Seven Natural Remedies For “The Baby Blues” (They’re Safe AND They Really Work!)
So, the Baby Blues — Postpartum Depression — It’s a real thing. It’s also a much bigger problem than society is willing to admit. According to Postpartum Progress, over 950,000 American women are suffering from PPD in a given year — and those are just reported cases. As all of us ladies know, a woman can take on one heck of a burden before she lets on how stressed and exhausted she is. So, really, the number of women dealing with PPD could be in the millions.
PPD is a big deal. And you know what? So are our moms. They’re the harmonious glue that keeps families together and the fertilizer that keeps kids and relationships healthy and strong. Mom’s happiness is imperative to this.
I’m a woman and mother who has had her share of ups and downs. I’ve put a lot of work into understanding how I can be my best and — most importantly — what I need to pull that off. Along my journey, I’ve discovered some amazing herbs which I’m 100 percent convinced were created precisely for women and mothers. Here are some of my favorite natural remedies for being a happier and healthier mom.
Oatstraw & Oat Tops
Women love oatmeal for weight-loss and quick breakfasts, but the real power of the oat plant lies in its straw and immature tops. The medicinal actions and mineral content makes this herb an excellent health remedy for a number of women’s health issues. As a nervine tonic, oatstraw and milky oat tops help to restore the nervous system and de-frazzle the nerve pathways of the body’s stress response. As a nutritive herb, oats are rich in vital minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and selenium. Milky oat tops are reputed to be more potent and faster-acting, but both the straw and the immature tops will benefit the nervous system and help to boost our mental/emotional state. Longtime herbalist Susun Weed suggests making oatstraw infusions for restoration and maintenance. For stronger or in-the-moment anxiety relief, she suggests using more potent calming remedies such as green oats tincture or motherwort tincture (note: “wort”is an Old English word for “plant,” thus motherwort translates to “mother’s plant” — could our ancestors have given us a more obvious hint?) Other nervine tonics worth researching include borage, brahmi, gotu kola, and St. John’s Wort.
Stress is a major player in women’s lives given our multitasking lifestyles, emotional nature, and nurturing ways. And nowthat females account for 50 percent of America’s workers, women are putting out more energy, effort, and care than ever. This is a HUGE problem when you don’t get that energy, effort, and care back. Priority one for any depressed mama is for her to find balance in life and to feel appreciated and cared for. Skullcap can help with this by offering emotional and mental balance. As a nervine, it revitalizes and restores the nervous system, thereby taming our stress response and cutting back on the occurrence of those knee-jerk emotional reactions we know and love. As an anxiolytic and relaxant, it eases anxiety while relaxing tension in the body. It’s so effective at this that it’s used to treat addiction. To add to the benefits, skullcap can calm and relax while providing upliftment, thus making skullcap effective for both depression and exhaustion. Maybe this all sounds too good to be true, but I’ve been using a skullcap tincture from Earthwise Organics for the last two months and I will swear by it up and down. I go straight for the “XL” 4 oz bottle because I want as much as possible on hand. Now, skullcap is a permanent part of my herbal parenthood survival kit. Even more than wine!
Another nervine and relaxant, lavender has a long history with our ancestors as a mood elevator, a cleanser, and an uplifting perfume. This has led to lavender being studied for it’s ability to treat physical symptoms of stress like elevated blood pressure, irritability, sleeping problems, headaches, and more. Recently, lavender has been studied for use with labor and postpartum depression. Our ancestors may not have had microscopes, but all of lavender’s ancient uses and rumored benefits are proving to be spot on. Lavender can be used as a tea, sachet, or tincture, but the quickest and most potent method lies in its essential oil. The olfactory system (our organ system for smelling) has a direct connection to the brain. Most interestingly, the olfactory system has a direct link to the limbic system, aka the emotional brain. This part of the brain deals with blood pressure, heart rate, memory, hormones, and our stress response, so a good sniff of sweet-smelling lavender has major therapeutic potential.
This culinary herb is great in stews and sauces, but it’s even better in a teapot or diffuser! It not only relaxes the nervous system, but it boosts circulation. In fact, it’s so effective at stimulating circulation that it can help jog that mommy brain and clear up brain fog. It’s also amazing for migraines and muscle tension and — for those mystically inclined — rosemary essential oil supports and opens the third eye and throat chakra. Mamas need to tap into their wisdom and use their voice now more than ever, so using rosemary on these chakra points is a wonderful way for any woman to set goals and give her life new purpose. I use rosemary as an essential oil, and I enjoy it applied to my temple points, third eye, and under my jaw. Other botanical relaxants include chamomile, lemon balm, linden, and hops. Two others especially worth running by your doc are motherwort (for postpartum pain relief, emotional support, and uterine health) and passionflower (for insomnia, PMS, menstrual cramps, anxiety, and even teething).
