Herbal Remedies for Postpartum Depression

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Chamomile is perfect for easing postpartum depression.
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Demetria Clark is an internationally acclaimed herbalist and aromatherapist. Demetria offers expert advice on how to select, use, and store essential oils.

Aromatherapy and Herbal Remedies for Pregnancy, Birth, and Breastfeeding(Healthy Living Publications, 2015) by Demetria Clark explains how essential oils and herbal remedies can provide natural, alternative solutions to myriad health care needs that arise during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Demetria carefully outlines which essential oils and herbs are safe to use (and which aren’t) for each stage of pregnancy, birth to breastfeeding, and recuperating after labor.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is associated with the rapid change of hormones in the mother’s body after she gives birth, and it can also occur following miscarriage and stillbirth. Many women experience postpartum depression, but the good news is that the condition can be treated and managed. Make sure you talk to your care provider if you suspect depression is a problem for you. If you have thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, find help immediately.

Because hormonal fluctuations after birth cause postpartum depression, behaviors and herbal remedies that rebalance hormones can help prevent or resolve it. My first suggestion for preventing postpartum depression is breastfeeding, which helps moderate hormonal swings and increases the body’s endorphin and oxytocin levels. My other top suggestions are to get plenty of rest, eat right, and seek support from loved ones In addition, I suggest using the following herbs to rebalance your hormones:

• Chamomile
• Ginseng
• Hops
• Lemon balm leaves
• Motherwort
• Oats
• Skullcap
• St. John’s wort

Symptoms of postpartum depression include unhappiness, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, and excessive anxiety about the baby’s health. Specific herbs can be used to treat these particular aspects of postpartum depression:

Low mood, unhappiness. Use borage, rosemary, and St. John’s wort extracts.

Loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities. Take relaxing baths and enjoy massages with oils that contain invigorating essential oils, such as grapefruit, peppermint, rosemary, and tangerine. To make a massage oil, add a few drops of essential oil to 1 tablespoon of carrier oil.

Feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Drink herbal teas made with hibiscus, lemon balm, rooibos, and rose hips, alone or in combination.

Excessive anxiety over baby’s health. Use lemon balm or motherwort tincture to help relieve anxiety.

Tea Blend for Depression and Fatigue

Yield: 2-1/2 cups dried tea

• 1 cup dried chamomile flowers
• 1 cup valerian root
• 1/2 hops

Follow the method for making tea as infusions. Let steep for 10 to 15 minutes.

Postpartum Tea

Yield: 2 cups prepared tea

• 2 cups water
• 1/2 teaspoon licorice root
• 1 teaspoon dried raspberry leaves
• 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
• 1 teaspoon dried skullcap leaves
• 1 teaspoon dried spearmint leaves

Put the water and licorice in a small saucepan over medium heat until the water begins to simmer gently; if necessary, decrease the heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer. Let, simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the raspberry, rosemary, skullcap, and spearmint. Let steep, covered, for 10 minutes.

Dosage instructions: Drink 1 to 2 cups per day. More than that is not recommended.

Postpartum Massage Oil

Yield 1/4 cup

• 1/4 cup carrier oil
• 10 drops grapefruit essential oil
• 0 drops neroli essential oil
• 5 drops geranium oil

Application instructions: Shake well before using. Use as needed.

Other Postpartum Remedies

Many of the discomforts that occur during pregnancy have a similar variation during the postpartum period. These include anemia; backache; contractions, or afterpains as they’re called following birth; and incontinence. Other conditions are unique to this period and include prolapse and tissue injuries that follow birth and episiotomy. Remedies for all these conditions follow, but remember that they’re designed specifically for use after the baby is born. Do not use postpartum remedies during pregnancy or labor because they may contain essential oils or herbs that are not safe to use during these times.

Aromatherapy and Herbal Remedies for Pregnancy, Birth, and Breastfeeding© Demetria Clark. Cover courtesy Healthy Living Publications

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