Skip the expensive, not-so-natural commercial prenatal vitamins. Make your own homemade herbal prenatal vitamin — 6 ways, choose the one you like best!
A couple months ago, I talked about my postpartum experience. (If you haven’t read it, and have struggled with postpartum weight loss and hormone balance, it’s worth a read.) We’re hoping for another baby in the future, so I’m thinking about how to prepare my body now.
I decided that in addition to a diet filled with quality whole foods, I wanted to include a few key supplements. Now, I don’t really love commercial supplements in most cases. (Then again I like low costs and I love DIY.)
I knew I wanted something that was geared specifically towards women and would be very nourishing and help with hormone balance, would promote fertility, and would nourish a baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding. And I knew I wanted to use herbs.
I asked my readers what they wanted as far as “type” of supplement — capsules, liquid, gummies, a powder…? There was really no consensus. Many women struggle with morning sickness so certain forms are easier than others.
In the end, instead of choosing just one, I’m giving you all of them. That’s right, a hormone-balancing prenatal vitamin, 6 ways! I give you the herbs and ratios that you need, and you choose the form that will work the best for you!
The Herbs in the Herbal Prenatal Vitamin Recipe
There are seven different herbs in this recipe. I chose herbs because they are true whole foods, not extracts or synthetics. Each provides quite a range of different vitamins and minerals that work together synergistically. Herbs can be used in low doses or high doses, and are, in general, fairly safe.
Not every herb is safe in every case, though, so I’ll note specifically if you might want to avoid a particular herb. You can always make up for removing one by adding more nettle, which has basically no contraindications and is extremely nourishing.
Nettle is pretty much considered an herbal multivitamin in and of itself, and no blend would be complete without it. It’s rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Another source also claims choline, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, silica, and protein. Yet another source also claims it contains chromium, zinc, selenium, sulfur, and boron. It’s extremely nourishing and people have found increased energy and some, relief from allergies.
Plus, nettle has been shown to be antimicrobial against certain bacteria and also against ulcers. It may help with heartburn!
Dandelion is another nutritional powerhouse, plus, it’s known to help clear the liver gently (which can be a beneficial, mild detox). It’s rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin K1, calcium, and iron. It’s the highest in K1. Another source claims it’s very rich in B vitamins, vitamin E, potassium, calcium, manganese, and magnesium too.
They’re also antioxidant and anti-inflammatory! (More evidence) It may even help kill pancreatic cancer!
Red Raspberry Leaf
Red raspberry is recommended for every stage of the fertility-pregnancy-breastfeeding time. It can increase fertility, it helps to tone the uterus gently which can make labor easier when it happens (but won’t cause contractions or make them harder), and it can boost breastmilk production. In some women, it eases morning sickness (I found it beneficial in my third pregnancy for this). It’s rich in vitamin C, B-complex, calcium, iron, and has some potassium and phosphorus. Another source claims it is high in vitamin A and E, plus magnesium.
One study showed that women who used raspberry leaves in pregnancy were less likely to have a c-section, forceps, or vacuum extraction, as well as less likely to have artificial rupture of membranes. No studies have shown any harm, and none have looked at the effects of different dosages. (Most studies were survey-based, retrospective, and only looked at using the raspberry leaf as yes/no — so using once or twice would be “yes” despite that this would not be expected to show any real benefit.)
Alfalfa is a special herb, which does have some contraindications. Alfalfa helps with blood clotting because it’s rich in vitamin K (although dandelion is much higher in vitamin K). People with lupus or blood clotting disorders should not use alfalfa. For the rest of us, it’s another nutritional powerhouse. One source claims it’s rich in A, D, E, K, B-complex vitamins, biotin, calcium, folic acid, iron, magnesium, potassium. Another source shows the percentages of each nutrient.
Blackberry leaf is a less common choice, but I have found that it helps me balance hormones and reduce anxiety, so I have included it here. It’s rich in folate, vitamin K, A, C, and manganese.
