The use of postpartum herbs is an ancient practice with varied applications across regions and cultures. Today postpartum herbs are used in birth centers and by midwives to offer care to new mothers and speed healing after birth. As the use of natural aids is becoming more popular, essential oils are also being used for remedies typically associated with postpartum herbs.
This information about postpartum herbs and oils is compiled from books and anecdotal recommendations. These remedies have not been scientifically tested. I have used them myself and found them very helpful, but due caution is advised. Be mindful of cleanliness near any skin openings or cracks and follow safe practice. Seek the advice of an herbalist, homeopathic practitioner, aromatherapist, midwife, or naturopathic physician for personal recommendations and detailed instructions. Whenever using over-the-counter remedies of any kind, it is important to rule out drug interactions with any other medications you are taking.
Herbal Sitz Bath
A postpartum bath like this herbal sitz bath promotes healing and soothing of the perineum, especially after tearing or episiotomy.
- ½ oz comfrey leaves and/or root (promotes cell growth and healing)
- ½ oz rosemary (antiseptic, reduces swelling)
- ½ oz urva ursi (heals the urinary tract)
- ½ oz shepards purse (promotes clotting)
- ½ c sea salt (healing properties of saline)
Bring water to a boil, add herbs and salt, and steep at least one hour. Strain directly into clean bathtub using a clothe diaper in a colander, or into a jar. This infusion will keep in the fridge for a few days. Add warm water and soak in a shallow bath 10 – 15 minutes 1 – 2 times per day for the first week. This infusion can also be used in a sitz bath which fits over your toilet.
Essential Oil Sitz Bath
This postpartum bath with essential oils promotes healing and soothing of the perineum, especially after tearing or episiotomy.
To a shallow warm bath or sitz bath add 2 drops of lavender oil and 2 drops tea tree oil. Soak for 10 – 15 min up to three times a day as soreness persists. These oils and the warmth of the water encourage faster healing and prevent infection.
Herbal Vaginal Pack
A herbal vaginal pack can relieve soreness.
A pinch each of comfrey root or leaf, slippery elm, and goldenseal powder.
Take a strip of sterile gauze and unwrap it. Place herbs in the middle and roll like a small flat pad, tucking the ends in to contain the herbs. Place in a bowl and pour 2 oz boiling water over the gauze. Steep 5 min. Twist to squeeze out extra water. Allow to cool so that it will not burn, and then place in your underwear close to the vagina with a pad below to hold it in place. Wear for 20 – 60 minutes and then dry the area completely and change to a dry pad. Dryness is essential for healing.
Perineal Ice Packs
These ice packs can help reduce swelling of the perineum.
- Put dish soap in a baggy and freeze ahead of time. This will make a flexible, soft ice pack. You may want to wrap this in a thick paper towel or cotton rag before placing in your underwear.
- Open a few overnight pads. Pour a strip of water or the herbal sitz bath preparation above onto each pad and place them in the freezer in the open position. These will be single use ice packs.
- Fill a condom with 1 ½ c water, lay lengthwise in your underwear. (Do not insert into vagina.)
Postpartum Massage Oil
To 1 tablespoon massage oil. Favor unscented oils during the postpartum period because your natural smells are familiar to your baby. For feet and legs or back you may add 3 drops each of lavender, rosemary, and geranium. Use gentle movements wherever it feels best. In general massage towards the heart. Avoid the abdomen. Feet and legs are especially effective, but varicose veins should be avoided. Be relaxed and do not rush. If there is little time it is better to do a small area well then to rush through a full body massage. As a simple guide allow 10 minutes for a foot and leg massage, 10 minutes for a back massage, and 5 minutes for the face and head.
Postpartum Belly Pack
A postpartum belly pack helps organs regain pre-pregnancy position.
Use once a day for the first week:
Fill a water bottle with very hot water. Rub belly with a generous amount of odor-free castor oil. Cover belly with a cloth diaper and place hot water bottle on top. Rest for 20 min, rewarming water if necessary.
Herbal Teas for Afterbirth Pains (Cramping)
Motherwort, Cramp bark, Shepard’s Purse, or False Unicorn. Consult packaging for steeping instructions.
Essential Oils for Postpartum Blues
(This is not an effective treatment for postpartum depression. If you are experiencing depression, talk with your health care provider).
To a warm bath or to 2 ½ T massage oil add 2 drops neroli, 2 drops petitgrain, and 2 drops orange oil. Enjoy a massage or soak for 10-15 minutes. These three oils come from three parts of the orange tree—the flowers, leaves and twigs, and the fruit. The wholeness of them when used together restores balance. These are strong oils. If using in a bath first add them to 1/2 a cup of milk which will emulsify them and then add the milk to the bath.
Bergamot, jasmine, neroli or clary sage are also recommended for postpartum blues. These oils should also be diluted in oil before used in massage or in milk before being added to a bath.
Essential Oils for Postpartum Fatigue
Essential Oils to Encourage Deep Rest
3 drops of lavender, marjoram, or roman chamomile in a warm bath before rest. Lavender is a gentle oil that can be used directly. Marjoram or roman chamomile should be diluted as above.
Essential Oils to Create a Sense of More Energy
Add 2 – 3 drops of geranium or bergamot and 2 – 3 drops of rosemary to 1/2 a cup of milk and add the milk to a morning bath.
In a bowl of water or a fragrance burner to scent a room: 2 – 4 drops of any of the following: petitgrain, geranium, mandarin, rose, bergamot, ylang-ylang, lemon, lavender, or rosemary. Especially recommended is a combination of lemon and geranium.
Herbs for Postpartum Fatigue
Postpartum fatigue may be related to blood loss. Use liquid chlorophyll and Yellow Dock help to rebuild the blood.