Many tonic herbs, which are believed to strengthen or invigorate organ systems or the entire body, can be taken safely every day during pregnancy. Examples include dandelion leaf and root, red raspberry leaf, and nettle. Dandelion leaf and root are rich sources of vitamins and minerals, including beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, and iron. Dandelion leaf is mildly diuretic (promotes urine flow); it also stimulates bile flow and helps with the common digestive complaints of pregnancy. Dandelion root is traditionally used to strengthen and invigorate the liver.
Red raspberry leaf is the most frequently mentioned, traditional herbal tonic for general support of pregnancy and breast-feeding. Rich in vitamins and minerals (especially iron), it is traditionally used to strengthen and invigorate the uterus, increase milk flow, and restore the mother’s system after childbirth.
Nettle leaf is rich in the minerals calcium and iron, is mildly diuretic, and is diuretic. Nettle leaf is rich in the minerals calcium and iron, is and mildly diuretic. Nettle enriches and increases the flow of breast milk and restores the mother’s energy following childbirth.
In one study, the addition of lavender oil to a bath was more effective than a placebo in relieving perineal pain after childbirth (the perineum is the area between the vulva and the anus.) The improvement was not statistically significant, however, so more research is needed to determine whether lavender oil is truly effective.
Numerous herbs, known as galactagogues, are used in traditional herbal medicine systems around the world to promote production of breast milk. These are known as galactagogues. Vitex is one of the best recognized herbs in Europe for promoting lactation. An older German clinical trial found that 15 drops of a vitex tincture three times per day could increase the amount of milk produced by mothers with or without pregnancy complications, as compared with mothers given vitamin B1 or nothing. However, vitex should not be taken during pregnancy.
Goat’s rue (Galega officinalis) has a history of use in Europe for supporting breast-feeding. Taking 1 teaspoon of goat’s rue tincture per day is considered by some European practitioners to be helpful in increasing milk volume. Studies to support the use of goat’s rue as a galactagogue are lacking.
Sage has traditionally been used to dry up milk production when a woman no longer wishes to breast-feed. It should not be taken during pregnancy.
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD