such as bergamot, clary sage, lemon, lime, and sage.  For a soothing and relaxing blend, use herbs such as chamomile, jasmine, lavender, lemon balm, and rose.

Wreaths:  Herbs can be used to create beautiful and fragrant wreaths.  The simplest way to create an herbal wreath is to buy a small, premade wreath like those you can find at craft stores, and place some herbs in it.  For more of a challenge, you can make a completely new one with lavender, with sage or with a stunning mixture of herbs.  Herbs can also be used to create these adorable herbal wreath holiday cards!

Bath teas and salts:  Make soothing and detoxifying bath products like herbal bath tea or herbal bath salts.  Soothing and relaxing herbs to add include chamomile, jasmine, lavender, lemon balm, and rose.   Detoxifying herbs include burdock root, citrus peel, dandelion root, echinacea root, fennel seed, juniper berries, and nettle.  For soothing muscles, aches and pains, use herbs like chamomile, camphor, cinnamon, ginger, and eucalyptus.

Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons

Want to cleanse toxins from your body before trying to conceive? Listen to our podcast.

MP900442962Toxins we absorb through everyday living can make it harder for us to conceive a baby.  So how can we reduce our body’s toxic burden before trying to conceive?

In this month’s podcast interview we speak with naturopathic physician Dr. Laila Tomsovic about preconception cleansing.  We ask when to do it, whether cleansing is safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding, which foods are especially cleansing, and about the role of exercise and stress reduction in a cleanse.  You may also be interested in our interview with Dr. Tomsovic on nutrition for fertility.

You can listen to this podcast using the player below, with Quicktime, or by downloading it at our free iTunes store.



We’ve got a salve for that!

ML_products_RGBItchy skin?  Stretch marks?  Eczema?  Diaper rash or thrush?  Sore nipples?  Hemorrhoids?  Chapped lips?  Bug bites?  New tattoo?

We’ve got a salve for that!

Motherlove’s line of protective and soothing herbal salves provides natural and effective relief to get you through many skin problems:

Motherlove’s Pregnant Belly Salve is an all natural way to prevent and soothe stretch marks.  Certified organic herbs added to a scar-healing base of shea butter do wonders to prevent, soothe, and minimize stretch marks.  You can use our Pregnant Belly Salve on dry heels, elbows, your c-section scar, even chapped lips.  The stars of this salve are marshmallow, which softens skin and soothes skin irritations; rosehips, which helps prevent scarring and hydrates the skin; calendula, an an all purpose skin healing herb; and chamomile, an anti-inflammatory herb which softens skin.

USDA_Organic_LogoMotherlove’s Green Salve is all-purpose, multi-tasking soother and healer.  This organic, all natural salve is the perfect remedy for rashes, and chapped or irritated skin, including eczema.  In winter it’s great for dry, chapped skin; in summer it’s great for taking the itch out of bug bites, bee stings, and poison ivy.  Green Salve contains extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, plantain herb, comfrey herb, marshmallow root, and calendula flower.  Plantain herb is known as “nature’s band aid” because it is excellent for healing wounds and drawing out toxins.   Comfrey herb is nicknamed “knitbone,” as it quickly heals wounds and prevents scarring.  Marshmallow and calendula soothe, heal, and soften skin.

USDA_Organic_LogoMotherlove’s Nipple Cream is made with all certified organic ingredients which heal and soothe sore, cracked nursing nipples.  Motherlove’s Nipple Cream contains extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, shea butter, marshmallow root, calendula.  All ingredients are safe for ingestion, so it does not need to be washed off prior to nursing.  Have leftover Nipple Cream?  Here are 13 more ways to use our Nipple Cream including using it on chapped lips, dry elbows, and even to tame frizzy hair!

oregon tilthMotherlove’s Diaper Rash & Thrush is an all-natural salve made with certified organic ingredients for persistent, inflamed diaper rash.  It contains healing herbs oregon grape root to clear up skin conditions, yarrow to soothe rashes, myrrh to fight bacteria and yeast overgrowth, and calendula to soothe skin.  If you’ve been treating diaper rash unsuccessfully with other products, your baby may have a yeast infection which requires a product with antifungal properties.  Our Diaper Rash & Thrush salve is diaper safe and compatible with all diapers including cloth.  This salve can also be used on nursing nipples, and does not need to be washed off nipples prior to nursing.

USDA_Organic_LogoMotherlove’s Tattoo Care is a certified organic salve which provides optimal moisturizing and healing properties for a new tattoo, yet retains a consistency that is comfortable to apply while tattooing or to a fresh tattoo.  Unlike petroleum-based products, Motherlove Tattoo Care allows the skin to breathe, and allows ink to fully penetrate the skin.  Made with calendula flowers and marshmallow root, infused in extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, and shea butter, it keeps pores from getting clogged and promotes a quicker healing time.

USDA_Organic_LogoMotherlove’s Rhoid Balm is a certified organic balm which provides immediate relief for inflamed tissues.  It contains a soothing combination of herbs including witch hazel, recommended by moms and doctors alike to reduce swelling, slow bleeding, and ease the discomfort of hemorrhoids

And of course, all of our salves have a zero rating (the cleanest rating) by EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Saftey Database.  They’re free of body care ingredients to avoid.

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Solving toddler and preschooler sleep problems – a podcast interview with Elizabeth Pantley

no cry sleep solution toddlers preschoolersHow do you transition a child from crib or co-sleeping to his or her own bed? 

Is it okay if your child just takes short cat naps during the day?

Can you make an “early bird” sleep longer in the morning? 

As parents we’re often desperate for help with infant sleep.  But sleep continues to be an important issue throughout childhood, and it certainly is for toddler and preschool-age kids.

That’s why we’re grateful that Elizabeth Pantley, well known author of The No Cry Sleep Solution and The No Cry Nap Solution has also written The No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers.  And it’s why we’re very excited to share this podcast interview with her!

In this interview, Tanya speaks with Elizabeth about both nap time and nighttime sleep.  And Elizabeth also answers some questions posted for her on our Facebook page by you!

You can listen to this podcast using the player below, listen with Quicktime, or download and listen from our free iTunes store!

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Nettle: It may sting, but it’s a friend to your milk supply

nettles for low milk supplyWhile stinging nettle can be painful to touch, it’s a plant that is very friendly to a mother’s milk supply!

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.

Sources:  Wikipedia, The Nursing Mother’s Herbal.  Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Herbs to ease labor, birth, and recovery

iStock_000015072388XSmall(2)Herbs can be very useful during labor and after birth to ease pain, calm emotions, and help speed recovery.  The herbs described below have been use for years by midwives and birthing women.*

  • Blue cohosh and black cohosh are two herbs that work synergistically to bring on labor, but do not use them prior to 39 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Raspberry leaf (tea or tincture) is one of the best uterine tonic herbs to prepare uterine muscles for an efficient labor. Its astringent action slows bleeding and helps to expel the placenta. Have the tea on hand or make raspberry tea ice cubes to suck on during labor.  It can also be taken in pregnancy to prepare uterine muscles for pregnancy.

Many herbs can help ease the pain of contractions:

  • Crampbark tincture can be used for uterine cramping during labor, and after birth to eliminate after birth cramping pains.
  • Scullcap and catnip relieve pain, as well as calm and relax the body.
  • Chamomile helps control pain during labor by relieving tension.

Other herbs help with emotional balance during labor:

  • Rescue Remedy, a Bach flower remedy, is excellent for bringing one quickly into focus when under stress or shock during a difficult labor. It can also be put on the baby’s forehead or wrist after a stressful birth.
  • A massage oil, enhanced with herbs, will relax the muscles and ease back labor pain. Use relaxing, aromatic herbs such as chamomile, rose, and lavender. Rubbed on the perineum, it helps prevent tearing as the baby crowns and ease swelling and burning.
  • Essential oils in a mister can give clarity and focus. Clary Sage gives a sense of well being and combats mental fatigue. During birth it helps focus breathing and calm anxiety. Geranium essential oil balances emotions and works well for perineal massage, as it stimulates circulation. Lavender is calming and strengthening, relieving depression and irritability. Citrus essential oils are clean, refreshing and uplifting. Be sure that essential oils are used in a carrier oil or mister and not applied directly to or on the skin.
  • Shepherd’s Purse tincture is the best herb to quickly stop postpartum hemorrhaging. Every midwife should have it with her in case an emergency situation arises.  (You can read about how Motherlove founder Kathryn Higgins used this herb after her daughter’s birth here.)
  • After the birth, use a sitz bath to soak the perineum, heal any tears, shrink swelling, and slow bleeding. It helps the perineum to heal quickly, and makes walking more comfortable. Herbs to use include yarrow, uva ursi, witch hazel, Shepherd’s Purse, and garlic.
  • Fill a plastic squirt bottle with a strong herbal tea of these herbs – or use our sitz bath spray – to squirt on your perineum as you urinate to lessen any burning and heal tears.
  • Homeopathic arnica pills, taken every few hours for several days after the birth, help reduce bruising and swelling of the perineal tissue. Be sure you are taking arnica internally only in homeopathic form, as arnica tincture prevents clotting and should not be taken internally.

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: Not just for sandwiches anymore!

Medicago_sativa_02_bgiuMost of us know alfalfa from our sandwiches and salads.  But this familiar plant is also useful in increasing milk supply!

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.

Sources:  The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk, The Nursing Mother’s Herbal, Low Milk Supply, Medline PlusWikipedia Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons

Blessed Thistle: A traditional friend to nursing mothers

Cnicus_benedictus_florBlessed 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

Sources:  The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk, The Nursing Mother’s Herbal, Low Milk Supply, Medline PlusGerman Commission E, Wikipedia.  Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons

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