October 29, 1999
Volume 1, Issue 44
Midwifery Today E-News
“Herbs”
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* Ocho Rios, Jamaica, December 2-6, 1999
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In This Week's Issue:

1) Quote of the Week
2) The Art of Midwifery
3) News Flashes
4) Enriching Our Knowledge
5) The Fullest Application of Herbal Remedies
6) Question of the Week
7) Question of the Week Responses
8) Switchboard
9) Why I Became a Birth Practitioner

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1) Quote of the Week:

"Once your mind is stretched by a new idea, it will never again return to its original size."

- Oliver Wendall Holmes

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2) The Art of Midwifery

One of the most irritating nuisances of pregnancy is itching skin. In general, this is caused by an overtaxed liver. My usual recommendation is to take dandelion root tincture (Taraxacum officinale) twice daily. As the liver is nurtured and strengthened, the itching will stop, or at least lessen considerably. Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) is also a good treatment for itching. Both these plants are mildly cathartic (help empty the bowels) and diuretic, which is useful for removing toxins from the stressed liver.

- Katy Polone, Midwifery Today Issue 26

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Share your midwifery arts with E-News readers! Send your favorite tricks to mtensubmit@midwiferytoday.com

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Midwifery Care: Using Alternatives
Midwifery Today Philadelphia post-conference all day workshop
Monday, March 27, 2000
Instructor: Lisa Goldstein, midwife and herbalist

A full day of information about the use of herbals and homeopathics in pregnancy, birth and postpartum. An extensive reference book will be given to class participants. Slides will be shown for plant identification and there will be demos for making herbal tinctures, oils and salves and homeopathic solutions from pellets. This class is for everyone!
For more information, call 1-800-743-0974. Please mention Code 940.

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3) News Flashes

False Hypertension Linked With Cesareans

Many pregnant women may undergo unnecessary cesarean sections because they have "white-coat hypertension"--high blood pressure that happens only when they are around doctors, a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests. Almost one-third of pregnant women have such false high blood pressure.
Believing it is real hypertension, doctors usually treat it with blood pressure lowering drugs, which can compromise a woman's ability to have normal contractions and in the study led to apparently unnecessary cesareans, said research author Dr. Gianni Beliomo of Assisi Hospital in Italy.
Researchers studied 144 pregnant women who had high blood pressure during the final third of their pregnancies and found that 42 had white-coat hypertension. The women's blood pressure was normal when it was not being measured by a health professional, as shown by portable monitors the women wore for 24 hours.
Nineteen of these 42 women ultimately underwent cesareans (45 percent), a rate similar to the 42 cesareans (41 percent) among the 102 women with true hypertension. But only 13 cesarean deliveries (12 percent) were done among a comparison group of 103 women with normal blood pressure.

- AP wire service report, submitted by Rayner Garner

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4) Enriching Our Knowledge

To use herbal medicine requires a departure from the idea that the only valid knowledge comes from scientific research. The scientific method is a powerful and useful paradigm, but we can enrich our knowledge by allowing the possibility of learning from perspectives outside the bio-medical model. Just because an herb has not been studied does not mean it is ineffective or unsafe. Tradition of use and knowledge of the plant based on observation and experience are valid as well. As noted by R. F. Weiss, a leading German physician, where there is a long tradition of use by a population, [the herb's] action has to be considered established, even without double blind trials." For example, there is general knowledge regarding the use of prune juice for constipation. We know what prune juice does, and that it is safe. It is not necessary to study its safety and efficacy. [Similarly], when there has been widespread use of an herb over time for a particular effect, there is validity to that knowledge.
The World Health Organization recommends that in a rational approach to evaluating the safety and efficacy of herbal products, historical and cultural usage should be combined with modern scientific research.

Herbal Preparations and Dosage Guidelines

Storage: Store dried herbs away from light and heat.

Quality: The freshness and quality of the herb, meaning the care with which it was harvested, dried and processed, are the most important factors in the effectiveness of the herb.

Water-Based Preparations: Water-based preparations must be made from dried, not fresh plants. In the fresh plant the cell wall is still intact, so most of the constituents cannot be extracted. Drying is necessary to rupture the cell wall and allow release of the constituents. A larger quantity and broader range of the nourishing properties of the plant are available in water than are in alcohol.

Simple teas are appropriate for flowers and seeds which open and release their contents easily, or for herbs where the volatile oils are a major constituent.

Infusions are used to prepare the leafy portion of plants. Leaves have tougher cell walls so it takes longer for the constituents to come out of the plant into solution.

Cold infusions are used for a few plants which contain valuable constituents that would be damaged by heat.

Decoctions are used to extract the more dense parts of plants such as roots or barks.

External applications of herbs, such as poultices, compresses and fomentations, are used to accelerate healing and prevent or draw out infection.

Essential oils are very strong and are almost never used internally.

Infused oils: The fresh plant is simply packed into a jar, covered with olive oil, and allowed to sit for two weeks. Salves can be made by simply adding beeswax.

