A complete book

I am so impressed with this book! It is very complete. There are herbs for every aspect of a pregnant woman's life. Many of the remedies are also good for everyone. There are herbs for fertility, birth control, morning sickness, cramps, mood changes, bladder infections...and the list goes on. They even tell you how to make your own tinctures. Job well done!!



Before Pregnancy

Before pregnancy is fertility. Desiring pregnancy, you desire fertility. Avoiding pregnancy, you perceive fertility as a problem.

Information on herbs which affect fertility—beneficially or adversely—is scarce and often dangerously vague when available. A look through my well-stocked library of modern herbals reveals very little about herbal fertility control. The World Health Organization began compiling a computer data base of plants used for controlling conception in the late seventies, but their results are not general available. Herbs used before pregnancy are mentioned in older herbals and in anthropological accounts of aboriginal peoples. But these references (and current herbals which repeat from them) tend to be very general, hardly ever specifying an exact dosage or potential side effects. Our foremothers knew how to use herbs to promote or prevent pregnancy, but much of their wisdom is lost or destroyed.

What can be done to fill this void? I share with you my own experiences, feedback from my students, Wise Woman memories, and information gleaned from a wide range of published and unpublished resources. From the hundreds of herbs and substances reputed to influence fertility, I have picked up remedies for you that have shown themselves to be effective and safe when used with caution and respect. Although it is my experience that these herbs do not cause harm, I ask you to remember that herbs do not always have predictable effects. The same plant may increase fertility in one person and decrease it in another. Differences in preparation may change temporary birth control to permanent sterility. The effective substances in some plants may be present only at certain times.

If you hope to conceive soon or wish to prevent pregnancy, consider the herbs and the green devas who stand ready to help you.

Fertility Promoters

The reasons for infertility are complex and differ greatly from woman to woman and couple to couple. Despite these complexities, I have found that it is often amazingly easy and straightforward to establish a pregnancy with the help of herbs.

Herbs used to encourage a pregnancy are characterized by their ability to 1) nourish and tonify the uterus, 2) nourish the entire body, 3) relax the nervous system, 4) establish and balance normal functioning of the hormonal system, 5) balance sexual desire.

• Red Clover flowers The single most useful herb for establishing fertility is Trifolium pratense. Its high vitamin content is especially useful for the uterus; its high protein content aids the entire body; its profuse and exceedingly absorbable calcium and magnesium relax the nervous system and promote fertility; its high mineral content, including virtually every trace mineral needed by the glands, helps restore and balance hormonal functions. In addition, Red Clover alkalinizes the body and may balance the acid/alkaline level of the vagina and uterus in favor of conception.

Red clover is often combined with Peppermint in fertility brews since Mints are safe and pleasant tasting sexual stimulants. Infuse one ounce of Red Clover blossoms and a teaspoon of Peppermint (or any other mint) in a quart of water for four hours. This infusion may be taken freely throughout the day and for several months continuously. Alfalfa is regarded as a substitute for Red Clover, but I do not find it as effective.

• Nettle leaves The common stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica, is a uterine tonic and general nourisher with a special ability to strengthen the kidneys and adrenals. Its high mineral and chlorophyll content makes it an excellent food and tonic for the hormonal system. These characteristics make Nettle infusion my second favorite brew for increasing fertility. As with Red Clover, drink one or more cups of the infusion daily for several months.

• Red Raspberry leaves All Rubus species, but most especially the wild ones, provide leaves which contain an effective uterine tonic and a large amount of calcium. Raspberry leaf is my third choice as an herbal fertility promoter. It is most effective when combined with Red Clover. One or more cups of the infusion (prepared by steeping one half ounce Red Clover blossoms and one half ounce Raspberry leaves in a quart of water for four hours) can be taken daily and continued for months. Another way to increase the fertility promoting ability of Raspberry is to add 5-15 drops of either Dong Quai root tincture or False Unicorn root tincture to each cup of Raspberry leaf infusion.

• Dong Quai root I have found Angelica sinensis invaluable in normalizing menstrual periods. It is widely and highly regarded as a fertility promoter. The form I favor is a water-based combination extract sold in Chinatown stores under the name "Tang Kwei Gin." Best results are obtained when Dong Quai preparations are taken during the days between ovulations and menstruation and discontinued from the beginning of the menstrual flow to ovulation. If the "Gin" is unavailable, substitute a homemade Dong Quai/Comfrey root tincture. (See Appendix II.) CAUTION: Use Dong Quai only in combination with other herbs.

