Herbs for Labor, part 10
“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” beams Grandmother Growth as she opens the garden gate for you. The sun is shining, warming the earth and melting the patches of snow cling to shaded hollows. The crocuses are just finishing their salute to spring, and the tulips are budding.
And in between the bulbs, pushing up with such vigor you can almost hear them grow, are leaves of dark purplish-green: nettle.
Grandmother continues: The spring flowers are so cheerful, so beautiful, but the star of my early garden is nettle. I harvest it and dry it for the nourishing herbal infusions I drink every day.
“But aren’t we here to learn about herbs for labor?” you say. “Is nettle an herb for labor?” you ask. Yes, it is. But not in the usual way.
Nettle does not directly impact the uterus, like blue cohosh, beth root, or cotton root, which increase the force and duration of uterine contractions. Nettle does not act to stop spasms in the uterine muscle, like black cohosh, catnip, or motherwort, which ease pain by coordinating labor contractions and countering muscle spasms. Nettle does not contain constituents that bring energy to the pelvis, like dong quai or wild ginger, which warm the belly and increase chi. Nettle is not mind-altering, like cannabis or lobelia, nor even mood-altering, like motherwort and passionflower, all of which improve outcomes by helping the laboring woman stay focused on the birth instead of her pain. Nettle does not work like life-root, which opens the cervix, nor like skullcap or hops, which reduce blood pressure, counter pain, and bring calm.
Nettle is a labor herb that supports the laboring woman, the midwife, and the baby. Drinking nettle infusion – not tea, not tincture, not capsules – enlivens the labor, strengthens the mother, gives energy to the labor assistants, counters post-partum hemorrhage, and floods the blood with electrolyte minerals.
Nettle infusion is not to be confused with nettle tea, though both are made with water. Nettle infusion is made with a full ounce (by weight) of dried herb steeped for at least four hours in a quart of boiling water. (Watch me make it on YouTube.) Nourishing herbal infusions provide predigested nutrients which get into the blood stream and go to work within minutes of being consumed. No other herbal preparation works so quickly to bring deep nourishment to all the tissues.
It is simplicity itself to make nettle infusion, so simple, it can be done anywhere. Add several baggies of dried nettle, already weighed out into one ounce portions and a quart jar with a tight lid (I prefer canning jars), to your birth kit and you can make nettle infusion wherever you are. Just add boiling water and wait four hours.
Drinking nettle infusion strengthens the laboring mom-to-be both physically and psychically. Sister Spinster stinging nettle casts a net of protection and power. Drinking nettle infusion during labor helps prevent postpartum hemorrhage, and helps women who do lose a lot of blood recover more quickly.
Drinking nettle infusion supports the midwife, nourishing her archetypal powers as a gatekeeper and a way-shower, honing her intuition and grounding her deeply. Dark green stinging nettle rebuilds the adrenals, helping those whose professions keep them up all night at times.
Drinking nettle infusion offers the birthing babe readily usable protein, vitamins (including vitamin K), minerals, hydration, and critical micro-nutrients that stabilize blood sugar, heartbeat, and the respiratory system. Grandmother nettle is the neonate’s ally, before, during and after the birth. Grandmother nettle helps prevent jaundice and helps to establish healthy gut flora.
Drinking nettle infusion helps everyone present at the birth, so make enough for everyone. Nettle infusion does not keep for more than 24-26 hours, so it is hard to have it on hand, like a tincture which stays good for decades. Many midwives put up several quarts of nettle infusion as soon as they are called to a birth. If you are the type who needs a backup, nettle infusion loses nothing if made and frozen for no more than 3 months.
I prefer my nettle infusion iced. Cold beverages get into the blood much more rapidly than hot ones do. (Which is why eating soup at the start of a meal helps one lose weight. Because hot liquids stay in the stomach for hours, you feel full longer.)
“Now,” says Grandmother, titling her face to the sun and sighing. “Now our day is nearly done. I hope you enjoyed your nettle infusion. It isn’t just for births. I hope, when next we meet that you will be telling me of your adventures with my dear friend stinging nettle. Until then, green blessings on your way.” I eat it in soups and cook it as a green and use it in casseroles when it is young and tender. Later, I will harvest it continuously until it starts to flower. This larger nettle is just right for my nourishing herbal infusion that I drink every day.
Read more about Pregnancy and herbs in Susuns book:
Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year
Read the rest of this series as a member of Susuns Personal Mentorship website.