One study shows blackberry leaves are high in tannins, flavinoids, and ellagic acid. Another study shows that they contain five essential amino acids (and are a decent source of protein). Another study showed that blackberry leaves kill colon cancer cells. There are no known contraindications.
Spearmint is included for two main reasons: for a nice taste (the overall flavor of this is lightly minty, which is usually pleasant for moms and can reduce the feeling of nausea) and because it’s one of the best herbal sources of folate. Folate is the natural version of vitamin B-9, often referred to as folic acid (which is synthetic). Folate is needed for preventing neural tube defects in the baby, and may also help prevent depression.
Additionally, spearmint leaf is high in potassium, calcium, manganese, (very high) iron, magnesium, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, riboflavin (B2) and thiamin (B3). One very preliminary study showed it may be helpful in balancing hormones and improving PCOS. (Here’s a more recent study about that.)
Some women are concerned about the use of mint in pregnancy. There’s very little evidence that mint is dangerous for most women, and spearmint has one of the lowest menthol contents of any mint (peppermint is much higher). I have personally used it during pregnancy and breastfeeding with no issue. Women who are high risk may want to ask their doctors.
Spirulina isn’t actually an herb but is a form of algae. It’s an excellent source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin (all B vitamins), iron, copper, and manganese. It’s a pretty good source of vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, folate, and pantothenic acid (another B vitamin), plus calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and selenium. It’s truly one of the best plant sources of nutrition out there.
Too much spirulina can be hard for some people because it’s so rich. The dose is anywhere from 1/2 tsp. to 2 tbsp. per day. (I personally couldn’t tolerate more than the minimum.) It’s antiviral and antioxidant, according to one study. Another study shows it may protect against allergies. Another study shows it is anti-inflammatory and may reduce cholesterol.
If you’re not looking for a prenatal vitamin, specifically, but rather a general hormone-balancing vitamin, or a general women’s formula, you might choose to add some of these herbs, which are gently balancing or anti-inflammatory.
Turmeric is one of my favorite herbs. It’s a bright yellow root powder and is often used in Indian cooking. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral. It’s been shown to improve arthritis, and treat a wide range of cancers. I use this at the first sign of any illness or any pain/inflammation.
Cinnamon is actually a good anti-inflammatory, too. It’s also antioxidant, anti-bacterial, and may kill cancer, too. It may help control blood sugar. This may be a good one to include for those with menstrual disorders, PCOS, or diabetes.
Red clover contains phytoestrogens, and shouldn’t be used by those with estrogen dominance. However, for women who are beyond their reproductive years and who may have low estrogen levels, red clover is a much safer alternative to synthetic hormone supplements. It may also help to lower cholesterol and balance blood sugar.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that helps to gently balance the body. It’s contraindicated while pregnant or breastfeeding, though. In women who are neither, it is a good way to help balance hormones, reduce stress levels, and possibly prevent cancer. It may also increase energy or athletic performance, increase the immune system, improve a thyroid condition, or even boost fertility.
Ashwagandha is contraindicated in pregnancy because, in large doses, it could cause contractions which could lead to miscarriage. It is used in small doses in other countries to balance the body and provide energy during pregnancy. Use at your own risk (safe if you’re not pregnant though).
Prenatal Vitamin Recipe
The main recipe includes only the 7 herbs that I listed above, not the additional herbs. I’ll give some suggestions for those but it’s up to you.
- 3 tbsp. nettle leaf (45 g)
- 1.5 tbsp. red raspberry leaf (23 g)
- 1.5 tbsp. dandelion leaf (23 g)
- 1.5 tsp. blackberry leaf (8 g)
- 1.5 tsp. alfalfa leaf (8 g)
- 3 tsp. spearmint leaf (15 g)
- 1.5 tsp. spirulina (8 g)
This is a basic amount, enough for about 3 days. (It was the size of my test batch. Which was yummy and is now gone.) This mix tastes a bit minty, so it’s quite pleasant to eat — or drink. It can be prepared in your favorite way, whatever makes it easiest for you to take. I’ll explain how to make each below.
