This is one I hear all the time- “I’m stressed… help!! But I’m nursing… what’s safe to take?”
Use of natural medicines can be tricky while breastfeeding and I’m always conservative in their use (even if some people disagree with me!). Better safe than sorry is my motto. In a field where clinical studies are not always available and everyone has a different opinion, we must sometimes rely on traditional wisdom and common sense.
The following is a compilation of some of my favorite go-to’s for calming the hearts & minds of the busy nursing mother, in the safest way that nature intended. I tend to prefer tinctures and teas, as you will begin feeling the effects rather quickly. Each brand may vary in potency, so take as directed on the package. ALWAYS use the whole herbs- they supply nature’s perfect balance of dozens of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that make the herb safe and effective…. essentially acting as a “checks & balance” system for the plant. Side effects can begin to occur when you isolate compounds of the plant. Do keep in mind if what you’re experiencing is above and beyond normal daily stress (such as severe anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders) or you have other medical conditions to consider, I recommend making an appointment for more in depth, customized nutritional & herbal counseling.
That being said… I hope you enjoy a nice warm cup of calming goodness today!
- Oat Straw: This one can be used as a quick and easy tincture, but also makes a lovely sweet-tasting tea. It calms anxiety, tension and stress, yet promotes energy and stamina. Good for exhaustion, and can increase libido. May also increase supply!
- Blue Vervain: One of my favorites. Not only does it help manage stress, tension headaches, migraine, insomnia, & depression, it also promotes lactation. One client who was taking it daily nearly doubled the amount she was able to pump. Win win! Not very tasty as a tea, I prefer the tincture form.
- Motherwort: Eases hormone-related mood fluctuations and PMS, muscle spasms, reduces blood pressure, and calms anxiety. Note- may cause photosensitivity. Not a fantastic tea- try the tincture.
- Hops: Another production-helper! Small quantities of hops have been found to help with let-down. Can help with restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, and is mildly sedating. If you feel comfortable with it, you could drink 1/4 to 1/2 of a beer to get the benefits of the hops. Teas have a slight bitterness.
- Valerian: A sedative that is good for insomnia, stress, anxiety, elevated blood pressure, & muscle spasms. This is my favorite for “racing mind” syndrome when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep. Some people get headaches with prolonged use, just use occasionally as needed. It tastes like dirty feet if you ask me… go the tincture route. (pictured)
- Chaga: Studies have found this medicinal mushroom to help depression and mood balance. I’d recommend a tea form, used by boiling the dried chunks. With a bit of honey or maple syrup it has an enjoyable (non-mushroomy) flavor.
- Passionflower: Its gentle sedating effect calms unease, anxiety, and hyperactivity. This can be used as a tea or tincture.
- Chamomile: This delicious tea makes a great nerve tonic. Used for fretfulness, anxiety, and insomnia, and is a favorite of children. Avoid if you are allergic to ragweed.
- Linden flower: I prefer to drink this one- with a floral, delicate flavor when made into a tea, it’s a nervine that helps with mild stress, anxiety, and tension.
The “Maybe Milk Reducers”
The following herbs can be great for stress, but some mothers have reported a decrease in supply. If you try them, just be mindful and discontinue if you see an undesired decrease in milk production.
- Lavender (whole herb): Some sources say this is a galactagogue, some say it may decrease supply. As a member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family, I’d say just keep an eye on any changes. It helps to improve mood and calm stressful feelings. It’s best to use a small bunch of the dried or fresh plant in a tea.
- Lemon Balm : Called the “gladdening herb,” it is good for nervous agitation, stress, anxiety, hormone-related mood fluctuations, and insomnia. It’s mildly sedating and calms muscles. Another one of those controversial ones- some say it increases supply, some say it decreases… just be mindful. It can be used as a yummy citrusy tea or tincture.
- Catnip: An antispasmodic and nerve tonic to relieve stress and anxiety. Tea or tincture, and it grows wild in many areas.
Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH
Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutrition/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide
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Can you offer any suggestion for dosage & brand on the oat straw? Are the capsules as effective as making tea?
Capsules, teas, and tinctures all work well, just a matter of convenience, preference, and how quickly you need it to kick in. Each brand will have their own dosing recommendations based upon strength, so you’ll want to go by what the label suggests. For loose herb for tea I like Frontier organics.
I do make my own oat straw tincture if you’re interested in that delivery form: https://squareup.com/market/aayus-holistic-health-services/herbal-tinctures
My physical store is in Neenah, Wi, but all the products are available in my online store too.