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Healing Herbs

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Your tips for soothing teething pain

800px-Teething_2Teething can be a trying experience – for both your baby and you!  The fussiness, drooling, and sleep disturbance some babies experience – not to mention the discomfort – can make this a difficult time.

Fortunately there are many remedies for teething pain, and we collected many from you on our Facebook page.  Here are some of our favorites!

  • Frozen breastmilk in a mesh feeder
  • Hyland’s Teething Tablets
  • For older children, frozen blueberries, green beans, celery sticks,  to gnaw on
  • Lots of snuggles
  • Bach Rescue Remedy (for both baby and mom)
  • Chamomile tea soaked knit cloths that were chilled. For older children, chamomile popsicles
  • Amber necklaces
  • Frozen washcloths, frozen pacifiers

And of course, breastfeeding!

Image:  Wikimedia Commons

Growing a simple kids’ container herb garden

2009_West_Yorkshire_England_3698905473_herbsIf there’s one thing we love more than growing herbs, it’s growing herbs with kids!

Gardening with kids is fun and educational, but if you’re not already a green thumb you might feel a bit intimidated, or maybe confused about where to start.

So here’s our guide to creating the simplest of simple herb container gardens with kids!

What you’ll need:

  1. Some herb starts (these are young plants, available at garden centers and some supermarkets).  Some suggestions:  oregano (which kids can add along with basil to spaghetti or pizza sauce), basil (which kids can use to make pesto), cilantro (to include in salsa), mint (which kids can add to a cold summer drink or use to make tea), and lavender (which kids can use to create fragrant sachets).  You can let kids choose if they’d like to make a “pizza garden” a “bath garden” or a “tea garden” (though chances are they’ll say “all of them!”).  You can also grow plants from seed if you prefer.
  2. A container with drainage holes.  You can purchase planters at a garden center or make them from colanders, coffee cans, even old boots!  Just be sure to avoid plastic that might break down in the sun, or anything that might have lead paint.  Large containers or multiple small ones are best, since they’ll allow the plants room to grow.  Just punch or drill holes in the bottom for drainage and you’re set.  Kids can paint or otherwise decorate the containers if they like.
  3. Potting mix, organic if you prefer, available at garden centers.  These are called “soil less” mixes and are better than dirt from a garden because they’re less dense.
  4. A nice sunny spot, either outside or on a sunny windowsill.  Most herbs need about 6 or more hours of sunlight a day to thrive.

Then, with your kids, just add potting mix to container, and plant your starts, leaving plenty of space between each plant to allow for growth (check the information that comes with the plant for spacing requirements).  Water, and place in a sunny spot.  Thereafter, water according to the instructions that come with the plants.  Kids can harvest the herbs continually once the plant has enough foliage to sustain growth.

Plan some opportunities for kids to harvest the herbs to make spaghetti sauce, pesto, mint tea, or a sachet using lavender flowers.  If you’d like, engage kids in some observations about the impact of different amounts of light on growth,  or a soil investigation.  Enjoy!

Seasonal allergies? Herbs to the rescue!

butterburAllergy season is in full swing again, so we thought we’d share some information on herbs to relieve your seasonal suffering.

We love herbs for their power to do everything from heal skin to increase milk supply, so we thought we’d share some information on the many herbs that can help with seasonal allergies.*  Sure, there are plenty of pharmaceutical solutions, but isn’t it more poetic to counter allergies caused by plants with…more plants?

Nettle.  We use nettle to increase milk supply in many of our products, but it can also be helpful in treating seasonal allergies.  Freeze-drying nettle preserves its antihistamine properties, so freeze-dried nettle is commonly recommended.  In one randomized controlled trial half of the participants found nettle to be equally or more effective than their prescription medicine.

ButterburUsed traditionally for inflammation, recent research has demonstrated the effectiveness of butterbur in treating allergies.  One study found that butterbur extract was as effective as a popular antihistamine medication in controlling symptoms of hay fever, without drowsiness.  The raw form of this plant should never be eaten, and some urge caution in using this plant if you have ragweed allergies.

Bromelain.  Bromelian is a derivative of pineapple and pineapple stem, and may be useful in treating symptoms like nasal swelling and runny nose.  It’s used to thin mucus, and in doing so may help in preventing sinus infections.

* This information is presented for educational purposes only, and not as medical advice.  Consult the Infant Risk Center for information on the use of these herbs in pregnancy and lactation.  Image credit:  Butterbur, Wikimedia Commons

Can I use herbs during labor? Yes!

products_birthWe’re pleased to share the following information on herbs for labor and postpartum care, written by Motherlove founder Kathryn Higgins:

Can I use herbs during labor?

Yes, herbs can be very useful during labor and after birth to ease pain, calm emotions, and help speed recovery.  The following herbs have been used by midwives and birthing women.  See our section on plants for photos and more detailed information on several of these herbs.  Many products using these herbs are available through Motherlove.

  • Blue and black cohosh are two herbs that work synergistically to bring on labor (but do not use before the 39th week of pregnancy).  During labor they can make contractions more efficient in a long, stalled labor, and help the uterus clamp down after birth.
  • 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.

Many herbs can help ease the pain of contractions:

  • Take crampbark 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:

  • Motherwort is one of the best herbs to give immediate emotional balance during the ups and downs of labor, but it may increase uterine bleeding.
  • 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 massage oil or 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, and ideal in any blend for all skin types. Be sure that essential oils are used in a carrier oil or mister and not directly on the skin.
  • 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, makes walking more comfortable, and feels so good!  Herbs to use include comfrey, yarrow, uva ursi, witch hazel, shepherds purse, and garlic.
  • Fill a plastic squirt bottle with a strong comfrey tea (or add calendula) 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.

Motherlove’s founder: How herbs helped me through three births

3131 31 31Today we’re very happy to share the birth stories of Kathryn Higgins, Motherlove’s founder.  Already an expert in the power of herbs for lifelong health by the time her daughters were born, she used a number of herbs before, during and after her labors.

I decided to have a home birth with my first child.  We lived in the mountains in Colorado, far from a hospital.  When my water broke and I went into labor, my husband and I drove to my midwife’s home in town, where we would be closer to a hospital in case of any unforeseen emergency.  An intense, 30 hour labor, gave me plenty of opportunity to use my pain relieving tinctures of crampbark and scullcap.  But I had only dilated to three centimeters, and it was time to go to the hospital.  Now, hooked up to fetal monitors and pitocin, my cervix still would not dilate. Our first daughter (Silencia Deva) was born by cesarean with her head was tilted back, and the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck three times.  I was told she would have suffocated had she ever entered the birth canal.  I was grateful for the herbs which helped me through a long labor, as well as for the medical expertise that saved our lives.  As soon as I returned home from the hospital, I put mashed comfrey leaves on the cesarean cut and today I happily have no visible scar.

I was confident that I could have a successful vaginal birth with my second child, but my husband was not willing to try a home birth again.  The local hospital had beautiful birthing rooms where I was encouraged to use my herbal tinctures during labor when I needed them.  Soon after the birth of our second daughter, I took crampbark tincture to prevent any afterbirth cramping and slow after birth bleeding. I continued to take this tincture several times a day for three days.

Our second daughter’s (Zenna Serene) heart defect was discovered the day after she was born.  The sitz bath and homeopathic arnica were invaluable to me, as I walked and sat comfortably through three days of tests and many appointments.

I was two weeks overdue in my third pregnancy.  After consulting with my nurse midwife, I took a dose of  blue cohosh tincture.  Six hours later I went into labor.  When we arrived at the hospital, once again I was only dilated to three centimeters.  But in less than an hour of soaking in a warm tub, with my oldest daughter pushing the pressure points on my lower back, I was ready to push.  The birth of our third daughter (Jasmin Jencine) went very quickly.  I walked and squatted as we waited for the placenta to expel. But unknown to us at this time, the placenta had adhered to the uterine wall at my previous cesarean scar, and I was hemorrhaging internally. The warm blood came gushing out as the doctor on call prepared to do an emergency hysterectomy.  My husband squeezed a dropperful of fresh shepherds purse tincture into my mouth.  Almost instantly the bleeding “miraculously” stopped, and an incredulous doctor removed the placenta with a D&C, instead of the planned hysterectomy.

So remember to call on herbs to help you, as they did me, minimize the pain, promote rapid healing after the birth, and reduce the need for any unnecessary drug intervention, as you go through this joyous time of transformation.

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 Kellymom.com.

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

Plants for PMS

motherwortWe’ve written before about herbs to support your pregnancy and herbs to help with morning sickness.  And of course we’ve written quite a bit about the herbs in our products for increasing breastmilk.

This week we thought we’d point to a few plants which may help* with another common complaint:  premenstrual syndrome (PMS).  From bloating to acne to mood swings, PMS is estimated to affect at least 85% of menstruating women.

While there are many things that can help to alleviate PMS symptoms, we’d like to point out a few friends from the plant world which may make this time of the month easier.

Evening Primrose.  Evening primrose oil is derived from the seeds of the Evening Primrose plant, a North American wildflower.  It was used as a wound healer by Native Americans, and has traditionally been eaten as a leaf vegetable.  It’s commonly used to treat symptoms of PMS, including breast tenderness related to menstrual cycles.

Chasteberry.  Chasteberry is the fruit of the Chaste Tree, a shrub-like tree native to Asia.  It has been used for thousands of years to ease PMS symptoms and to increase breastmilk production.  It is thought to balance hormones produced by the pituitary gland.

Cramp BarkCramp bark is a flowering bush native to Asia, Africa, and Europe.  It has been used help to regulate cycles and – true to its name – to relieve menstrual cramps.

Dandelion.  Dandelions have many medicinal and nutritional uses.  Dandelion has diuretic properties, and so may be useful in preventing or relieving bloating associated with menstruation.

Motherwort.  Motherwort is a perennial plant in the mint family that derives its common name from its traditional uses as a uterine tonic and to regulate menstruation.  It may calm emotions around menstruation as well.

* This information is provided for educational purposes only, and not as medical advice.  Please consult your health care provider for care suited to your individual needs, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

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.

 

 

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