Figuring out the exact amount of vitamins and minerals in the basic formula proved to be nearly impossible (believe me, I tried). But it is high in A, B-complex (esp. B6 and folate), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, potassium, (non-heme) iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper, and selenium. Missing are B12, vitamin D, vitamin K2, zinc (there’s *some* but it’s much higher in animal products), heme iron (found only in animal products). I’ll address that below….
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tbsp. red clover
- 1 tbsp. ashwagandha root
These are just suggested amounts of herbs to add to the basic formula. Add one, add them all, and increase or decrease them (or omit herbs from the basic formula, even) depending on your needs. Older women may swap red raspberry for red clover, for example. Since two of these herbs are powders, they’re not great for tinctures — but you can add them anyway as long as you know they’ll stay in the final product. Using different or additional herbs will change the flavor unless you are using capsules.
This is my favorite way, the one I used for my test batch, and an idea from a local herbalist. (Dawn of Mockingbird Meadows. She makes a whole line of honey-based herbal formulas.)
To make this, combine the herbs as listed above. Run them through a high-powered blend or spice grinder to powder them. Add 6 tbsp. (1/4 c. + 2 tbsp.) raw, local honey and stir until blended smoothly. You will have to stir before each dose, too, as the honey tends to settle to the bottom a bit.
It’s a bit “crunchy” in texture and you can taste the herbs, but the mint overpowers the others so it just tastes sweet and minty. I wouldn’t recommend stirring this into tea because the herbs will settle to the bottom and not be pleasant to drink. Mixing it into a smoothie would be good, though. It’s also nice on a spoon, which is how I eat mine.
Dose: 2 – 4 tbsp. per day.
A tincture will make a powerful liquid vitamin. The flavor is, of course, slightly minty and sweet (if you use glycerin, which I recommend). This is my second favorite way. It’s a more efficient use of herbs, and glycerin is cheaper than honey, so it’s a more cost-effective formula than the honey-based. It might also be better absorbed.
To make this, double the amounts of herbs on the list. Add them all to a glass jar and cover with 1.5 c. glycerin and water (each). Shake to combine. Then, either set it in a warm, dark place for six weeks (use this method), or put it in a crockpot and use this method (ready in 2 – 3 days). Strain the finished tincture through cloth and store in a dark brown glass jar.
Dose: 1 – 3 tbsp. per day.
A powder can be stirred into a smoothie or milkshake. It would probably be good with chocolate — mm, chocolate mint! It will have a slightly gritty texture, but if the drink is thick enough, it might not be an issue.
To make this, multiply the herb formula by 6 – 8. Run the herbs through a blender until powdered. Store them in a glass jar (or even a plastic bag in a pinch) in a cool, dry place.
Dose: 1 tbsp. per day.
Some women can’t swallow capsules when they’re pregnant (I couldn’t). But others can’t handle certain flavors, and capsules are a life-saver. That’s why I’m including this option, for those who prefer capsules for whatever reason. They’re simple to make, but you will need a capsule maker. Those only cost about $12 and they are so useful. I got mine about a year ago and I use it at least every month or so. I’ve definitely saved my family money by having this. You’ll also need empty capsules, “00” size. Save money by buying a kit that includes the capsule maker and 1000 empty capsules.
To make this, multiply the herb formula by 4. Run the herbs through a blender until powdered. Then, use the capsule maker to fill the capsules. This should fill around 200 – 250.
Dose: 2 – 8 capsules per day. I’d start with 4. Find the amount that makes you feel strong.
Some women really like to drink a pregnancy tea or infusion. A tea is not as strong as an infusion but the flavor is much milder and more pleasant for many women. Tea should be drunk frequently (several times a day) while an infusion only needs to be drunk once a day or even every other day. The preparation is similar, though.
To make this, double the amount of herbs. Use the entire amount for a quart of infusion, or use just 1 tbsp. for a cup of tea (8 – 12 oz.). Boil water and pour it over the herbs. Tea should steep 15 – 20 minutes, and an infusion should steep at least 4 hours, but as many as 12. Strain it out and sweeten lightly, drink hot or cold.
