Pregnancy, Childbirth and Postpartum care – Herbal medicines


 Pregnancy and childbirth have been an essential part of human existence for millennia, but unfortunately the experience has not been easy for all women. Although many pharmaceutical drugs are available but the potential of drugs to cause harm, exemplified by thalidomide in 1958 cannot be ignored. Therefore, many pharmaceutical drugs are not recommended for use during pregnancy either because of known or suspected problems or because not enough is known to say that they are safe. In this respect, herbal medicine is gaining popularity both in developing and developed countries because of their natural origin and relative safety with fewer side effects. This article briefly reviews some of those plants all over the world which are being used during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care. About 122 plants species belonging to different families were reviewed among which the most common were Asparagus racemosus (Liliaceae), Apium graveolens (Apiaceae), Rheum officinale (Polygonaaceae), Veratrum nigrum (Melanthiaceae). From the present studies it can be conclude that, herbal medicines can be used during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care after proper validation of the plants.

INTRODUCTION: Since ancient times, mankind has used plants to cure diseases and relieve physical sufferings.The plants provided food, clothing, shelter and medicine. Much of the medicinal use of plants seems to have been developed through observations of wild animals and by trial and error. As time went on, each tribe added the medicinal power of herbs in their area to its knowledge base.

Because of better cultural acceptability, better compatibility with the human body, lesser side effects and effectiveness many traditional medicines is now an accepted fact.

More than 35,000 plant species are being used in various human cultures around the world for medicinal purposes. Herbal medicines, since times immemorial, have been used in virtually all cultures as a source of medicine. The widespread use of herbal remedies and healthcare preparations, as those described in ancient texts such as the Vedas and the Bible, and obtained from commonly used traditional herbs and medicinal plants, has been traced to the occurrence of natural products with medicinal properties. The use of traditional medicine and medicinal plants in most developing countries, as a normative basis for the maintenance of good health, has been widely observed. About 80% of world populations are still dependent on traditional medicines for primary healthcare.

Herbal Medicines: “Herbal formulation means a dosage form consisting of one or more herbs or processed herb(s) in specified quantities to provide specific nutritional, cosmetic benefits, and/or other benefits meant for use to diagnose treat, mitigate diseases of human beings or animals and/or to alter the structure or physiology of human beings or animals”. Herbal preparations are obtained by subjecting whole plant, fragmented or cut plants, plants parts to treatments such as extraction, distillation, expression, fractionation, purification, concentration or fermentation. These include comminuted or powdered herbal substances, tinctures, extracts, essential oils, expressed juices and processed exudates.



  • Mostly herbal drugs are well tolerated by the patient, having fewer unintended consequences and fewer side effects than traditional medicine, and may be safer touse.
  • Herbal drugs are more effective for long-standing health complaints that don’t respond well to traditional medicine.
  • Cost of herbal drugs is much less than prescription medications. Research, testing, and marketing add considerably to the cost of prescription medicines. Herbs tend to be inexpensive compared to drugs.
  • Herbs are available without a prescription. Simple herbs, such as peppermint and chamomile, can be cultivated at home.



  • An herbalist would not be able to treat serious trauma, such as a broken leg, nor would he be able to heal appendicitis or a heart attack as effectively as a conventional doctor using modern diagnostic tests, surgery, and drugs.
  • Self-treatment with herbal drugs may consist of many risk factors. Moreover with no proper direction of doses may lead to overdose.
  • Consumption of herbal drugs without correct identification of plant e. use of wrong part of plant may lead to poisoning.
  • All herbal drugs are not safe; some may be poisonous or may cause allergenic reactions.
  • Curing period is usually longer in comparison to conventional medication. Immense patience while undergoing herbal treatment is needed.