• False Unicorn root Chamaelirium luteum is regarded as a powerful and positive uterine tonic. It is also believed to have a strong beneficial and alkalinizing influence on the ovaries, kidneys, and bladder. Always noted as "the" herb for infertility, False Unicorn root is difficult to obtain except in commercial combination tinctures and capsules. Dosage of the tincture is 5-15 drops per day. The infusion is taken in sips, up to half a cup daily.


Ovulation is controlled by light. Leave a light on in your bedroom for three nights midway through your menstrual cycle; all other nights keep the room in total darkness. You will ovulate when the light is on. Have intercourse during the three "lights" nights if you want to conceive. This method, called lunaception, combines well with herbs which promote fertility.

Carlton Fredricks reports low levels of para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) in women who have difficulty in conceiving, and increased success in conception with supplements of PABA, but does not give dosage information.


Calcium and magnesium are the two minerals thought to be the most important in affecting a woman's ability to conceive and maintain a pregnancy. Refer to Appendix I for herbal sources of these minerals.


There is a well-established link between vitamin E and fertility. Vitamin E is said to have a "dramatic" effect on the reproductive systems of both men and women. Five hundred to 1500 IU taken daily by the male partner for several months prior to conception has been shown to prevent birth defects in children of couples who had defective children. Wheat germ oil is my favorite natural source of vitamin E. For other sources, see Appendix I.

Herbal Birth Control
Herbal birth control is the most effective when combined with knowledge of your fertility cycles, selective abstinence, mental control, and barriers to sperm. You may choose herbs to cause temporary or permanent sterility, to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, to bring on a late menstrual flow, or to empty the uterus if you believe conception has taken place. Although some of these herbs have potentially dangerous side effects, they are generally considered safe to use. Please respect their power.


Sterility Promoters

• Stoneseed root Lithospermum ruderale was used by Shoshone women to cause permanent sterility. They prepared the root as a cold infusion, steeping it for several hours in cold, rather than boiling, water, and drank a cup daily for six months. Women of the Dakota tribes drank a root infusion or breathed smoke from the burning plant to induce sterility. Another Stoneseed, the closely related Lithospermum officinale, is an old remedy for kidney failure due to blockage from stones.

• Jack-in-the Pulpit root Arisaema triphyllum was prepared by stirring one teaspoon of the dried powdered root into a half cup of cold water. The strained liquid was drunk by Hopi women and supposedly prevented conception for one week. If permanent sterility was desired, two teaspoons were stirred into a cup of hot water and drunk. The eastern variety of this plant, Arisaema atrorubens, is thoroughly dried (some sources recommend for a full year) and then used as a foodstuff. CAUTION: The raw rots, actually corms, of Arisaema species contain calcium oxalate, which causes intense burning sensations in the mouth.

• Thistles (Carduus benedictus, Cnicus ochroncentrus and some of the Cirsiums) Many types of Thistle seem to be useful in inhibiting fertilization. The Quinault Indians used Thistles to induce temporary sterility by preparing an infusion of the entire plant in boiling water and drinking the resulting strong, bitter liquid. All varieties of Thistle are edible and I have enjoyed many meals of them, eating both the roots and the inner portion of the stem.

Implantation Preventers
Herbs which prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg do so safely and relatively painlessly by making the endometrium unsuitable for the growth of the embryo. They are taken before or after the unprotected fertilizing intercourse. positive results are indicated by a normal menstrual flow at the normal time. Women say that when they have used these herbs their flow has been somewhat heavier and has contained more clots than usual, circumstantial evidence of a pregnancy that didn't take. As there's been no controlled study of possible side effects from long and regular use of these herbs, they should not be used on a monthly basis. No known side effects accompany occasional use.

• Wild Carrot seed One teaspoon of the seeds of Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) is taken daily, starting at the time of ovulation or immediately after unprotected intercourse during the fertile time, and continued for up to one week to prevent pregnancy. Women in Ragasthan, India use cultivated carrot seed in the same way. Researchers there have found that ingestion of carrot seed by mice prevents the implantation of their fertilized eggs. The seeds are oily and strong tasting, but not bitter or unpleasant. They are easily available for the taking in many parts of the world. Several species of Wild Carrot are abundant in all parks in North America, including city sidewalks, parks, and vacant lots. Wild Carrot seeds are not commercially available; if you plan on using cultivated carrot seeds, be absolutely certain they haven't been treated with toxic substances.

