Here at the Center for Sacred Window Studies, we share voices from many perspectives and backgrounds. We believe that the sacred weeks post birth, and the experience of humanity is experienced in countless ways. We learn by listening to one another and honoring our stories. The views and opinions of our writers do not necessarily reflect the mission, viewpoints or opinions of the Center for Sacred Window Studies.
The time after birth is truly a sacred window but that doesn’t mean it is always pure bliss. The sacred encompasses everything, the highs and the lows, the sunny days and the cloudy storms.
There are days when you wonder why no one told you it would be this hard and you feel like you could just explode. In a time, especially right after birth, when our Vata dosha is dominant causing our minds to be swept away in swirling chaos, it is easy to feel like snapping at any moment.
Thankfully life offers many resources to deal with those tough times. There is the beauty of nature, the power of breath awareness, a warm bath, help from a loved
one, a delicious meal, and of course the dear little life we are now caring for outside of the womb. While all of these blessings can help ease a worried and stressed mind, sometimes a little extra help from our plant allies is just what we need.
We are going to focus our attention on some herbal allies known as nervines.
Nervines are herbs that act upon the nervous system and gently reduce anxiety and tension, relieve irritability and lower the effects of stress on the body. That being said, everyone can use a little nervine help! Feel free to use the below information for yourself, and do share with family and friends! These herbs are considered safe during the last trimester, after birth and while breastfeeding.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officials), a member of the mint family, is a gentle nervine that is very effective. Known as the “flower of the bees” for its ability to attract honey bees into the garden, Melissa will leave you feeling happy like a bee in a beautiful flower. Lemon Balm acts on the limbic system in the brain which is concerned with mood and temperament; bringing relief from nervousness, depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Along with helping our mood, Lemon Balm supports the female reproductive system through all stages of life, including menstruation, childbirth and menopause. Lemon Balm tea is safe for young children to drink and a bath infused with Lemon Balm will help calm babies.
The energetics of Lemon Balm are cooling and sour which means it will calm heat and inflammation. If your mood feels hot, try some Lemon Balm tea to help you relax.
There are various ways to enjoy Lemon Balm. To make a tea, or simple infusion, pour 1 cup of almost boiling water over 1-2 Tbsp of dried herb. Covering your cup, let the tea steep for 8-10 minutes. To make a nourishing herbal infusion put 1/2-1 cup of dried herb in a quart size jar, fill the jar to the top with almost boiling water and cap with a tightly secured lid. Allow this to steep for 6-8 hours. A very easy way to do this is by starting your infusion before bed and letting it sit for the night. Come the next morning it will be ready to strain and drink. Nourishing infusions are one of the best ways to imbibe certain herbs because they are extremely medicinal and you get all the minerals and vitamins from the plant. Lemon Balm may also be taken in tincture form and a general dose is 1/4- 1/2 tsp, up to three times a day.
Oats (Avena sativa) are harvested during the phase known as the “milky oats” phase which is when the oat tops ooze white milk when squeezed. The tops are separated and called the milky oat tops. The remaining stalk is what we call oat straw. Both the milky tops and the straw are wonderful nervines, especially for mamas postpartum as they really help to calm the Vata dosha.
Avena sativa is one of the best herbs for revitalizing the nervous system. When I think of golden-green goodness, I think of Oats!
Avena is an herbal ally that not only feeds and nourishes the nervous system but even repairs damage to the myelin sheath which covers our nerve fibers. Oats are also a superior cardiac tonic and support the heart on both the physical and emotional level. This is a top herb for those experiencing depression!
Although considered a calming herb, oats improve our overall energy by nourishing the body and providing us with key vitamins and minerals such as silica, magnesium, phosphorus, chromium, iron, calcium, alkaloids, protein, vitamin B complex, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Another great herb to put in bath water, oats help calm the skin from dry, itchy, scaly skin eruptions which may happen to either mom or baby causing more stress. What a great herb to have in the medicine chest!
Oat straw and Oat tops can be prepared together or individually as either a simple infusion or a nourishing infusion. Nourishing infusions are the preferred way with oatstraw as there are so many vitamins and minerals that can be extracted with this method. Oat tops during their milky phase are preserved fresh in tincture form to get the most medicinal value from them. A general dose of milky oat tincture is 1/4-1/2 tsp, up to three times a day.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) is a superb herb for mothers and for the heart.
