[This post submitted to Sortacrunchy's Your Green Resource 1/3/13.]
I came home with three suspicious-looking sacks the other night. I would have been very nervous had I been pulled over. I even had my daughter in the car with me . . . the shame!!
What was in my sacks, you ask?
Herbs! Alfalfa, nettles, and red raspberry leaf.
I had to gather my supplies to make my very own pregnancy tea!
My midwives gave a packet of literature on nutrition and health during pregnancy at the beginning of our time together. On one sheet was a recipe for pregnancy tea. They suggested equal parts nettle and red raspberry leaf, with optional flavorings like rose hips or hibiscus.
Nettle (sometimes called stinging nettle) is an herb that contains many vitamins and minerals, and also acts as a very gentle, natural diuretic, helping move some of that ubiquitous water off the pregnant woman's body. This was attractive to me, as I got very Michelin marshallow man-esque by the end of my pregnancy with Vicki. I mean I was retaining a ton of water. This is not all bad, as a woman's body is meant to retain some, as a kind of "natural IV" for labor. But too much can be really uncomfortable and can indicate kidney function issues.
Red raspberry leaf is an herb commonly used for female body functions. It helps with menstrual cramps, cycle regularity, and contains an alkaloid that helps to tone the uterus and prepare it for effective labor. Since I have absolutely no history of any kind of preterm labor (I never even felt a single contraction - not even any Braxton-Hicks - until my water broke with Vicki!), this is a safe herb for me. If you are prone to contractions before the time is right, you might stay away, as it can bring them on.
Alfalfa is one I decided to add for my own reasons. It is also very nutritious, with lots of minerals and vitamins. A special added benefit is for mothers who are trying to increase their breastmilk production, or prepare the body for lactation. Vicki and I struggled in the beginning of our nursing relationship, and I wanted to do what I could to help ease those possible problems for the new baby.
I just kind of concocted my own recipe for this tea. I take 1/4 C (packed down) of each herb and add it to a quart-size mason jar. Then I fill with boiling water. This makes a double concentrated batch of tea. I let it steep overnight, then strain into another jar and top off with water. All day long, I drink it half-strength over ice, with lemon added for flavor. I find the flavor pleasantly grassy. So, in total, this makes 2 quarts of tea. Which is just about the amount of liquid I need to consume in a day - so all the better!
I did not take any herbs at all during my pregnancy with Vicki, and in fact my first midwife warned me off of red raspberry leaf, saying there was no evidence that it worked. That may be so, but it's not doing me any harm, and it barely costs anything. These herbs were each about $1.00/oz at our local health food store, and a huge bag of each hardly came to five or six ounces.
I suppose only time will tell, but at the very least, it's encouraging me to drink the right amount of non-caffeinated liquids, which can never be bad. And I have noticed that downing a few glasses after eating a restaurant meal high in processed foods and salt has taken down the swelling I get in my fingers.
And my husband gets to make all kinds of cracks about how I'm going to start supplementing our family's income with my herbs . . . sigh.