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Safe Use of Herbs for Moms & Kids

September 27th, 2012

By Dr. Mary Bove, N.D.

Many moms come to my practice asking which herbs are safe for pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, and if herbal medicine is safe to use for their kids. With the media focusing primarily on the dangers of using herbs, it’s no wonder that women question the safety of botanical medicine for their families. Although fear makes for a better news story, the truth is that many plants have been used safely (longer than most pharmaceutical drugs, in fact) to support the various health stages of a woman’s life and that of her child’s.

A few of my favorite herbs to support moms and kids with some of the more common health issues that arise are:

Raspberry Leaf (Rubus ideaus)
Supports: pregnancy and labor

Raspberry leaf is by far the most common herb I am asked about when talking about herbs and pregnancy. This plant has a long history of use during pregnancy for supporting the uterus and improving birth outcomes. Several clinical studies have demonstrated that it does support labor with less intervention needed and more efficient second stages.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Supports: lactation

Fenugreek seed supports the production and secretion of breast milk in nursing mothers. A dose of 2 grams of powder taken three times a day has been found to be effective for increasing breast-pump volume within one week of supplementation. Most often I see a shift in milk production from the use of fenugreek seeds within 24 to 72 hours.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Supports: calmness

This herb has always been thought of as a child’s herb, used to calm a restless child, settle an upset stomach, or itchy skin. This gentle herb works to modulate a healthy inflammatory response throughout the body, provide a sense of calm to the nervous system, and support a healthy digestive process. Topically as a lotion it supports baby’s skin.

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia)
Supports: immune health

Echinacea has become very popular in recent years, and many women ask about its safety during pregnancy. One large observational study found that women taking Echinacea supplements during their pregnancy had no statistical differences between the groups in terms of pregnancy outcome, delivery method, maternal weight, birth weight, or fetal distress. Both the purpurea and angustifolia varieties have medicinal properties, combining them provides one of the strongest immune supporting formulas for kids and adults alike, particularly if taken at the onset of symptoms.

Ginger (Zingiber officianale)
Supports: digestion

This popular culinary spice is well known for its warming, calming effect in the digestive system. Many women deal with digestive upsets in early pregnancy and find the use of Ginger tea to be helpful. There have been several clinical trials with Ginger for the complaint of early pregnancy nausea and vomiting which have found it to be effective within 4 days of use at a dose of 250mg, four times a day.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Supports: concentration and focus

Lemon balm, a member of the mint family, is known for its role in supporting the nervous system, providing a sense of balance, and allowing for deeper focus and concentration. Several clinical studies have looked at the positive effects this plant has on mood, cognitive function, alertness, calmness, and sleep. I find this plant to be useful for babies and children, as well as for adults.

Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Supports: respiratory system, immune system, and antioxidant

The Elder shrub has two medicinal parts: the well-known berry and the delicate flower, which is a traditional children’s herb to support the respiratory system. The berry is best for its immune supportive properties and supports the body’s natural defenses. Research studies show Black Elderberry to have immune modulating and antioxidant properties due to the its high flavonoid-rich compounds. Plus the berries taste great and kids love the syrup from them.

Buying herbs from a reputable manufacturer like Gaia Herbs is essential to ensure purity of ingredients and sourcing. Gaia grows many of the herbs for their products at their own 250-acre certified organic herb farm in North Carolina and also sources herbs from other organic growers and validated partners worldwide. An on-site analytical laboratory ensures the integrity of all ingredients and processes. I personally formulated the GaiaKids® line of herbal products, which now offer proof of quality and sourcing through the world’s first herb traceability program. By entering the unique MeetYourHerbs ID number on the package on www.gaiaherbs.com you can learn all about the herbs in the product – from cultivation to processing to test results.

Remember to consult your doctor before taking herbal supplements in combination with medications to avoid possible contraindications. And may the power of plants be with you!

Tips from our Doctors

The more you learn about the healing powers of herbs, the more you can gain in terms of your personal health and well-being. This is why our advisory team of doctors and herbalists has developed these practical tips to help you on your journey.

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