The postpartum herb bath has become a treasured tradition not only because it is a special way to pamper a new mom—although it does; and not only because it offers warmth and comfort after the hard work of giving birth—although it does that too.
The herbs used to create these bath teas are selected because they are an effective yet gentle way to help soothe tender perineal tissue, heal tears and episiotomies (yes, you CAN take herb baths if you’ve had stitches!), reduce inflammation, and even shrink hemorrhoids after a vaginal birth.
A bath can be taken within just a few hours of a vaginal birth if there are no signs of infection and mom is healthy. A fresh bath can be taken once or twice daily for three to five days following the birth.
Preparing the herbal bath is as easy as making a very large cup of tea! Add 4 quarts of water to a large pot, bring to a boil, remove from heat and drop in the herbal “tea bag”. Let this steep for an hour, or longer for a more concentrated infusion. The muslin bags I use each hold 1 cup of the herbal blend. Let this healing solution cool down, then use 2-3 cups in your bath for a relaxing and renewing soak in the tub.
As nice as a long hot bath might sound, you may not always have the time or energy to go that route. Or perhaps you simply don’t have a tub! No problem! Try a “sitz bath” instead. A sitz bath is a basin that fits perfectly into your toilet seat and lets you get a soothing soak of the important (and bruised) parts after a vaginal birth without having to immerse your whole body.
This solution is also great to use as a perineal rinse. Just fill a plastic squeeze bottle– use warm or at room temperature on your perineal area as you urinate to reduce stinging and inflammation.
This soothing solution can also be used as a compress, (either warm or cold) by soaking a wash cloth and applying to the perineum as needed to help reduce tenderness and swelling.
You can use your herbal infusion to dampen sanitary pads for use as a compress, or make “Padcicles”, which are also convenient and healing. These can be dampened using your peri-bottle and put into the refrigerator or even the freezer for later use. (Some people put them in a bowl in the freezer so as they freeze, they take on the correct “curve”, more or less.)
Most women find herbal baths soothing and a very practical help in recovery after a vaginal birth. So be sure to assemble enough herbs or purchase enough herb bath bags for at least 1-2 baths/day for 5 days, plus some extra for use in a peri-rinse (squeeze bottle).
Note: Sorry – immersion in a bath is not appropriate after a Cesarean – but foot soaks with any relaxing herbs is an absolutely delicious way to relax and treat yourself to something special!)
Herbs used in Postpartum Herb Baths
Comfrey, also called boneset, bruisewort, and radix consolidate, is a perennial plant that grows up to three feet high. It has bell-shaped flowers that are pink or white. The root and aerial parts are all rich in anti-inflammatory chemicals. The leave and flowers are harvested in the summer and the roots are harvested in the fall.
Comfrey, in oil or ointment form, is useful in treating skin conditions. Acne, psoriasis, and boils are all improved by comfrey. It also reduces scar tissue during healing. It has also been used to treat respiratory problems of pleurisy and bronchial inflammation. Research shows that some Comfrey Leaf and Root components are useful in cell repair and have anti-inflammatory effects.
Red Raspberry Leaf
Cultivation of this herb began in ancient Rome and Greece, the latter of which were possibly inspired by the discovery of the flavorful berries on the sacred Mount Ida in Crete by Hermes and fellow Olympian deities. Popularity of the plant grew and spread, by the 15th century, the fruit of the plant was commonly used to yield dye for use in portrait painting and in illustrating manuscripts.
The leaf is used fresh or dried to prepare tea, served hot or cold. The herb may also be tinctured. The National Plant Data Center of the US Department of Agriculture reports that raspberry leaves were used to treat diarrhea and to aid in childbirth. Raspberry leaf tea is thought to help menstrual cramps. The leaves have also been used as a gargle to treat tonsillitis and mouth inflammations, or as a poultice or irrigation for sores, minor wounds, burns and varicose vein ulcers.
Uva ursi is an evergreen shrub in the heather family also known as upland cranberry, barberry, bear’s grape, and bearberry. The latter common names refer to the berries being a preferred snack for bears. While the fruits of the plant provide food for wildlife, the leaves, harvested in autumn, have historically been used to counter infection and inflammation.
Of all the simples in the botanical kingdom, few hold such a place of reverence in the gardens and hearts of herbal enthusiasts as lavender. This is a relaxing floral scent and was an important ingredient used in ancient Roman baths. It not only promotes restfulness, soothing stress and anxiety, but can be mood balancing. It has antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties. It eases aching muscles, reduces inflammation, helping to heal wounds quickly and preventing infection.
Plantain leaf is native to Europe and parts of Asia, but was said to have been introduced to North America when the settlers came from Europe. Its scientific name is Plantago Major, and it likely grows in your yard. Many of its active constituents show antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, as well as being anti-inflammatory and antitoxic. Its natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties make it great for speeding recover of wounds, and for itching or pain associated with skin problems.
Among the Native people of Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, the yarrow stalk was pounded into a pulp to be applied to bruises, sprains, and swelling. An external tincture or poultice will often help with hemorrhoids, rashes and broken skin. Yarrow has wonderful antibacterial and antifungal compounds. Applied topically, it is helpful with skin itching, rash or other issues.
Calendula is an herb that’s native to the Mediterranean region. For centuries it’s been used for healing. The Egyptians were some of the first people to use calendula, but it was also used during the Civil War battlefield in the United States. In modern times, calendula is used primarily for the skin. Calendula is very effective with chapped or cracked skin, inflammation and can provide a welcome cooling relief. This herb is known for its amazing anti-inflammatory properties.
Also called hamamelis distillate (from its Latin name hamamelis virginiana), this plant-based substance has been used for centuries both medicinally and in skincare and beauty products. It is a chiefly an external remedy applied to the skin. While many herbs come from far away, the witch hazel tree is native to North America. The Native Americans used witch hazel for various skin problems. This ancient herb used for hemorrhoid relief and treatment is known for its anti-inflammatory and astringent properties.
Not really “salt” like you might use at dinner, Epsom salt is actually “magnesium sulfate”. Although I’ve recently heard its efficacy disputed, for many years it has been the “go to” for sore and tired muscles.
The wisdom goes something like this; magnesium being absorbed through the skin as you soak in the bath helps relax skeletal muscles by flushing lactic acid buildup which may occur during physical exertion. Magnesium plays a role in the absorption of vitamins and it also helps regulate muscle and nerve function. All these effects significantly influence muscle soreness and stiffness. Take a bath, then decide.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.