Tinctures are alcohol based preparation. Some herbs work better in tincture form, since some plant constituents are more soluble in alcohol than in water. Some plants are more effective medicinally if the fresh plant is made into tincture; in other cases, dried plant is more beneficial, and with some herbs it doesn't matter.

Glycerites, the sweet fraction of oil (oil minus the fatty acids) does not have the same extractive properties of alcohol. Most herbs are not effective in this preparation.

Powdered, prepackaged herbs have been extensively exposed to air, causing oxidation and rapid loss of potency. Grinding and encapsulating the herbs oneself is the best way to maintain high quality if capsules are preferred.

Standardized extracts are chemically manipulated to isolate, measure and concentrate specific compounds that are considered to have beneficial activity. There is more potential for side effects with these extracts. And the synergistic effects of the plant are diminished or lost.

- Cindy Belew, CNM, Herbalist, "Herbs and the Childbearing Woman, Vol. 1," a self-published book

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5) The Fullest Application of Herbal Remedies

Using an herb only on the basis of getting rid of unpleasant diseases without seeing the symptoms in the bigger picture (the family ecology) is an allopathic practice and an intervention. Herbs can be used this way--to fix something wrong--and/or herbs can promote the crisis of suffering leading to healing which I consider of greater benefit.
Where I live in Utah, childbearing women have legs like the Rand-McNally Road Atlas. A fairly high elevation coupled with a diet heavy in meat and sugar cause varicosities in the legs and vulva. Add to this picture grand multiparity-it is common for women to have a dozen children, most close in age.
Using astringent herbs to relieve the symptoms without honoring the way this condition presently serves is a disservice. What good does it do to shrink veins if the way the mother handles the pressure within isn't corrected itself? Stress is what each of us makes of life--using herbs without seeing how each life handles stress implies the need for more herbs to be used when the disease shows itself again. And again it will--disease is the soul's way of calling to attention unbalanced living.
What I am emphasizing is the intention. How is the herb given and taken? Herbs as topical band-aid, or herbs as healing agents, and/or herbs to relieve and heal at the same time?

- Jeannine Parvati Baker, "Midwifery and Herbs," Midwifery Today Issue 26

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For information on Midwifery Today conference auidotapes on herbs and alternative practice, go to http://www.midwiferytoday.com/mt/product/audioherb.html

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6) Question of the Week: If you have any new insights or information about gestational diabetes, please share it with E-News readers.

Send your responses to mtensubmit@midwiferytoday.com

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7) Question of the Week Responses

Q: What is one of your favorite herbal remedies or preventatives? Be specific about amount, frequency and application. Think outside the usual!

I don't suppose my favorite is at all "outside the usual." Nonetheless, nettles is my favorite preventative herb!!

I encourage *all* my clients to drink 16-32 oz. of nettles tea every day! For women who just cannot drink this tea or in that quantity, I suggest taking the herb in capsule form (2 caps, 3 x day).

Nettles tea is a superior natural thirst quencher, high in vitamin K, iron and important anti-oxidants. Mixed with other woman-friendly herbs such as oat straw, red raspberry leaf and red clover, these herbs support the expanding blood volume and tone the uterus. It is a wonderful and refreshing beverage hot or cold. Taken during labor, it provides all important, blood clotting vitamin K for mother and baby. After the baby comes, it continues to refresh the mother, and helps increase milk production.

- Kim Mosny, CPM
Memphis, TN

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I am an aspiring midwifery student in Germany. The midwives and doctors here use tea tree oil on the suture wound. A few days after a woman has had an episiotomy or has torn, she is given a syringe with the needle still attached, filled with tea tree oil. She is then shown how to use a mirror to see her wound and to drop a few drops of this wonderfully cool oil directly on it. If she is not comfortable doing this, the postpartum midwife will apply the oil. Putting the oil in the syringe with needle allows accurate application. This is standard practice here and from personal experience, I can attest that it really works well.

- Kiersten Figurski

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To increase milk when mine gets low, I have found that Mother's Milk tea, made by Traditional Medicinals, works well. If I drink one cup in the morning and another cup around noon, I am nearly dripping by afternoon. Even one cup in a day makes a significant difference. It contains fennel seed, anise seed, coriander seed, spearmint leaf, lemongrass, lemon verbena leaf, althea root, blessed thistle leaf, and fenugreek seed, a good tasting combination. This tea is available at some health food stores and is also available from Cascade Healthcare Products or Blooming Prairie Coop.

The other "herbal" remedy (broadly speaking) I have found effective for increasing milk is oats. When my milk has gotten low, I eat a generous serving of oatmeal for breakfast. Later in the day I can see a difference in the quantity of my milk. I continue to eat this for a few days until my milk is reestablished at a sufficient level.

Of course, these remedies should be combined with the common sense solutions of plenty of liquids for mom and enough rest. Making milk is hard work for a mom's body.

- K.

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I am a student midwife and work with herbs. Two herbs helpful for diabetes and safe during pregnancy are buchu and uva ursi. The dosage would be: as a tea, boil a heaping teaspoon of uva ursi in a pint of boiling water for thirty minutes (low boil to prevent evaporation). Remove from heat and add an ounce of buchu leaves. Steep. Do not boil buchu leaves. Buchu is originally from Africa. If you have trouble finding the ingredients, I can help you.

