Stock your herbal and natural medicine chest for pregnancy, baby, and more — so you’re prepared for any minor illness, ache, or pain!
By Kristen, Contributing Writer
Picking what to put in your medicine chest gets a lot more complicated when you’ve got a baby on board – or in your arms. Suddenly the safety of what you use matters a lot more, and many moms want to choose natural remedies over standard over-the-counter medications. This article has a complete overview on how to stock a natural medicine chest.
Cautions and Considerations
You instinctively want to do everything possible to keep your baby healthy and safe. Conventional medications often have issues. Some are dangerous, especially to unborn babies. Others have side effects. And some simply do nothing – their true purpose is to make you feel like you’re “doing something” – but putting unnecessary medications into your pregnant body or your baby’s body isn’t always a good idea. Sometimes medications are helpful, and you can evaluate that for your family.
Using medications wisely doesn’t mean blindly trusting herbs or other natural remedies, however. Be sure you understand the purpose and side effects of anything you choose to keep in your medicine chest. You’ll gain confidence and experience over time, but always err on the side of caution.
Well-Stocked Pregnancy Medicine Chest
Your baby is developing at an incredible rate during pregnancy, and the effects of many substances are not known. It’s always best to err on the side of no medications or concentrated herbal remedies during pregnancy. Having said that, there are safe remedies to keep on hand:
Tylenol: This one may surprise you, but having Tylenol on hand for a fever in early pregnancy is not a bad idea. High heat can impact baby’s development, and many midwives and doctors will recommend bringing the fever down quickly. A tepid bath can work well too — this is one for you to decide on your comfort level. Our family has opted to keep Tylenol on hand, but has never used it!
Epsom salts and Magnesium Oil: Pregnancy often brings aches and pains and a soak in a warm bath with Epsom salts can really help. Topical magnesium sprayed over aches or sore muscles is also helpful to many moms. Magnesium is the primary component of Epsom salts, and magnesium “oil” is actually a suspension of magnesium salt in water. Many women are deficient in magnesium, so getting it topically is a good idea for aches and may also lower preeclampsia risks.
Herbal iron or liver caplets: Anemia is an issue for many pregnant women. Commonly prescribed iron pills cause constipation and are poorly absorbed. An herbal iron formula tends to be very effective without the side effects. Dried liver pills are also a good choice. Alternately, you can eat liver once a week (once recommended to all pregnant women with good reason). Or you can make “liver pills” by dicing grass-fed liver into bite-sized chunks and flash-freezing on a cookie sheet. Bag and swallow a couple every day.
Pregnancy Tea: Red raspberry leaf is the base of pregnancy tea blends. This safe herb has been trusted for centuries to gently tone and prepare the uterus for birth. Some feel comfortable drinking throughout pregnancy, but others prefer to wait until around the 20-week mark.
Note that some blends have diuretic herbs such as dandelion. These herbs help prevent water retention, but some experts feel they can be risky because blood volume needs to expand greatly during pregnancy. Nurse Joy Jones, an expert on how diet affects pregnant women, feels these herbs can be as potent as diuretic drugs (abandoned by doctors decades ago due to danger to the mother and baby). Check ingredients in your blend and if you’d prefer to skip some, you can use simple red raspberry to make your tea.
Papaya Enzymes or Marshmallow Root: These remedies are both useful for heartburn, a problem many women experience during pregnancy. Eating small meals and avoiding processed foods or too much fat or carbs in one meal can help, but for many mamas, having your baby is the only true “cure.” Papaya enzyme has been found especially helpful by moms.
Probiotics: These are probably going to stay in your fridge, but they’re good to have on hand. Probitics can help ease common issues like heartburn and constipation, and they also help you keep your body filled with “good bacteria.” These can lower chances of strep B colonization and help your baby get plenty of good bacteria at birth. Some moms find morning sickness relief with daily probiotic use.
Colloidal Silver: Some women find that this is very helpful for morning sickness. Because it addresses an overgrowth of “bad bacteria” in the stomach (h. pylori), it’s best to use it along with probiotics and especially probiotic foods.
Pregnancy Support Band: A pregnancy hormone called relaxin causes everything to soften and prepare for birth. This can lead to a lot of aches and pains. Wearing a pregnancy support band re-distributes the weight of your belly and can bring real relief.
Compression Hose: these hose help mamas with varicose veins. For best results, put them on first thing in the morning, just before you get out of bed.
Motion Sickness Bands: These are helpful for some moms handling morning sickness.
Food is your first medicine: this doesn’t fit in the medicine chest, but it’s an important part of staying healthy. Eating well during your pregnancy will prevent most complications, though you may still notice discomforts like heartburn.
Movement comes in where food leaves off. Daily walks at a moderate (or even a rambling) pace really help your body stay aligned and help your sluggish pregnancy digestion get going a little more efficiently.
