3 Herbal Allies for Postpartum Mothers
New motherhood is physically and emotionally demanding. The mothering life is always moving forward, and there are always new challenges to face. Being empowered with the know-how of using herbal medicines can help us navigate the constant change in our lives and help our bodies be flexible and resilient.
Herbs can offer us sustained energy without the depleting effects of caffeine. They can also help soothe stress responses that usually tend to drive us to excess eating, sugar, overspending, or any other type of self-soothing or stimulating activity with their calming or relaxing functions.
Herbs can help us be resilient to colds when we need to stay strong for our kids and all-out life’s needs. Here are three herbs for the postpartum mama to help you face your life challenges with more ease and stamina.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort (hypericum) is particularly helpful when I feel down in the dumps and it seems unrelated to anything particular. Sometimes I just take it for two or three days until I feel better, especially after a stressful event which depletes my serotonin levels. I also take some daily when I’m premenstrual to keep my mood somewhat normal, usually 300 mg twice per day until my period.
I use adaptogenic herbs like ginseng, licorice, Rhodiola, holy basil, or ashwagandha when I’ve had days of poor sleep or intensive time with work and my energy is really dragging and I’m feeling the edges of exhaustion setting in. I also use adaptogens in preparation for when I have big demands on me that last over an extended period of time and I don’t have a lot of time for relaxing, like a project for work, a performance I’m getting ready for, or dealing with a medical issue with my mother.
Adaptogens help by assisting our body to deal with stress and calm the adrenals from overproducing cortisol. They are invaluable to help with recovery from any experience that creates the feeling of being burned out. They also help you to handle your life when it is highly demanding, such as when you have a new job or lost your job, you have kids with health problems, or you have a lot of anxiety or stress in your relationship. There are many formulas on the market that have adaptogenic herbs. They usually work best by taking them for several weeks to a few months at a time.
When sickness is migrating through our house I totally rely on raw garlic. Yes, raw! One clove, chopped up with honey and lemon swallowed whole (if you chew it then you get the stinky breath) once or twice per day also during changes of seasons and the weather keeps alternating. This is often a time when everyone gets sick and I really can’t afford to. I also take it a day or two during my period when I am also more vulnerable to getting sick.
The best strategy is to get your own herbal allies is to pick one area at a time that you need help with. For example, if you don’t sleep well, maybe you’re a light sleeper, or you have insomnia frequently, then finding the right herbal formula that works best for you would be something to put time into figuring out. It can take several attempts before you find one that works for your individual constitution. One formula or single herb may make you feel groggy, and another might not be strong enough. Plan to try out several. Once you found the one or a combination of many, keep it in stock, even when you are sleeping fine. That way, when something throws your sleep off like a sick kid, you won’t get too knocked off course from these interruptions.
Mari is a licensed practitioner of Chinese medicine, a singer/songwriter and the creator of Mamashine. She is also a survivor of postpartum depression. Mari lives with her energetic son, her husband and various animals in Austin, TX.