Dose: 2 – 4 cups of tea per day, or 1 quart of infusion daily.
I’m not sure I’d recommend this option because I don’t know that I’d like a mint gummy, but…that’s up to you. I do recommend using Great Lakes gelatin regularly (something that I do) and making a gummy would be two birds with one stone. So, it’s ultimately up to you! You might want to prepare the infusion first and see if you like the way it tastes before proceeding with the gummy recipe.
To make this, prepare the infusion as above (double recipe of herbs + one quart of boiling water steeped for 4 – 12 hours). Split the infusion in half. Put half of it in a pot to boil, and the remaining half in a bowl (it should be room temperature). Add 4 tbsp. of gelatin to the room temperature infusion and allow it to sit and “bloom” (absorb) for about 5 minutes. Pour the hot infusion (at least 120 degrees; it doesn’t need to boil) into the gelatin mix and stir until dissolved. If it looks grainy, it’s not dissolved properly. It should be perfectly clear and smooth. Pour the infusion into a 9×13 pan and put it in the fridge to harden. When it’s hard, cut into 1×1 squares.
Dose: 1 square per day.
The methods vary in cost, depending on what additional materials are needed and how much herb you use. Purchasing herbs in bulk makes the costs quite low, in general. Using the price for 4 oz. at Mountain Rose Herbs, and roughly estimating how many teaspoons or tablespoons are in 4 oz. I came up with a price for the “basic formula” of $1.23. You can save money by buying larger quantities (full lbs. are 10 – 20% less) or by going in on them with a friend (MRH offers up to 25% off full lbs. if you order 25 at once — mix’n’match — my friends and I go in on big orders a few times a year).
Some of the methods require a full batch or more; some only require a small part of it, as noted above. Of course, some also require other ingredients. This is my best estimate.
Here are the methods in terms of cost-effectiveness:
- Gummy (about $0.10 per dose)
- Tea (about $0.21/dose)
- Capsule (about $0.36 per dose)
- Tincture (about $0.39/dose)
- Honey-Based ($1.19 per dose)
- Infusion (about $2.46 per dose)
Of course, you take what works best for you. Whatever you’ll get down. But just in case you are fine with multiple methods and want the cheapest…there you go. Some of those surprised me a bit. I hadn’t thought the gummies would be that cheap. I didn’t think the infusion would be so expensive. Now we know.
I’ve had four babies, and I’ve gotten increasingly “crunchy” and into real food with each one of them. I’ve studied supplements and hormones and the best way to get pregnancy nutrition extensively. I’ve come to a conclusion about what’s best for me as far as a pregnancy supplements routine. Since I am basically always pregnant and/or breastfeeding, I use this all the time (or as often as I remember).
Now, I’m not a medical professional and your needs may vary, so be sure to talk to your doctor or midwife and see what makes you feel the best. I’m just sharing what works for me. Use it as a jumping off point or ideas, if you like.
- One dose of the prenatal vitamin (I choose honey-based or tincture usually, sometimes tea)
- Liver pills (this makes up for the B12, heme iron, and zinc missing from the herbal supplement; I take 4 a day)
- Cod liver oil (this adds true vitamin A and vitamin D, K2, plus omega-3s, DHA, etc. I take 3 tsp. a day)
- Gelatin (I use Great Lakes gelatin, 2 – 3 tbsp. a day)
- Magnesium lotion (about 1 – 2 tsp. a day) — I make mine, but you can also buy it here
I sometimes add a separate zinc supplement or turmeric if I feel I need to, but not all the time. That helps if my hormones are out of balance or I get sick.
This is one massive, massive post now! Hopefully, it helps you with your supplement routine. 🙂
Have you made your own herbal prenatal vitamin before? If not, which one do you take?