A Word of Caution: There are many herbal “labor preparation” formulas on the market, and even some that directly claim to be herbal induction formulas. The herbs in some of these may be safe, but be aware that black and blue cohosh have had some clinical trials run and are associated at least loosely with a rise non-reassuring fetal heart tones. And even an herbal induction may bring baby before he or she is ready.
Well-Stocked Postpartum Medicine Chest
The most important focus postpartum are nourishing and healing your own body and producing plenty of milk for your baby. Good nutrition is the basis for this, so I recommend having someone to make meals for you (or bring them by) – or you stock the freezer well during pregnancy.
Herbal Sitz Bath: You can buy a postpartum sitz bath mixture or you can mix up your own. They have a variety of healing herbs. Have a helper steep them gently then pour into a shallow bath of warm water. You can sit in this for a bit to let the herbs work on the tissues that may be sore or swollen from birthing. I’ve always liked to bring baby right into the tub with me. Try this herbal bath recipe.
After Pains Formula: Afterpain cramps aren’t usually an issue with your first baby, but they literally become a major pain for subsequent babies. An after pain formula can safely ease the pain somewhat. Some midwives and nurses recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever as an option at this point, which may be an option you want to consider. Try this cramp tincture.
Bone Broth: Homemade broths (chicken stock, beef stock, etc.) are incredibly nourishing for you and help restore energy and vitality due to the high mineral content of the broths. Traditional Chinese postpartum broth preparations also included herbs believed to help strengthen a mom and boost her milk supply. You can make up broth before you have your baby and freeze in quart-sized freezer containers. Drink warm and salted to taste. Many moms like butter or coconut oil added, too.
Oatmeal: Having oats on hand means satisfying breakfasts – and possibly a higher milk supply. Oats are a traditional milk booster. Quinoa is a grain-like seed cooked similar to oatmeal – it’s also a great milk supply booster.
Fenugreek / Herbal Lactation Formula: Fenugreek is the basis for many milk-boosting formulas and truly helps bring supply up. You can prepare fenugreek alone or take (or make) a combination formula. I personally like Gaia Herbs Lactation Support. You’re taking enough fenugreek when your sweat smells like maple syrup!
Tonic Herbs: These are herbs that help nourish your body and boost vitality naturally. Alfalfa, red clover, nettles, and red raspberry leaf are all good tonic herbs you can safely take to get extra minerals and nutrients into your diet. Have a cup of tea every day in the early postpartum.
Peppermint Caps: Gas pains can be a problem postpartum. Enteric-coated peppermint caps are meant to travel to the intestines before dissolving. There the peppermint oil is very effective at dissolving gas and relieving those pains.
Well-Stocked Babies and Toddlers Medicine Chest
Breastmilk: Breastmilk is full of antibodies and immune-boosting substances. It’s baby’s first line of defense against illness and it’s always a good idea to nurse sick babies as much as possible. Your milk can also be applied topically to “goopy” eyes or many types of skin irritation.
For Colic: There are homeopathic and traditional remedies (such as Gripe Water) for colic which some moms find helpful. I have always found swaddling and bouncing work best for my fussy babies. An exercise ball, or “birth ball,” is good for bouncing a fussy baby.
Amber Baby Jewelry: Great for teething pain. As Baltic amber warms against the skin, it transfers anti-inflammatory properties to reduce teething discomfort and swelling. I feel like it’s really helped my babies, but it’s a traditional remedy that doesn’t have extensive scientific testing. Other options for teething include homeopathic remedies and herb-based oil rubs, and of course, teething toys.
Lavender Oil: Lavender essential oil is good for rubbing on bumps and bruises to help numb acute pain. It is one of the mildest essential oils and can be applied directly to skin, but you may wish to dilute in a carrier oil such a jojoba oil or coconut oil.
Eucalyptus Oil: This essential oil has been used more than any other in my house because it’s excellent for stuffy little noses. Put in a warm-mist vaporizer’s “medicine tray” and it really helps cut down on congestion.
For Fever: With a young infant it’s always best to consult with a care provider when there’s a fever. As your child grows, however, fever can actually be beneficial – it’s the body’s way of fighting infection and many children will make a developmental leap after a fever. The child can be comforted and gently supported. If you need to bring a fever down, a tepid bath is usually effective. Once a fever reaches 103 degrees, your care provider will probably recommend bringing a fever down with medications, which you can consider.
For Cough / Croup: A cough can be scary when it seems persistent, so the most important thing is to help soothe your child and make breathing easy. For a “croupy” cough, sitting in a steamy bathroom, or going outside, can often resolve the cough. Vitamin E (you can open a caplet and squeeze a little out) in the throat is often very effective for cough, especially persistent night coughs. A homemade cough and cold remedy works well for toddlers and older children.
Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is soothing and good for moisturizing skin. It’s also very effective at loosening cradle cap if your baby is prone to developing it.
These are just some basics and tried-and-true favorites from my own “medicine chest.” As you research, you’ll find what trusted remedies you want to keep on hand and you’ll feel confident handling routine childhood ailments at home.
What are your go-to home remedies for your babies and toddlers?