• Ruti Occurring naturally in association with vitamin C in many plant leaves, most notably Rue, buckwheat, and Elder, rutin can be used to prevent pregnancy. Take it as a tablet in doses of at least 500 mg daily for several days preceding and following ovulation, or take it after fertilizing intercourse and continue until the menstrual flow begins.

• Smartweed leaves Polygonum hydropiper grows as a weed all over the world and is used world-wide as a fertility regulator. It contains rutin, quercitin, and gallic acid, all of which interfere with normal pregnancy. Rutin inhibits the production of hormones which stimulate gamete production. Quercitin stimulates uterine contractions. Gallic acid is known as an anti-tumor agent; it may treat an embryo as a tumor and prevent its normal formation. Prepare an infusion of four ounces of the fresh or one ounce of the dried leaves in a quart of boiling water and drink freely until menstrual bleeding starts. Smartweed may be used to prevent implantation after intercourse during fertile days, or to bring on a missed period. It is certainly not safe to use unless you intend to follow up with a mechanical abortion should it not bring on the hoped-for discharge.

Menstrual Promoters

Herbs used to bring on or promote a menstrual flow are known as emmenagogues. There are at least fifty in common use throughout the world.
If your period is a day or two late, an emmenagogue may bring it on. If you suspect before your menstrual flow is due that you may be pregnant and wish not to be, begin drinking a menstrual promoter a week before your expected flow.


Some Good Emmenagogues

• Ginger root Cultivated Zingiber is one of the strongest and fastest acting of the emmenagogues. I recall a friend dashing for the bathroom after drinking a Jamaican Ginger beer, saying: "But I'm not due to bleed until tomorrow!" The simplest way to prepare Ginger is to put one teaspoon of the powdered root into a cup and pour boiling water over it. Drink when it cools somewhat. Or make an infusion of one ounce of the whole dried root or the freshly grated root in a pint of water. Take no more than four cups a day of any of these brews. If you become nauseated by drinking Ginger, you have a strong indication that you are pregnant. If your menstrual flow does not come within five days, discontinue use of Ginger.

• Tansy leaves This prolific plant should not be confused with Tansy Ragwort, a potentially poisonous plant which is a weed in the midwest. The Tansy I am speaking of is Tanacetum vulgare, a garden plant or a wild plant of the northeast. It is a favorite of one of my students who has used it for years as a backup to her regular birth control. When necessary, she drinks an infusion of the flowers and leaves for a week before her period is due and claims that she has never been late yet. Other women have reported that they have used Tansy infusion successfully, but were disturbed by the temporary appearance of lumps in their breasts after use. There are also reports that Tansy can cause hemorrhage among women who normally have heavy menstrual flows. One midwife reports that she uses it as a tincture, giving 10 drops in a cup of water every two hours until bleeding begins. She says the tincture definitely induces abortion when the period is several weeks overdue.

• Pennyroyal leaves The American variety of Pennyroyal, Hedeoma pulegioides is one of the most powerful of all emmenegogues. My first experience with using Pennyroyal as an abortifacient centered around a pregnant Great Dane. Her owner fasted her for three days, then fed her ground meat with several ounces of dried Pennyroyal mixed into it. She aborted one pup the next morning—but carried the other eight to term! They were all healthy and normal puppies. From this I have inferred that it is reasonably safe to try to abort with Pennyroyal, even if it doesn't work. But one midwife reports that in several instances women she knows have tried to abort (unsuccessfully) with Pennyroyal and their placentas have implanted dangerously low.Pennyroyal is prepared as an infusion and taken as hot as possible; some women drink it in a hot bath. The tincture is taken in doses of 20 drops in a cup of hot water. No more than four cups of either preparation should be consumed per day and for no more than five days. This is considered sufficient to induce menstruation without taxing the woman. CAUTION: Half an ounce of Pennyroyal oil can cause death. DO not use Pennyroyal oil internally.

• Vitamin C Ascorbic acid is the safest and reportedly most effective emmenagogue that can be used after the menstrual flow has failed to appear. Women report success even when three weeks "late." Six grams of vitamin C (6000 mg) is the daily dosage needed to abort. Take 500 mg every hour for 12 hours a day for up to six days. CAUTION: This dosage may produce loose stools.

