Herbs for Healthy Breast Milk Production

Breastfeeding is the natural way to nurture a new baby, but sometimes the Milk of Momness needs Mother Nature’s help to flow freely. Galactagogues (‘galact' or 'galacto' is the Greek prefix that means milk, and the suffix 'agogos' means flow) are nature’s herbal gifts to lactating women, and have been used for centuries to help increase milk supply. Herbal galatagogues can help stingy milk flow from healthy mama to healthy baby.

Anise Seed (Pimpinella Anisum) is a culinary spice and a digestive herb that helps dispel gas and relieve indigestion and nausea as well as increase milk flow. According to the German Commission E, it is used in combination with Fennel seed and Caraway seed for dyspeptic conditions and gastrointestinal discomfort.

Blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus) is a bitter tasting herb that is often used in galactagogue teas and tinctures. The bitters stimulate the secretion of saliva and gastric juices. There is also much historical evidence that it helps increase breast milk. Blessed Thistle should not be consumed during pregnancy.

Chaste Tree (Vitex) has historically been used to treat everything from hangovers to flatulence and fevers to increasing breastmilk production. It has also been studied for reducing the symptoms of PMS and menopause.

Goat's rue (Galega officinalis) has been recommended by the German commission E for its use as a galactagogue. Its galactagogue properties were first noted to effectively increased milk in goats. It is used by nursing mothers and by farmers to increase milk production in their livestock. It grows so aggressively that it is now classified as a noxious weed. Goat’s rue should not be confused with Rue (Ruta graveolens), which is used in primitive cultures as a powerful uterine stimulant and abortifacient.

Fennel Seed (Foeniculum vulgare) is shown to increase milk production in goats and has long been used as a galactagogue by breastfeeding women. This licorice-tasting herb is also used as a digestive aid that can help to soothe a colicky breastfed baby and ease postpartum discomfort. It is contraindicated (do not use) during pregnancy.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is one of the herbs most often used to help increase breast milk supply. Its sweet/spicy flavor is popularly used in a variety of culinary dishes, including Indian curry. It is used to help soothe digestion and is well documented to effectively decrease cholesterol and blood sugar as well as increasing breast milk supply. It is generally recognized as safe, although because of its ability to stimulate the uterus, it is not for use during pregnancy. Large amounts of fenugreek can cause maple syrup like odor in the sweat, milk and urine and it should be avoided by people with asthma or an allergy to chickpeas.

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) is a liver protecting seed that has demonstrated has liver protecting qualities and has even been used to successfully treat mushroom poisoning. This marvelous little seed has recently been shown to interfere with the promotion and progression of prostate, breast and endocervical tumor cells. A very recent study documented that women using milk thistle had significant increase in breast milk over the population using a placebo.

Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a deliciously nutritive vegetable that contains easily digestible iron, calcium, vitamin K, and folic acid, and is a wonderful pregnancy tonic. Traditional wisdom supports its safe use during lactation to increase breast milk as well as for providing nutritive support for the nursing mother.

Red Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) is also a richly nutritive uterine tonic herb, high in minerals that helps support and strengthen postpartum and breastfeeding women.

If you can’t find reputable organic herbs, or don’t know your tincture from your tisane, a blended galactagogue tea like Organic Milkmaid Tea is probably your best bet. Sipping a soothing cup of tea is a great way to relax and take care of yourself, and encourage your incredible body to do what it naturally knows how to do.

Everyone wants the best for their baby, from breast milk’s disease fighting antibodies to its reputation for lowering risk of ear infection, asthma and childhood obesity, and nothing matches the bonding and precious together time that breastfeeding provides. With herbal help from Mother Nature, low breast milk is no reason to quit.

Bibliography
  1. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines, Ed. Mark Blumenthal, et. al.,The American Botanical Council, Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998.
  2. European Scientific Cooperative On Phytotherapy Monographs, The Scientific Foundation for Herbal Medicinal Products, Argyle House, 2nd ed. 2003
  3. The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs, Mark Blumenthal, 1st ed. 2003, The American Botanical Council
  4. Botanical Safety Handbook, Ed. Michael McGuffin, et. al. American Herbal Products Association, CRC Press, 1997
  5. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions, Third Edition, Francis Brinker, N.D., Eclectic Medical Publications, 2001
  6. Di Pierro F, Callegari A, Carotenuto D, Tapia MM. Clinical efficacy, safety and tolerability of BIO-C (micronized silymarin) as a galactagogue. Acta Biomed. Dec 2008;79(3): 205-210.
  7. The Nursing Mother’s Herbal, Sheila Humphrey, BSc, RN, IBCLC, 1st ed, Nov 2003 Fairview Press
  8. Medical Herbalism, The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine, David Hoffmann, FNIMH, AHG, Copyright 2003 Healing Arts Press
  9. Clinical Applications of Herbal Medicine, Paul D. Barney, M.D., 1996, Woodland Publishing
  10. The Essential Guide To Herbal Safety, Simon Mills and Kerry Bone, Copyright 2005, Elsevier Churchill Livingstone, Inc.
  11. The Way of Chinese Herbs, Michael Tierra, L.Ac., O.M.D., Copyright 1998, Simon & Schuster, Inc.
  12. A Natural Guide to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health, Dean Raffelock, D.C., Dipl.Ac., CCN, Robert Roundtree, M.D., et. Al., Copyright 2002, Penguin Putnam, Inc.

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