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Archive for March, 2010

by Melissa Olson of Earth Mama Angel Baby

Lady's Mantle

Winter is over and the perennial herbs are gathering their strength to burst forth in all their glory. Lady’s Mantle is one of those herbs, collecting itself to dependably reappear, to be used as a powerful protector for women during all stages of their adult lives, from menarche to menopause.

Alchemilla vulgaris, or “Little Alchemist” was believed by early pagan herbalists to possess all manner of universal and magical healing properties. They associated this little plant with the worship of  The Earth Mother and early Christians correlated it with the cloak of the Virgin Mary. In the 1500s, this plant was referred to by the German eclectics asFrauenmantel or lady’s mantle, probably because the furrowed leaf lobes resemble a woman’s cloak. Not to mention its affinity for all things womanly.

Lady’s Mantle is related to the rose, and grows low to the ground with clusters of little yellow star-shaped flowers. Its fan-shaped leaves are waterproof and covered with a soft, furry coating that helps funnel raindrops and dew downward to collect in the center of the leaf. This little drop of nectar was thought to have magical properties capable of anything from bringing fertility to restoring one’s virginity. Huh.

I’m not sure about the latter, but I do know insects often visit this miniature pool for afternoon refreshments.

The leaves of Lady’s Mantle are high in tannins, flavonoids like quercetin, and even trace amounts of salicylic acid. They are used as a vulnerary (wound healer) and are classified as an astringent, drying up and expelling water from boggy tissues, and reducing inflammation. Most astringent herbs, like red raspberry leaf, have an affinity for hollow organs such as that particularly fantastic feminine organ, the uterus.

Herbal astringents can be useful as a mouth or eyewash, and are even helpful for diarrhea, excessive bleeding, bloating and cramping. Red raspberry famously helps tone and strengthen the uterus during pregnancy, but Lady’s Mantle is considered better suited to help reduce and dry inflamed tissues after birth and during menstruation. It is used during the last trimester to the first few months after birth to restore tone to the uterus, dry up excessive moisture and return vitality and balance to postpartum women. These actions make it a perfect woman’s ally during the monthly bleeding cycle and help calm crabby/crampiness and steady the rocky course of menopause.

Frauenmantel, Lady’s Mantle, Alchemilla vulgaris, is a true friend to the ladies. No matter what you call it, picture an herbal Wonder Woman’s flowing cape and pointy brass breasts to the rescue!  It’s easy to grow and a great addition to your herbal feel-better armory.

By Melinda Olson

Take one influential Botany Professor Grandma, an RN, BSN degree, one scary, overzealous hospital birth, one peaceful home birth, a love of nature’s gifts, a fascination that we can use them to take care of ourselves, an obsession with research and safety, and a passion for creating things from a beautiful garden. Mix well, and you end up with me, Melinda Olson, founder and Mama-In-Charge of Earth Mama Angel Baby.

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Perineal Oil - Aromatic Health

More and more pregnant women and new parents are looking for natural alternatives to prescription drugs. Although conventional medicine and medicines can be helpful in more extreme cases, for the more common ailments associated with child birth and parenting, natural alternatives like Essential Oil Therapy can prove to be just as, if not more, effective. Below are just a few ways that Essential Oil Therapy can help with a more natural pregnancy and childbirth.

Prenatal

Massaging yourself with nourishing carrier oils and the essential oils of neroli and mandarin during your pregnancy may help to reduce the chance of getting stretch marks, and alleviate dry, itchy skin. Be sure not to forget to massage your breasts and thighs, along with your growing belly.

For those who suffer from headaches and migraines, using essential oils such as lavender and peppermint can be a good alternative to conventional pain relievers. The essential oils of peppermint, chamomile or ginger can be effective in relieving the nausea associated with morning sickness. Pieces of dried ginger can also be chewed, or peppermint and/or chamomile tea can be drunk to ease nausea. For some women, simply inhaling peppermint essential oil can ease the nausea.

A warm bath with essential oils added, can soothe your sore muscles, help you to relax, and be emotionally uplifting as well. Research has confirmed that the mother’s emotional state affects the child, both pre and post natal. Massage yourself, or even better, have a partner massage you, to help with sore muscles, relaxation, strengthening the emotional bonds and help prevent fluid retention in your legs and feet. For massaging your feet and legs, try our cooling Peppermint Foot Lotion.

For years, many midwives have recommended massaging your perineum daily in the last six weeks of pregnancy, to help reduce the chances of tearing or having an episiotomy (Perineal Oil).