A List of Emmenagogues

Don't exceed the recommended doses; many of these emmenagogues can cause strong side effects. The starred herbs (• •) are oxytocic; use only with focused attention and acute sensitivity to the body's reactions. The herbs in boldface will bring on a late period about 60% of the time if the expected flow is no more than two weeks overdue.

° Angelica root: infusion, tincture (10 drops three times daily for four days)
° Fresh Lemon Balm leaves: tincture, bath
° Bethroot: infusion, tincture (a dropperful every four hours for five days)
° ° Birthwort root or whole plant in flower: infusion
° Black Cohosh root: infusion, tincture (20 drops every six hours for four days)
° ° Blue Cohosh root: infusion, tincture (20 drops every four hours for five days)
° ° Cotton root bark: infusion

° European Vervain plant: tincture (15 drops every six hours for five days)
° ° Ergot fungus: commercial extracts
° Feverfew plants in flower: tincture (40 drops every three hours for four days)
° Ginger root: infusion, tincture
° Hyssop leaves: infusion, tincture
° Liferoot plant in flower: tincture (20 drops twice daily for five days)

° Lovage root: infusion
° ° Marijuana female flowers: infusion, tincture, smoke
° ° Mistletoe leaves: infusion

° Mugwort plant: decoction
° Osha root: infusion, tincture (10 drops every four hours for five days)
° Fresh Parsley leaves: juice, vaginal insert (several sprigs, changed twice daily for three days)
° Pennyroyal plant: infusion, tincture, oil (Avoid completely before and throughout pregnancy. Oil rubbed on skin may cause miscarriage.)
° ° Peruvian bark: infusion, tincture (15 drops twice daily for four days)
° Rosemary plant in flower: infusion, tincture (20 drops twice daily for five days)
° Rue leaves: infusion, tincture (10 drops every six hours for four days)
° Saffron stigmas: one half gram daily for four days (ten grams is a fatal dose)
° Sumac berries: infusion (source of vitamin C and possibly rutin)
° Sweet Flag root: infusion, bath, tincture (10 drops every ix hours for six days)
° Tansy plant in flower: infusion, tincture
° Fresh Wood Sorrel plant: infusion, tincture (10 drops every six hours for four days)


Uterine Contractors

Herbs which promote strong uterine contractions can cause an early miscarriage or abortion. Some uterine contractors are poisons, like Water Hemlock. Some herbs, such as certain seaweeds and pieces of Slippery Elm bark, are inserted into the os of the cervix to cause uterine contraction (and possible life threatening infection) by their irritating effect. Other herbs contain oxytocin, which encourages production of prostaglandins in the body; high levels of prostaglandins cause contraction of the uterus. A few herbs directly stimulate uterine contractions.

If your period is no more than two weeks late, you can probably abort by using a uterine contractor alone or in combination with a strong emmenagogue. Some women report success even when four weeks late. Abortion is a controversial subject, and herbal abortions are not an easy solution to the issues involved. Any abortion is physically, emotionally, and psychically stressful. If you decide that you are not going to nourish a life growing within, please seek a woman wise in the ways of bodies and feelings to help you.

Cotton root bark Gossypium is reported to be the safest and most certain herbal abortifacient. I have tried to obtain some organic Cotton root bark for six years now, without success. My information on its effectiveness comes from a study done by a women's health collective in New Mexico. They used an infusion taken by sips throughout the day until the abortion was well under way. This is apparently a traditional method of birth control among Native Americans who grow cotton. Specific information on dosage and possible side effects should be available to women who live in the South and seek out a traditional healer or curandera.

Blue Cohosh root Caulophyllum thalictroides is usually combined with Pennyroyal when used as an abortifacient. There are any number of ways to prepare and ingest this combination. Both Pennyroyal and Blue Cohosh are toxic in excess and can easily overtax the liver and kidneys. Headache and extreme nausea have been reported by many women using these herbs. This is a common remark: "I knew that if I could just drink one more cup of that infusion, I would abort, but I threw up every time I tried!" CAUTION: Do not use Blue Cohosh if you have low blood pressure.
° Emmenagogue Formulae - See Appendix II


Substances that cause birth defects are known as teratogens. You and the fetus are particularly sensitive to teratogens during the first five months of the childbearing year (the two months prior to conception and the first three months of pregnancy). Exposure to teratogens interferes with the rhythmic reproductive dance of your genes, chromosomes, and cells. The effects of this disruption include infertility, miscarriage, low birth weight, and a wide range of mental and physical deformities in your baby. This list of teratogens is based on Terata: A Mother's Prenatal Health compiled by Jo Carrasco and Sue Keller. See References and Resources for reprint information.


