Women’s bodies have an incredible ability to make babies and breast milk. As a Lactation Educator and Counselor, I am often asked about ways to help increase breast milk supply. Herbs, like other plants we eat, nourish a mama’s body as it makes nourishment for her baby. Herbal galactagogues (Greek for ‘milk flow’) are nature’s gifts to lactating women, and have been used for centuries to help increase milk supply.
Anise seed. A culinary spice and a digestive herb that helps dispel gas and relieve indigestion and nausea as well as increase milk flow.
Blessed Thistle. A bitter tasting tonic 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 is a uterine stimulant and should not be consumed during pregnancy.
Chaste Tree. Historically used to treat everything from hangovers to flatulence and fevers to low breast milk production. It has also been studied for reducing the symptoms of PMS and menopause.
Goat’s Rue. Recommended by the German commission E for its use as a galactagogue. Its galactagogue properties were first noted to effectively increase milk in goats. It is used by nursing mothers, as well as 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, which is used in primitive cultures as a powerful uterine stimulant and abortifacient.
Fennel seed. 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 during pregnancy.
Fenugreek seed. 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.
Milk Thistle. 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 leaf. A deliciously nutritive leafy green vegetable that contains easily digestible iron, calcium, vitamin K, and folic acid, and is a wonderful pregnancy tonic. Since breastfeeding can cause a woman to lose approximately half the iron that she does during a regular menstrual cycle, iron-rich foods are important. Traditional wisdom supports Nettle’s safe use during lactation to increase breast milk as well as for providing nutritive support for the nursing mother.
Oats. Often used for their emollient properties to help soothe dry, itching skin. They are also a very nutritive herb, high in calcium, protein, and fiber. Oats has been used for a wide variety of conditions, including reducing cholesterol and reducing anxiety or restlessness. Oats are considered good support for general weakness and are often helpful in restoring vigor and strength during convalescence, making oats and oatmeal a good supportive herb to nourish lactating women.
Red Raspberry leaf. Though not a traditional galactagogue, it is a richly nutritive uterine tonic herb, high in minerals that are helpful for good milk production and useful to strengthen postpartum and breastfeeding women.
The information about the use of herbs is not meant to be a substitute for seeking the advice of a qualified health care provider. Always consult your health care provider about the use of herbs, especially during pregnancy, when nursing a baby or with children. Source: Earth Mama Angel Baby.