Many say the healing power of Motherwort feels like a mother’s loving embrace. Motherwort calms our hearts emotionally as well as making our hearts stronger physically.
Her Latin name stands for “lion hearted,” which I do believe is a characteristic that seems to go along with
being a mother. When stress has you feeling sad, uncertain of yourself and like giving up, turn to your mother for support. She won’t let you down! Besides acting on the nervous system, Motherwort will also help bring balance to hormones and tone the uterus after childbirth.
Motherwort is a bitter tasting herb so many women find taking this ally in tincture form more to their liking. I suggest starting with 5-10 drops of tincture in tea or water, take some deep breaths and check back in with yourself in fifteen minutes. If needed, try a few more drops. You may continue this routine throughout the day, every couple of hours as needed. Motherwort is a good tincture to always keep stashed in your purse or diaper bag! If you would like to try some Motherwort tea, add a small amount to some other herbs of choice that you feel have nice flavor, they may even be on this list! Steeping the tea for a shorter time, around 5-7 minutes, will also cut back on the bitterness.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is a go-to herb when you feel like you are really going to blow! Let’s be honest, we have all been there.
Personally I reach for Skullcap when my mind is stuck in cyclical thoughts that I can’t seem to shake. This causes anxiety and a depressed mood, all things Skullcap is good for!
If your anxiety and stress cause you physical tension, especially in your upper shoulders, neck and head, try some Skullcap. This nervine is great for inducing sound and restful sleep when taken at a higher dose. A smaller dose, as needed, throughout the day will ease a worried mind.
Skullcap is an herb that works best when prepared a specific way. Herbalists harvest Skullcap on a bright sunny day just as the plant is beginning to flower. The harvested plant is then tinctured fresh in alcohol. When obtaining Skullcap tincture do make sure it is from fresh plant material as this makes all the difference! If taking Skullcap throughout the day to relax the nerves, try 5-10 drops in water, or tea, at first, wait at least 20 minutes and see how you feel. If needed try a few more drops and again, wait 20 minutes and see how you feel.
Once you are able to figure out the amount of drops that you need personally you can start from there in the future. I say this because Skullcap in higher amounts will make a person drowsy. If we are not in a situation where a nap or going to bed for the night is an option, becoming drowsy can be a stressor of its own. If nighttime is near and you are ready to lay down for sleep then you may try a higher dose if you feel necessary. Start with 1/4-1/2 tsp in a small amount of water 20 minutes before bed. This should cause deep relaxation, but if you feel you need more, follow your body’s lead.
Some other great nervine herbs to consider:
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Catnip (Nepeta cataria), and Lavender (Lavendula sp.) are wonderful for mama and baby. These three herbs calm the mind, ease upset stomachs, and promote relaxation. They are wonderful herbs to put into baths for babies to help soothe them when upset or before sleep. Every mama should keep at least one of these on hand to bring stress relief to her and baby both. All three make pleasant teas by pouring 1 cup of almost boiling water over 1/2-1 tsp of herb. Cover and let steep for 3-5 minutes. This tea can be drunk by mom or added to the baby’s bath.
One of the most important things to remember in times of great stress and overwhelm is that you are not alone.
You are not alone in being the only woman to feel these emotions, you are not alone in being the only mother that is questioning how you are going to get through the day, you are not alone in having days where you feel as if you don’t even recognize yourself anymore. Being a full time mother and care taker is absolutely no easy task, in fact it is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It is a job with no time off that asks of you to give all of yourself constantly. Recognize your feelings of stress and anxiety and welcome them, it means you are normal. Invite them to sit down with you and enjoy a hot up of cup tea. Get to know each other, allow these feelings to be with you, but leave plenty of room for all the happy, joyous emotions that motherhood brings.
Meaghan Thompson-Moore is a clinical herbalist living in Capon Bridge, WV. She and her husband run a medicinal herb farm and offer an herb CSA 7 months out of the year. Meaghan is currently enrolled in the Ayurdoula course offered by the Center for Sacred Window Studies. She welcomes any inquiries regarding her blog topics and loves to work with women and their families regarding their health. To reach Meaghan email: firstname.lastname@example.org and to learn more about herbs check out the Capon Bridge Medicinal Herb CSA on Facebook or CBHerbCSA on Instagram.
All photos courtesy of the writer.