Before and during pregnancy, completely avoid:

° Smoking
° Alcohol (including beer and wine)
° Raw or undercooked meat
° Radiation (x-rays, video display terminals)
° Caffeine (coffee, black tea, cola, chocolate, maté)
° DES (diethylstilbestrol)
° Aspirin
° Antihistamines, including Ma-huang, Ephedra, Osha root
° Most laxatives, including Flax seed, Senna, Aloes, Castor Oil, Turkey Rhubarb, Buckthorn, Cascara Sagrada
° Antacids
° Diuretics, including Buchu, Horsetail, Juniper berries
° pHisohex (or hexachlorophene)
° Hair dyes
° Hemorrhoid medications

° Chemical stimulants and depressants (LSD, psychotropics, phenobarbital, barbituates, tranquilizers)
° Motion sickness or anti-nausea drugs (Bendectin)
° Epinephrine (Adrenalin) shots
° Sulfonamides (sulfa drugs) antibiotics
° Vaccines, anesthetics, mercury vapors in dentist's office
° Steroids and herbs containing steroid-like factors, including Agave, Ginseng, Licorice, Hops, Sage (which also decreases lactation)
° Hormones (birth control pills, most commercial meats)
° Acutane (acne medicine)
° Excesses of vitamins A, C, or D (vitamins found naturally in herbs are safer than supplemental vitamin pills)
° Heavy metals: lead, nickel, cadmium, manganese
° Pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides (particularly those containing Carbaryl)
° Fumes from paints, thinners, solvents, wood preservatives, varnishes, glues, spray adhesives, benzene, dry-cleaning fluids, certain plastics, vinyl chloride, rubber tuolene
° Lithium, arsenic
° Contact with cat feces
° PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl)

And beware of the risks of!

° Incompatible Rh factors (possibly mitigated by one gram vitamin C with bioflavanoids taken daily during the last thirty weeks of pregnancy)
° Amniocentesis
° Electronic Fetal Monitoring, either indirect (ultrasound or direct (electrode)
° Ultrasound in any form
° Prolonged exposure to extremely high temperatures
° Emmenagogues (see pages 9-10), especially during the first and last trimesters
° Common cooking herbs which may encourage miscarriage: Basil, Caraway seeds, Celery sees, Ginger, fresh Horseradish, Savory, Marjoram, Nutmeg, Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Parsley, Tarragon, Thyme, Watercress (avoid during the first trimester; use sparingly thereafter)
° Golden Seal root (stresses liver and kidneys, raises white blood cell count, and can cause uterine contractions)

References and Resources

° Healing Yourself
Joy Gardener; 1982, Box 752, Vashon, WA 98070
° Lunaception
Louise Lacey; 1975, Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan, Inc.
PO Box 489, Berkeley, CA 94701
° Hygieia
Jeannine Parvati; 1977, Freestone
° The Use of Herbal Birth Control among Indian Women of North America
Barbara Kean; 1977, unpublished paper
° A Cooperative Method of Natural Birth Control
Margaret Nofziger; 1976, Book Publishing Company
° Mental Birth Control
Mildred Jackson & Terri Teague: 1973
POB 656, Oakland, CA 94604
° The Natural Birth Control Book; Art Rosenblum
Aquarian Research Foundation
5260 Morton St.
Philadelphia, PA 19144
° Conscious Conception
Jeannine Parvati Baker, Frederick Hamilton Baker, and Tamara Slayton; 1985, Freestone & Wingbow, co-publishers
° When Birth Control Fails
Suzanne Gage; Speculum Press
° Using Plants to Induce Miscarriage
AlexSandra Lett; 1977
POB 430, Yellow Springs, OH 45387
° "How Chemicals are Harming Our Genes" (includes coffee & tobacco)
CoEvolution Quarterly, Spring 1979 ($3)
POB 428, Sausalito, CA 94966
° "Terata: A Mother's Prenatal Health Advisory"
Mother Jones, January 1985 (reprint $1.55)
1663 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103