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Thank you so much for putting all the thoughtful work into figuring this stuff out! I imagine the math alone would have given me a headache! I was recently diagnosed with a relatively rare form of cancer (neuroendocrine tumor) and won’t be having any more children, but I am going to try this to support my hormonal health and general well-being. I love using herbal, real-food, whole-food methods as much as I can.
Great post! We use a lot of herbal remedies in the home and I know I will be trying this as a tea for me 🙂
What about using astragalus instead of ashwagandha? Just a thought 🙂
What is the crockpot method for the tincture? I love making your tinctures, but once my herbs arrive, I’ll need the tincture sooner than in six weeks. Thanks!
What are your thoughts on maca? It’s supposed to help with fertility and hormone balance…could it be worth adding?
From what I know, it would be excellent. I haven’t used it personally, though. But feel free to try it!
Thank you for taking the time to create this post and share it with us! I was wondering what else I could use in place of the dandelion. I can’t have it because of an allergy, but don’t want to miss out on the nutrition! Herbs are all new to me so I have no clue. Thanks!
You can just use more nettle, if you want, or more alfalfa. Dandelion and alfalfa are both high in vit K.
Thanks! I already take a nettle capsule to help with allergies so adding more of that sounds like a great idea!!! (Sorry just came back to this post and saw you replied!)
Hello, I love your recipes! I was wondering if a homemade superfood powder would be safe to mix with your recipe (moringa olefeira, spirulina, kelp and wheat grass) as a prenatal vitamins?
I don’t see why not. Although I haven’t tried it myself.
Is this recipe safe for children over 1 yr old?
Yes, but I’d recommend this one instead: https://modernalternativemama.com/blog/2012/01/23/monday-health-wellness-herbal-multivitamin-tincture/ It’s more of a general formula, while this one is better for women.
Thanks for replying. Can I blend these general formula herbs and add it to raw honey and coconut oil for my 15 months old?
I am 40 years old and trying to concieve….Have been for about four years. I am wondering…is it safe to use tumeric/cinamin while trying to concieve? While pregnant? thanks so much
Yes, it should be safe, unless you have autoimmune disorders that effect bleeding. Have you looked into Vitex or wild yam?
Thanks for all your work! I have a question though. Maybe I am just dense and/or sleep deprived, but how would one square of a gummy be enough for one day’s dose? If a whole quart of infusion is one day’s dose and you use a quart of infusion to make the recipe for gummies wouldn’t you have to eat the whole pan of gummies? I hope that question makes sense!
You don’t really need to drink all the infusion, or at least not everyday. Once or twice a week would be plenty. So, a gummy or three should be plenty, especially if concentrated. 🙂
I’ve been working hard to try to balance my hormones postpartum. My nursing daughter is sensitive to me eating dairy, eggs, soy, and nuts, so it’s a challenge getting proper nutrition from food alone (especially because all I crave is dairy and eggs when I’m nursing!). I’ve been supplementing with grass-fed gelatin, fermented cod liver oil, and maca powder along with my prenatal vitamins, vitamin d and b complex my doctor reaommended. What I would like to know is your opinion on whether I should continue to take the other vitamins if I start to take this recipe. I know certain vitamins can be harmful to the baby in high amounts. Does this mixture totally replace a prenatal vitamin while nursing?
Thank you! Your blog has been so helpful in my process of converting to a more natural, alternative lifestyle with my family.
[…] 6 Ways to Prepare Homemade Herbal Prenatal Vitamins […]
Would a gummy freeze well? How long would they be good in the fridge? I am thinking it might be nice to have several months supply.
Hello! I was very glad to find this recipe. I started it several weeks ago, and while it “brewed” in the cupboard, along the way I discovered I’m pregnant. Perfect timing! 😉 Anyway, I did the tincture using glycerine, which is new to me. I tried a dose for the first time today, and whooo wheee! Its SO sweet! (Just in case it was my early preggo taste buds, I had my teenaged kids try it, and they concurred lol). My question is, is that sweetness noemal? And, if so, if I use a dose, and add it to hot water (like tea), would that ruin the nutrients? I was just thinking of a good way to dilute it to get it down lol! Or, any other ideas? Anyway, thanks in advance, and thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe!