Louise Hay states a probable cause for diabetes is "longing for what might have been; great need to control; deep sorrow; no sweetness left." The affirmation she recommends is, "This moment is filled with joy. I now choose to experience the sweetness of today." I have seen metaphysical work effect healing.
As a fitness trainer, I was taught how exercise and nutrition help diabetes. Exercise promotes the entry of glucose into the cells and so can lower a diabetic's glucose levels. Too much exercise can bring on an episode of hypoglycemia. A safe recommendation, with your care provider's approval, would be: walking, plenty of hydration and the Bradley or Brewer diet (which can be accommodated to vegetarians). One key to stabilizing blood sugar is the required 75-100 grams of protein daily, eaten in six meals throughout the day. Pasta should be cooked al dente. White flour/sugar products should be replaced with whole grains. Carbohydrates break down into sugar, so limit portions.

- Beth
Reply to: WINGDEL@aol.com

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8) Switchboard

In response to the topic of miscarriage [Issue 43]: the emotional effect is an important part of the experience for caregivers to consider. Women and their partners each respond, sometimes with grief, and it is a passage to acknowledge.

- Anon.

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I am a fabric artist, aspiring midwife and mother of three. My three daughters were born at home into the hands of my mother (also a midwife) and me. The joy of their births has been exquisite.

Three months before becoming pregnant with my third daughter, I had a miscarriage at about 5 weeks. I was devastated. I bled and bled, but had no actual baby to look at, bury, mourn. I made what I now call an "Unborne Grieving Bag." I dyed fabric to look like a placenta, and on it I quilted a tiny fetus I made from soft fabric. I made a small bag, also hand dyed to look like a uterus, and I put a blotchy red and blue dyed drawstring at the top to look like an umbilical cord. Inside the bag I put healing herbs and ceder chips, and my little quilt baby. I carried the baby around in my bra for about a week, taking it out and kissing it, talking to it, and shedding tears over it, carrying it against the warm place I would have nurtured it, fed it and cuddled it. I named my baby, and placed special objects I found inside the bag with it to remember and honor it.

The grieving bag helped me tremendously in working through my grief. Since then I have made many of these bags for others who have lost children and have also used them to do a healing workshop in my home.

I now make the bags available, for US$20, to whomever might need one. Working through my grief, I have found a way to make an income for my family, enabling me to continue to stay home with my children and also fulfill my art. I can be contacted for orders by phone or email.

- Allie Alden
e-mail: Tulsi4@aol.com
webpage: http://www.midwiferytoday.com/loves/alliealden.html
(850) 936-8887

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In reference to Jennifer Landels' response to Valerie El Halta's recommendations for avoiding premature and low birthweight twins (Issue 43 & 42): it is important to know the difference between a single anecdotal experience and the study of large numbers of like events. [Jennifer] is a well nourished, intelligent and educated woman who is aware of her body and its functions. Compare that with the deprived uneducated woman and you'll see large differences in outcomes. The problem may be sociological of course but that's what the "medical" safety net should be there to catch.

- Phil Watters

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I am interested in knowing the differences between a doula, a traditional midwife and a nurse midwife. Please explain.

- Ginger

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What are midwives' experiences with babies in whom hypospadia was treated and those who were not?

- J.M.

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Does anyone know how toxemia may affect the next pregnancy? I became pregnant when my baby was one year old, and my midwife says the liver profile doesn't look good. My liver was apparently damaged when I had toxemia the last time. I'm wondering what to expect this time around.

- Paula

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Share your responses to Switchboard letters with E-News readers! Send them to mtensubmit@midwiferytoday.com If an email address is included with the letter, feel free to respond directly.

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9) Why I Became a Birth Practitioner

I am a 21 year old student, preparing to study midwifery formally. I traveled for almost 3 years before beginning my college education (I am taking anatomy) and saw so many young mothers smoking around their babies or even during pregnancy. I met very nice young women who treated their pregnancies awfully.

I wondered and worried and decided that people must not realize how sacred it is to bring life into this world. I have never had children but I know it is so special and must be treated as such. When a mother is pregnant, everything possible should be done to give this baby a healthy start to life and the mother, a wonderful experience. So I decided I wanted to help this happen by becoming a midwife. I plan to work with poor families wherever my help is needed, foreign or domestic. I would love to correspond with others who feel the same.

- Kelsey Fries
Reply to: Quiltur@aol.com

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Why did you become a birth practitioner--or why do you aspire to become one? Send your responses to mtensubmit@midwiferytoday.com

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8) Coming E-News Themes

Coming issues of Midwifery Today E-News will carry the following themes. You are enthusiastically invited to write articles, make comments, tell stories, send techniques, ask questions, write letters or news items related to these themes:

- Waterbirth (Nov. 5)
- Omnium Gatherum (Nov. 12)
- Gestational Diabetes (Nov. 19)

We look forward to hearing from you very soon! Send your submissions to mtensubmit@midwiferytoday.com. Some themes will be duplicated over time, so your submission may be filed for later use.


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