Pregnancy and childbirth have been an essential part of human existence for millennia, but unfortunately the experience has not been easy for all women. Medicinal plants have a significant role during pregnancy, birth and postpartum care in many rural areas of the world. Plants used in women’s health related conditions such as female fertility, menorrhea, birth control, pregnancy, birth (parturition), postpartum (puerperium) and lactation, including infant care, has been documented for various ethnic groups. Even though modern medical systems are available, most of the people are still depending on the rich local health traditions for mother and child care.

Therefore, herbal medicine is gaining popularity both in developing and developed countries because of their natural origin and relative safety with fewer side effects. Herbal medicines are finished, labelled medicinal products that contain active ingredients, aerial or underground part of plants or other plant materials, or combination thereof, whether in the crude state or as plant preparations



No. Botanical Name Local Name Part Used Ethno medicinal uses / Mode of Administration
1 Asparagus racemosus Shatavari Root extract Female tonic, in threatened abortion, preeclampsia associated with pregnancy, galactogogue, to treat diabetes
2 Apium graveolens Celery Whole plant Fresh juice for hypertension associated with pregnancy
3 Rheum officinale orR. palmatum Rhubarb Root Hypertension associated with pregnancy
4 Veratrum nigrum Black false hellebore Root to treat preeclampsia during pregnancy
5 Picralima nitida Akuamma plant Seeds in diabetic pregnancy
6 Nauclea latifolia pin cushion tree Root and stem in diabetic pregnancy
7 Oxytenanthera abyssinica Bamboo Leaves in diabetic pregnancy
8 Momordica charantia Bitter melon Fruit and leaf Anti-diabetic
9 Azadiracta indica Neem leaves To treat anemia and anti-diabetic
10 Emblica officinalis Amla Fruit Increases red blood cell counts and therefore improves anemia
11 Abrus precatorious Chirmi Roots Grind roots, add water and drink infusion for Cough, Anti-diabetic
12 Zingiber officinale Ginger Rhizomes To treat hyperemesis gravidarum (serious cases of “morning sickness”)especially during the first trimester of pregnancy
13 Jateorrhiza bukobensis Yellow fever Tuber Soak in water and drink infusion for Malaria
14 Breonadia microcephala Chonya Bark Soak in water and drink infusion for Pneumonia
15 Ficus capensis Nkuyu Bark Pound and add powder in porridge for Pneumonia and Trichomonas vaginalis
16 Cissus zombensis
Roots Soak in water and drink concoction for Trichomonas vaginalis
17 Ormocarpum kirkii Nsungachuma Leaves and stem Boil and drink infusion for Trichomonas vaginalis
18 Vaccinium macrocarpon Cranberry Fruit Cranberry extract for Urinary tract infection
19 Zea mays Corn/maize Fruit Fruit to treat Urinary tract infection
20 Aspalathus linearis Rooibos tea Leaves and stem Herbal tea is used during pregnancy to relieve heat burn and nausea
21 Abutilon indicum Thuthi Root Decoction is used as an antihypertensive and health promotion tonic
22 Boerhaavia diffusa Sarandakodi Root To treat anaemia
23 Citrullus colocynthis bitter cucumber Fruit Used in Pregnancy
24 Diplazium esculentum Vegetable fern Leaf Given to Pregnant mothers for nutrition
25 Arctostaphylos uva-ursi Bearberry Fruit Fruit to treat Urinary tract infection
26 Rubus idaeus and R. occidentalis Raspberry Leaf To prevent miscarriage, ease morning sickness and ensure a quick birth
27 Hymenocardia acida Therutheru Roots Soak in water and drink infusion for diarrhoea
28 Parinari excelsa Muula Roots Warm on fire and make a compress on ribs to treat Pneumonia
29 Musa paradisiaca Nthochi Fruits Wear around waist to treat Pneumonia
30 Ekebergia benguelensis Mulepa Roots Cook and drink infusion for the treatment of Trichomonas vaginalis
31 Sida alnifolia Arrow leaf sida Whole plant Fresh whole plant paste in milk is taken (after 7 months of pregnancy) for normal delivery
32 Cissus quadrangularis Perandai Roots Used during Pregnancy
33 Syzygium jambolanum Black plum Fruit in diabetic pregnancy
34 Syzygium cuminii Naval palam Seed Powder Taken orally for diabetes
35 Biophytum sensitivum Jhalai leaves Leaves of this plant and groundnut seeds are crushed and eaten twice daily by pregnant women as diuretic
36 Eremurus himalaicus Tache Whole plant young leaves are used as vegetables in case of anaemia



