During the last stretch of my first pregnancy, I drank tons of red raspberry leaf tea, mixed with alfalfa and rose hips for good measure. I had heard about the benefits and firmly believed, that if I just drink enough of it, I will have the smooth, gentle birth I hoped for.
Well, I will never find out, if the tea had anything to do with it, but I did have a very gentle, basically tear-free, unmedicated vaginal birth in the comfort of my own home. I do think herbs are powerful. In history, they have proved themselves as wonderful healing agents time and time again. Even, if the tea made no physical difference for me - it certainly had a placebo effect then. Just making the tea every night, drinking it throughout the day, sending out positive thoughts about my birth out to the universe, surely was a nice ritual in these last few weeks. If nothing else, it was a peaceful ritual and a good practice in mindfulness.
In the meantime, I had the privilege to learn more about the healing power of herbs. Last summer, I went on a very educating herb walk. It made me realize that most of us completely lost this deep connection with nature and how collecting, drying and using common herbs can be so beneficial. I bought this book by Maria Treben (highly recommend) and used it as a guide several times throughout the year.
I wish, I would have collected all these herbs you see in the photographs above myself, but I didn't make nearly enough time to go out there and search and collect. Sad, really. Instead, I bought these from a reputable local source and bought them all in organic quality. If you would like to order herbs for yourself I can recommend this place, as well as this.
I wish I could give you a detailed recipe of how I mix my pregnancy brew. However, I'm very spontaneous about it every day. A good rule of thumb would be one oz of each ingredient, maybe a bit less of the Alfalfa (due to its strong grassy flavor). I try different combinations, flavors and amounts and get quite experimental. More importantly though, I will let my tea infuse over night - instead of just steeping it for a few minutes. To get the full benefits, I recommended brewing it full and strong and nutrient-dense. I will drink my tea sweetened with raw honey, rice syrup or agave. These last few days, I have been adding fresh lemon juice and bit of sugar (just the way my grandmother Margarete drank her earl grey) and it is so tasty. For a creamier version, I suggest adding a bit of honey and warm coconut milk.
I called this post "mama tea" and not pregnancy tea, because certain herbs I'm going to list, I drink during breastfeeding to boost my supply and to soothe baby's tummy. Really I should call it "women teas" though, because most of these herbs have healing properties throughout our cycles. "Mama tea" just sounded really nice to me.
So these are the herbs I'm currently using for my tea:
Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus Idaeus). The mother of all pregnancy herbs I believe. Raspberry leaves are rich in fructose, pectic, malic acid, silicon, carotene, magnesium, manganese, selenium, favanoids, vitamins C and B2 and can also help a lot with vitamin D absorption. It is known amongst herbalists as a uterine tonic and supposedly prepares the body for birth. During labor, it is believed to help bring on contractions more effectively, making birth easier and faster. This study from Australia, supports this believe and also claims, that women consuming red raspberry leaf during pregnancy were less inclined to have c-sections, forceps- or vacuum extractions.
Nettle Leaf (Urtica Dioica). Stinging nettles are easy to be found, harvested and dried, or even used fresh in recipes ranging from egg dishes to soups. Nettle is rich in micronutrients like carotene, vitamin C, manganese, iron, calcium and zinc. It really is great for your entire system, wether you are expecting or not. However, particularly during pregnancy it can help with leg cramps, headaches and edema. Nettle is also rich in vitamin K. Low levels of vitamin K are linked with bleeding and hemorrhage. It is therefore believed that nettle prevents tearing of the vaginal tissue. Also, breastfeeding mamas, nettle is known to promote milk supply.
Alfalfa (Medicago Sativa). To be honest, it tastes a lot like hay. So when I read, it is referred to as "holy hay" in some cultures I wasn't surprised. A friend of mine lovingly calls it my "horse tea". Like nettle, Alfalfa is a general restorative herb packed with calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, as well as vitamins B, C and K. Latter making it a great herb to help prevent bleeding and hemorrhage. I've also heard once, that it works as a good sleep aid. Who wouldn't want that during pregnancy?
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). Lemon balm is used to help with nervousness, the digestive system, as well as headaches. My love for lemon balm lies in its fresh, slightly lemon-like flavor that nicely balances out the heavy, strong greens mentioned above.
Rose Hip (Rosa Pomifera). Like lemon balm, rose hips adds a nice flavor to my tea. I'd describe it as a light tartness. Rosehips are very rich in vitamin C, making it a great add-on to absorb the iron from the nettles and alfalfa.
Rose Buds (Rosa). Wikipedia mentions the vitamin C benefit, once again. Honestly though, I add it for flavor, color and simply because seeing and touching the rose buds brings me tremendous happiness.
Caraway (Cuminum). Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgaris). Anis (Pimpinella Anisum). This combination is the perfect tea for your breastfeeding journey. 2-3 cups a day are said to enhance your milk supply, while simultaneously hydrating you and (for some mamas the best part I'm sure) relieving gas and belly cramps of the baby. In Germany you can commonly get "Stilltee" ("Breastfeeding tea bags") at the supermarket, that contain these three herbs. However, bought in bulk is much more affordable and sustainable.
Lastly, I want to stress that you should consume herbs with care. Do your own research. There are wonderful books on the market. You could also talk to a Certified Herbalist. Herbs are powerful medicine, but they can come with disadvantages. While some believe pregnancy teas (especially red raspberry leaf) is safe during your entire pregnancy, I can not vouch for that. I usually start drinking a few cups a day in my third trimester and particularly after 36 weeks gestation or so.
(Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor or other health professional so please consult the appropriate professional before making any changes to your diet, health, or other applicable areas)