For inflammation, acne and other skin issues, toners with lavender and chamomile hydrosols are soothing and calming to the skin. Many women see changes in their skin and some develop acne, similar to when they were in their teens.

Labour

The essential oils of neroli and lavender can be used to help with fear and anxiety with the labour. If you have a long labour and fatigue has set in, the essential oils of peppermint and sage can be used for energy or alertness. Also during a long labour, misting your face with the hydrosols of lavender, neroli or rose, will refresh you. Use any hydrosol that you enjoy.

During labour, have your labour partner massage your lower back with the essential oils of chamomile (Roman and/or German), clary sage and lavender in a carrier oil. A compress with the essential oil of clary sage and the hydrosol of clary sage will greatly reduce labour pain when applied to the lower abdomen and back. If you are having a water birth, the EO and hydrosol can be added directly to the tub.

Essential Oil Therapy during pregnancy:

  • can help reduce stretch marks can help deal with stress and promote relaxation
  • can ease cramping and pains experienced during pregnancy
  • can help you keep in tune with your body and your baby
  • can provide relief from ailments such as headaches, nausea, varicose veins, edema
  • can aid in ‘recovery’ after childbirth

Postnatal

Applying hydrosols directly to the area, or adding essential oils to a sitz bath can aid discomfort and healing of the perineum. As some women find it uncomfortable to use the sitz bath method, a spray is a more convenient method of application (Postpartum Perineum Spray). Applying witch hazel hydrosol, with a cotton pad, can relieve hemorrhoids. For added relief, the cotton pad can be left in place.

Postpartum depression can be helped with many citrus oils, which are anti-depressants and help with anxiety. Some of these oils include orange, bermagot, neroli and grapefruit.

Engorged breasts can be helped with a compress of geranium, as well as a cabbage leaf being inserted into your bra. For cracked and sore nipples, calendula can aid in healing (Calendula Nursing Ointment). For dry skin during breastfeeding, there are a number of essential and carrier oils that can be used.

Below is a summary of some of the essential oils and hydrosols which can be used during pregnancy and some of their benefits:

Calendula – skin irritations, minor infections, wound healing

Chamomile – muscular pain, labour, morning sickness, perineum healing

Clary Sage – muscular pain, headaches, labour

Cypress – edema, prevent stretch marks

Ginger – morning sickness

Juniper Berry – edema

Lavender - muscular pain, headaches, labour, stress, perineum healing

Mandarin – prevent stretch marks, stress, and depression

Neroli – anxiety, prevent stretch marks, depression

Peppermint – headaches, morning sickness, nausea, alertness

Witch Hazel – apply the hydrosol to hemorrhoids and varicose veins

Yarrow – apply the hydrosol for postpartum healing

There has been some debate as to whether essential oils are safe for use during pregnancy and on babies. There are some essential oils which are not recommended for use during the first trimester such as: rose, jasmine and chamomile, to name a few. Generally though, the use of flower and citrus oils can be considered safe for use throughout the entire pregnancy. You should consult with an aromatherapist to be sure. It’s best to check the label for any warnings and/or directions, as they are usually printed on commercially available essential oils. During pregnancy, you should use a dilution of 1-3% essential oil, or 3-9 drops in 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of carrier oil. That being said, as with all alternative forms of therapy and non-prescribed drugs, especially during pregnancy and on newborns, you should consult with your health care professional before use.

by Michelle Reynolds

Michelle Reynolds is an aromatherapist and founder of Aromatic Health,  a beautiful line of non-toxic natural body products. She has an amazing pregnancy line that includes a Belly Butter (for stretch marks), Nursing Ointment, Perineal Oil, Post Caesarean Healing Oil, Post Perineal Spray (what a great idea!!!). This would be an amazing shower gift and I think that every Midwife should provide these awesome products for their clients.  To purchase, visit www.aromatichealth.ca.

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Antioxidants are essential to an anti-aging skin care routine.  They play an important role in fighting and preventing free-radical damage, a process in which a molecule missing an electron attacks healthy skin cells. It is believed that free-radicals are the cause of all aging and age-related diseases. Antioxidants scavenge for free-radicals and basically kill them.

Antioxidants occur naturally in plants as a self-preserving system. Most plant oils contain vitamin E, explaining why you can leave vegetable oils out on a shelf for years and they remain in pristine condition.

Using natural products is a surefire way to get large doses of antioxidants on your skin. Botanical ingredients are packed with vitamins E, A, carotenoids and polyphenols. Some of the highest sources include soy bean oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, rosehip oil, and sea buckthorn oil.

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