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Stinging Nettle and Increasing Breast Milk Supply

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Updated June 11, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Stinging Nettle and Increasing Breast Milk Supply
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Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), also known as common nettle, is a dark, leafy green plant that is high in iron and considered to be very nutritious. It has been used by women for generations to treat anemia after childbirth and as a galactagogue to help make more breast milk. It is also used as in the treatment of prostate problems, urinary issues, gout, allergies and hay fever.

Stinging Nettle and Breastfeeding

Stinging nettle is thought to help stimulate milk production and increase the supply of breast milk. Nettle is generally considered safe to take immediately after giving birth and can be continued for an extended period of time.

The side effects from nettle are usually mild, but stomach upset and diarrhea may occur. When taken immediately after childbirth, there may be a risk of developing a superabundant supply of breast milk, engorgement, and mastitis. Do not take stinging nettle while you are pregnant.

How To Use Stinging Nettle

Always consult your doctor or lactation consultant before taking any medications or herbal supplements.

As a Food: Nettle is similar to spinach and other dark green, leafy vegetables. It can be cooked for use in soups, stews and pasta dishes in the place of other leafy greens.

As a Tea: (Compare Prices) Place 1 to 4 teaspoons of dried nettle leaf in 8 ounces of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. You can drink this tea preparation up to six times a day.

Capsules: (Compare Prices) A typical dose of freeze-dried nettle leaf capsules is one capsule 3 to 6 times a day. A common capsule contains 300 mg; however, there are different dosages available. Check with your practitioner about the dose that is right for you.

Stinging nettle can be used in combination with other herbs, such as fenugreek, alfalfa, fennel, and goat's rue, to help further increase milk supply.

Other Health Benefits and Uses of Stinging Nettle

  • Stinging nettle is a very nutritious herb. It is high in iron and contains a large variety of vitamins and minerals.

  • Due to its iron-rich content, nettle has been used to treat anemia and fight fatigue and exhaustion by building up the blood supply.

  • It has been used to treat urinary issues and problems involving the prostate gland.

  • It is considered a natural antihistamine helpful in the treatment of allergies, hay fever, eczema and asthma.

  • It has been used to treat inflamation, joint pain, arthritis and gout.

Warnings and Side Effects

Plants and herbs have been used as medications for centuries. Just like any other type of medication, they can have potentially dangerous side effects. Consult your doctor, lactation consultant or herbal specialist before taking stinging nettle or any other herbal supplement.

The side effects of nettle tend to be mild and stomach-related in nature.

Stinging nettle should not be used during pregnancy.

Stop taking nettle if you develop engorgement, mastitis or an overabundant milk supply.

Handle the actual nettle plant with care. If the plant comes in contact with your skin, it may cause pain and a rash. Use gloves when placing it into the pot to cook. Once it begins to cook, the stinging properties are no longer a concern.

Nettle, like all leafy greens, contains vitamin K, which can interfere with medication used to thin your blood. Talk to your doctor before taking stinging nettle if you take anticoagulant medication.

Stinging nettle may lower blood sugar levels. If you are diabetic or hypoglycemic, you should only take stinging nettle under the direct supervision of your doctor.

Nettle is believed to lower blood pressure. If you take blood pressure medication, do not take nettle without consulting your doctor.

For centuries, nettle has been used as a diuretic. It should not be used if you are taking diuretic medication.

In Conclusion

Stinging nettle is packed with vitamins and minerals, and it's a great source of iron. However, if you are taking any medication, there are potentially dangerous drug interactions that can occur with this herb. If you are interested in using this plant to help boost your milk supply, you should talk to your doctor or lactation consultant to determine the safest way to add it to your diet.

Sources:

Bown, Deni. Herbal. Barnes & Noble Books. New York. 2001.

Ehrlich, Steven D. NMD. Stinging Nettle. University of Maryland Medical System. 2011: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/stinging-nettle-000275.htm : Accessed June 21, 2012

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