Adaptogens are amazing herbal healers which help us deal with stress, negative emotions, and fatigue by strengthening and balancing the various systems within our body. They’re also safe for regular and long-term use. Shatavari is an ayurvedic adaptogen which is especially for women. It’s said that the name translates to “having one hundred roots,” but shatavari’s amazing effects on the female body has given it the alternative translation of “having one hundred husbands.” Ayurvedic practitioners give shatavari to women to promote proper digestion, hormonal balance, energy, and reproductive health. As a mother, I know that fatigue is a major player in Postpartum Depression. Frazzled sleep-deprived nerves and whacky hormones are no light matter either. I’ve tried a few different adaptogens and they have all had outstanding effects. When my little one arrives in December, I’ll have a bottle of shatavari tincture ready to go.
This adaptogenic root vegetable is used to balance hormones for major estrogen issues like PCOS and menopause — so you know it can work some major hormonal magic postpartum. Studies suggest that maca restores adrenal glands and supports the function of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland — meaning that it can help keep mama from stressing out and save her mind from post-preggo brain fog. It’s also incredible for energy. The science behind these “rumored benefits” is still being investigated, but I can tell you that if I have the choice between a maca smoothie and a mocha, I’ll be lurching for the maca. Drinking it gives me this sense of balance, clarity, and full-body energy. So long as I have children in my home, this is one herb I never want to run out of. Life is so much better with it.
This may be the ultimate of Ayurvedic herbs. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen reputed to help mamas out by tackling fatigue, stress, and mental/emotional struggles — hello motherhood — by promoting energy and endurance, balanced hormones, and easing symptoms of insomnia. Ashwagandha root is a staple ingredient in my morning smoothies. I love this herb so much and crave it so insatiably, I’d take a spoon of ashwagandha over a bar of chocolate without a second of hesitation. Maybe I take my love for ashwagandha a little too far as I touch my jar like it’s a dear and cherished friend (I’m pretty sure my kids have walked in on me talking to it too). But as much as this mom loves alcohol, I’ve never once done that with wine. It’s also so safe, that ashwagandha is prescribed to mothers in India during pregnancy. Of course, everything is considered unsafe during pregnancy here in America, so you’ll want to run this herb by your health provider (just like all the others listed here).
And that sums up the remedies for today. However, now it’s time for a mama-to-mama PSA…
Your emotions are not something to suppress, and your needs are not something to ignore. Suicide is a health crisis in America, and today’s stretched-too-thin, online-shamed postpartum women are at major risk of becoming a statistic here. The Seleni Institute estimates that suicide is the second leading cause of death in postpartum women, and that just breaks my freaking heart. I have been there, and I know how quickly and how intensely those downward spirals go. I don’t want a single woman out there to get to that point. So please, when you’re carrying a heavy soul-sucking burden, give yourself a minute to set it down so that you can balance yourself and get your heart set right. Your happiness is the secret to the well-being of your family, so don’t be a dummy and put this off. Take care of yourself right now.
That concludes my motherhood PSA. With that said, I’ll leave you with a thought from “Wise Woman” herbalist Susun Weed.
“Look here,” Grandmother Growth motions to you as she spreads her story blanket at your feet. “See how depression is deeply woven with anger and grief. When our need for reliable, joyous intimacy is frustrated, and expression of our frustration would endanger us, depression comes and protects us. When there is no way to deal effectively with situations that enrage us, depression comes and helps us quiet our violent impulses.
“Depression is not an easy companion on your journey, but she knows much about life. In her bundle, she carries the anger you have carefully frozen with frigid blasts of fear and kept nourished with your pain. She carries your wholeness. She carries your ability to go beyond the pain, your ability to allow your rage to move you into health. She carries your wholeness. Will you let her teach you?”
Tools And Resources To Learn More:
- Herb Education via The Herbal Academy: I’m constantly referring to HA’s blog for my research and writing. Their team of herbalists produce some amazing posts that offer us both a scientific and a traditional look at herbs. If you’re serious about getting to know herbs and how to use them, then check out their Introductory Herbal Course. I just started it myself and I can’t recommend it enough.
- Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Herbal For The Childbearing Year: Susun Weed began studying herbs in 1965, and she has become a leading herbal educator in women’s health. Susun is also a Peace Elder of the Wolf Clan and the Sisterhood of the Shields. Rather than focusing on science and studies, Susun looks at life and healing from a holistic, spiritual, and wise ancestral view. If you ask me, that’s the ultimate treatment for the modern mother.
- Rosalee de la Foret’s Alchemy Of Herbs: Herbalist and educator Rosalee de la Forêt has packed this book with all sorts of information. You can expect to learn as much about herbs and DIY remedies as the many facets of healing and the various aspects of the body.
- Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Healing For Women: Rosemary Gladstar is a long-time teacher and herbalist. She has written many books on herbs that can be added to your Amazon wish list, but this books is especially important because it focuses on women-specific issues through every phase of a woman’s life.
- Aviva Romm’s Natural Health After Birth: Author Aviva Romm is a midwife, herbalist, and a Yale-trained doctor. She knows her stuff both as a medical professional and as a real-life woman. Be sure to check out Aviva’s blog for her great posts.