No. Botanical Name Local Name Part Used Ethno medicinal uses / Mode of Administration
1 Aerva lanata Cherula Whole plant Decoction mixed with cow’s milk is taken twice daily from 7th month of pregnancy for easy delivery
2 Mullugo pentaphylla Parpadakapullu Whole plant Whole plant decoction with water is given to ease delivery
3 Cleome gynandra Eshogi Roots aqueous herbal extract to induce childbirth hence hasten labour process
4 Vernonia amygdalina Bitter leaf Leaves aqueous herbal extract to induce childbirth hence hasten labour process
5 Clivia miniata Boslelie whole plant (leaves, roots and rhizome) Infusions are taken regularly during pregnancy to help with childbirth. Stronger concentrations are used to induce labour.
6 Cassia fistula Garmala Pods and bark Pods bark paste with kesar, mishri and rose water is given for easy and painless delivery
7 Carica papaya Papaya Latex Crude papaya latex is used to induce labour
8 Bidens pilosa Sere Leaf aqueous extract used to induce labour
9 Luffa cylindrica Ekyangu Leaf, fruit and root aqueous extract used to induce labour
10 Musa acuminata Banana Root chewing after roasting used to induce labour
11 Cajanus cajan Pigeon pea Leaf aqueous extract used to induce labour
12 Butea monosperma Dhok, Khakhra Gum 25 gm gum mixed with 200 gm jiggery, given orally at the time of delivery for easy delivery
13 Brassica oleracea Cabbagge Root Root is chewed to induce labour
14 Achyranthes aspera Kadaladi Whole plant Given orally to ease childbirth and mitigate labour pain
15 Quassia cedron Hikuribianda Inner bark Decoction is used to assist childbirth
16 Wrightia tinctoria Khirni Whole plant Applied externally on vagina for easy delivery
17 Physalis peruviana Kitutu Leaf aqueous extract used to induce labour
18 Pennisetum purpureum Elephant grass Leaf aqueous extract used to induce labour
19 Merwillana talensis Blue Squill Bulb For menstrual pains, infertility and to support the process in women to deliver their babies
20 Apeiba echinata barudaballi Inner bark Decoction is used to hasten childbirth
21 Eugenia michelii Pitanga, Suriname cherry Stem and Leaves Stem shows antimicrobial activity, leaf infusion is used for easy delivery
22 Dactyloctenium aegyptium Egyptian crowfoot grass Leaf Infusion is used to accelerate childbirth
23 Guazuma ulmifolia bay cedar Stem Decoction is used to facilitate childbirth
24 Sterculia excelsa Inner bark Soaked and boiled in water; used to hasten childbirth
25 Agapanthus africanus Lily of the Nile Whole plant To ensure easy childbirth
26 Anastatica hierochuntica white mustard flower Whole plant For infertility problems and to ensure easy childbirth
27 Caulophyllum thalictroides Blue cohosh Whole plant To augment labour during pregnancy and to treat urinary tract infection
28 Gloriosa superba glory lily Root Fresh root paste is applied on the supra pubic region and the vagina to promote labour pain
29 Franseriaambrosioides Canyon Ragweed Whole plant Promotes labour, given near parturition
30 Tectonagrandis Theku Bark Orally given to ease labour and mitigate abdominal pain during labour
31 Anogeissus latifolia dhawra Bark Infusion of bark given for easy delivery
32 Musa sapientum French plantain banana Leaf Infusion of leaf is used to hasten childbirth