So does anyone know if I add a dose to hot water, would it ruin the nutrients? Or should I only use cold water? Thanks, just looking for a way to dilute the sweetness caused by the glycerine.
I am so excited about this! I have been sitting here feeling like a really bad first-time mommy because I quit taking my prenatal vitamins because I just could not swallow them. I will definitely try making some gummies, and hopefully keep it up 🙂 any idea if you could flavor them with a fruit juice? I’ve heard about making homemade gummies, I’ve just never tried it
You probably could, but they have kind of a minty taste, so either leave out the spearmint or make sure the juice pairs well with the mint.
Thank you for this recipe. I am trying to find some vitamin that does not give me a migraine after taking them. I am currently using 2 tinctures nettle and red raspberry but wanted a more rounded one. This is great!
Hi. I recently found your post on prenatal vitamins and wanted to try it. Got all the stuff for the formula and made the infusion. I added raspberry flavor (which I got at Michael’s, but one can also order online.) and xylitol. Then made gummies. Actually your gelatin to liquid ratio is 1 tbsp to one cup which produces more of a jello jiggler consistency (not to date myself), most home made gummy recipes have a 3 tbsp to .5 cup ratio. This makes them very firm and chewy, but taste terrible. I like them a little firmer so I added an extra tsp to mine. I also did them in two cup batches. I made the infusion with four cups, following this recipe exactly separated it into two, two cup batches. Added one bottle of LorAnn oils raspberry flavor which is .125 fl oz, three tbsp xylitol and 2 tbsp gelatin + one extra tsp gelatin. Poured in molds and have a large supply now. I have pictures if you want to see. I am very grateful for this post and appreciate you doing this. BTW they have a sweet raspberry flavor with a hint of mint which is refreshing. Thanks again.
Ps. I haven’t found a way to not get a migraine if I don’t have caffeine. In your searching have you found something that might take the place of that. I have tried to just live without, even working off it slowly to no avail.
Where do you purchase your herbs?
What about iodine? Would adding a small amount of kelp be okay? I don’t use iodized salt nor consume many natural sources of iodine. Thanks!
Thank you for this post! It is so great to have all this info in one place. I was wondering a few things…
1. Do you take these all through your pregnancy?
2. Is red raspberry safe to take all through pregnancy? Because I read in a few places it should not be taken until later because it can induce labor.
What do you take/use when you are not pregnant but are nursing? Do you still use this same thing?
[…] In my fifth and now sixth pregnancies, I’ve continued to use some version of these herbs, in some form. I detailed all the ways I’ve tried here (Homemade Prenatal Vitamin 6 Ways). […]
I’ve reviewed your directions for the 2 ways to make the tincture. In your directions for the one that you let it sit in a dark place for six weeks it says that this process does not work for powders, only dried herbs. My Spirulina and Alfalfa are powdered. Does this mean I cannot make a tincture successfully? I find when I make the tea the Spirulina settles to the bottom of my coffee mug, but otherwise tastes delish.
Excuse me, but there is no way these volume measures in the Imperial system are equivalent to the weights you give. In actual fact, these figures are the equivalent in millilitres of the volumes in the Imperial system—and you seem to assume all herbs in any form have a density of 1 g/ml! So, I suppose the right bit is what comes first, in tablespoons and teaspoons?
So if I did the math correctly (which I may not have that is why I am double checking!) 3 tablespoons would equal 1.5 oz so you would need 16 oz (1 lb of the herbs that call for 3 tablespoons) to last you only a month! Do you find that 1 pound of herbs only lasts you 1 month? (Of the ones that call for 3 tablespoons.)
Awesome post lots of great information. One thing that I’m interested in is Spirulina safe to consume for pregnant and breastfeeding mamas? I know it’s very nutritious however it also has many mercury concerns.
Thank you so much for this! I’m thinking of adding sea moss to this blend for the b12 and zinc