One of the most frequently asked questions I heard from my patients during my decades of practice was: “Which herbs are safe during pregnancy and lactation?” In fact, many herbs can be taken safely during lactation. In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, we’re sharing some of our favorite herbs that are appropriate to use while breastfeeding to support moms and kids.
Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Supports: respiratory system, immune system and antioxidant source*
The Elder shrub has two parts traditionally used to make herbal medicines: the well-known berry and the delicate flower, which is a traditional children’s herb to support the respiratory system. The berry is best known for its immune-supportive properties and support for the body’s natural defenses.* Research studies show Black Elderberry to have immune-modulating and antioxidant properties due to its high flavonoid-rich compounds.* Plus the berries taste great and kids love the syrup from them.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
This herb has always been thought of as a child’s herb, used to calm a restless child, settle an occasional upset stomach or soothe the 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.* Used 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 and lactation. 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. The Echinacea purpurea and angustifolia varieties each contain active constituents, and they are often used in combination to support the immune system at the onset of symptoms.*
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Fenugreek seed supports the production and secretion of breast milk in nursing mothers.* A serving 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, according to research.*
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 support this plant provides for mood, cognitive function, alertness, calmness and sleep.*
Especially during pregnancy and lactation, it is important to consult your health-care professional before taking herbal supplements. And may the power of plants be with you!