No. Botanical Name Local Name Part Used Ethno medicinal uses / Mode of Administration
1 Cardiospermum halicacabum Mudakathan Seeds Infusion of seedling is used to clear the uterus after childbirth
2 Cestrum latifoluim Bitawali Stem and leaf The tops are used for recovery of women after childbirth
3 Sida cordifolia Khironti Root For postpartum weakness
4 Pentanisia prunelloides Icimamliloq Root Decoction is taken to aid in the expulsion of retained placenta
5 Euphorbia hirta Snake Weed, Asthma weed Whole plant To increase lactation after childbirth
6 Zingiber montanum Moorada Rhizome To treat postpartum haemorrhage and weakness of women after childbirth
7 Acorus calamus Sweet Flag, Calamus Root To treat postpartum haemorrhage
8 Cynara scolymus Kharchouf, tagemmut, Amazzûgh Roots Decoction is taken for postpartum care
9 Salvia leucantha Mexican bush sage Leaves Leaf infusion is taken to reconstitute women after childbirth
10 Achyanthes aspera Kadaladi Whole plant Whole plant is ground, cooked/boiled in coconut oil and taken after delivery to get rid of debris in the womb
11 Clitoria ternatea Sankupushpam Flower Flowers crushed and mixed with honey, taken early morning to clean the uterus after delivery and also to check the bleeding from the uterus
12 Moringa oleifera Muringa Roots and leaves Roots are used to expel the placenta. Leaves are highly nutritious food for pregnant women before and after delivery
13 Argemone mexicana Dhaturi Whole Plant To treat postpartum bleeding
14 Physalis angulata winter cherry Seeds Preparation given to women after childbirth
15 Gunnera perpensa River Pumpkin Root Decoction of root is used to facilitate the due expulsion and proper cleaning of the womb
16 Bouteloua gracilis blue grama Whole plant Whole plant is made into a soup and used as a postpartum medicine
17 Adiantum caudatum tailed maidenhair Leaf Extract of leaf juice is used to stop excess bleeding after childbirth
18 Melastoma malabathricum Malabar melastome Whole plant To treat leucorrhoea and post childbirth problems
19 Trigonella foenum-graecum Fenugreek Seeds Lactagogues or galactagogues
20 Galega officinalis Goat’s rue Leaf Lactagogues or galactagogues
21 Calotropis gigantea Madar Latex and plant leaves To prepare medicated water for bathing the mother after delivery
22 Limnophila geoffrayi Hummingbird tree Whole plant Lactagogues or galactagogues
23 Borassus flabelifer Palmira Roots Lactagogues or galactagogues
24 Ficus amplisima Piper, Pipali Latex Lactagogues or galactagogues



No. Botanical Name Local Name Part Used Ethno medicinal uses / Mode of Administration
1 Abarema jupunba Caracoli Seeds As a fertility drug
2 Cynosurus indicus sambali Whole plant Boiled with black sago and used to treat fever, cold, malaria and for post childbirth cleansing of mother
3 Datura metel Karuoomathai Whole plant For painful menstruation
4 Artemisia abrotanum southernwood Whole plant Used for female problems
5 Hamamelis virginiana witch hazel Whole plant Used to treat women’s problems
6 Stachys lavandulifolia wood betony Whole plant Abortifacient
7 Sphaeralcea coccinea scarlet globemallow Leaves Used by pregnant women for pains associated with pregnancy
8 Atylosia scarabaeoides Wild kulthi Whole plant For the treatment of delivery problems and swelling and pain in leg during pregnancy
9 Maesa indica Wild Berry Whole plant For headache and dizziness of mothers after childbirth
10 Plumbago zeylanica Shada Root Abortifacient
11 Mangifera indica Mango Stem bark Infusion is used to cure stomach pain
12 Bauhinia petersiana Kalahari White Bauhinia Stem bark To prevent miscarriage
13 Ricinus communis castorbean Roots and leaves Soak in water and drink infusion to cure for post maturity
14 Dalbergia melanoxylon African blackwood Seeds To avoid miscarriage
15 Apodytes dimidiata white pear Leaves and roots Pound add water and drink infusion for post maturity cure
16 Ficus kirkii Crown-fruited fig Bark Pound, cook in water and add to porridge for damage in the stomach after delivery
17 Dalbergia nitidula Glossy flat-bean Roots Boil in water and drink infusion for infertility
18 Cissampelos  species velvetleaf Tuber Grind, squeeze and drink the part of the fluid. Add remnant to cooked porridge for pseudo pregnancy
19 Vitex doniana Afetewa Leaves Add to porridge for stomach pains (associated with miscarriage)
20 Cissus integrifolia Chikomba Roots Mix with hot water and make a compress over the leg
21 Cissus species veldt grape Roots Pound make an infusion and drink to avoid miscarriage
22 Hippocratea parviflora Leaves and roots Leaves pound and add to porridge to avoid miscarriage. Roots- boil and drink infusion to cure stomach pain
23 Adhatoda vasica Malabar nut, adulsa Leaves For curing body aches
24 Bacopa monnierii brahmi Whole plant For getting relief from abdominal pain and for increasing foetal growth
25 Benincasa hispida white gourd Fruit To prevent gas trouble
26 Cuminum cyminum Cumin Seeds Powdered seeds mixed with ghee and honey is given orally to children against vomiting. Seeds boiled in water and given to the child for getting relief from stomach pain
27 Curculigo orchioides Nilappanai Rhizome To get relief from stomach pain after delivery
28 Trachyspermum roxburghianum Wild Celery Seeds For reducing stomach pain after delivery
29 Basella rubra Kodipasalai Leaves To decrease the hip pain during childbirth
30 Jatropha curcas Kattaamankku Bark and latex Decoction prepared from bark is used for the treatment of stomach problems during pregnancy. Latex is taken orally for same purpose
31 Carissa congesta Karvand Roots Decoction of roots is given to women to relieve from delivery pain after childbirth.
32 Vigna subterranean Bambara groundnut Seeds Infusion is used after delivery to dispose of remnant with placenta


CONCLUSION: Even from early civilization, herbs have been considered to be a powerful tool in treating illnesses. In places where physicians cannot reach, people have invented their own concoction of herbs and plants to deal with the common afflictions of daily life. At times, these herbal treatments have proved more superior and effective than its chemical counterparts, not to mention even of its safety and economy. The knowledge of these valuable plant remedies have not been documented and was orally dissipated by the tribal populations. But these tribal possessed remarkably accurate knowledge about the medicinal use of the plants around them. Numerous drugs have entered the global market and international pharmacopoeia through the study of ethno-pharmacology and traditional medicine.

Major thrust by whole of the pharmaceutical industry is focused towards design and development of new innovative / indigenous plant based drugs through investigation of leads from traditional system of medicine. Ayurvedic medicinal plant products are most convenient and have greater acceptance amongst the users due to their easy availability easy biodegradability, easy to handling, economic cost, mankind and environment friendly nature both and minimum side effect. Pregnancy is a time of rapid physical and emotional changes in the body.

Herbs can be very useful in toning and nourishing the system to help allay potential problems and remedy discomforts that pregnant women may experience. Attention to nutrition can go long way inpreventing possible complications. Malnutrition during pregnancy can cause constipation, haemorrhoids, anaemia, and even preeclampsia. It’s absolutely vital to get enough Vitamins, minerals and protein during pregnancy. Medicinal Plants (herbs) in their original form contain a host of natural ingredients-alkaloids, bio-flavonoids, glycosides, minerals, Vitamins, volatile oils, and other natural substances that not only support an herb’s healing benefits but also safeguard against potential toxicity. Herbal medicines can be very beneficial during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care but after proper validation of the plants.


  1. N. Karemore* and J. G. Avari – Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, R. T. M. Nagpur University, Nagpur – 440033, Maharashtra, India.

Information from resourse.