Stinging Nettle to Increase Milk Supply for Breastfeeding Mothers

Information, Dosages, Warnings, and Side Effects of this Herbal Galactagogue

How To Use Stinging Nettle To Make More Breast Milk When You're Breastfeeding
Stinging Nettle. Yagi Studio/Getty Images

What Is Stinging Nettle?

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. For generations, women have used this herb after childbirth to treat anemia and as a galactagogue to help make more breast milk. It is also taken to treat prostate problems, urinary issues, gout, allergies, and hay fever.

Stinging Nettle and Breastfeeding

Stinging nettle is believed to stimulate milk production and increase the supply of breast milk in breastfeeding mothers.

It is generally considered safe to begin taking nettle immediately after giving birth, and it can be continued for an extended period of time.

The side effects from nettle are usually mild, but it can cause stomach upset and diarrhea. When taken right after childbirth, there may be a risk of developing an overabundant supply of breast milk, breast engorgement, and mastitis.

Stinging Nettle During Pregnancy

Although this herb is safe to use after the birth of your baby, you should NOT use stinging nettle while you are pregnant. It could cause uterine contractions and possibly miscarriage. 

How to Take Stinging Nettle to Increase Breast Milk Supply

It's always best to consult your doctor or a lactation consultant before starting any new herbs or supplements. Here are some of the ways you may be able to include nettle in your daily diet.

As a Food: Nettle is similar to spinach and other dark green, leafy vegetables.

You can use it in soups, stews, and pasta dishes in place of other leafy greens.

As a Tea: (Compare Prices) To make a nettle tea, put 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 standard capsule contains 300 mg; however, there are different dosages available. Check with your health care provider to about the dose that is right for you.

To help further increase the amount of breast milk that you're making, you can use stinging nettle in combination with other breastfeeding herbs such as fenugreekalfalfafennel, and goat's rue

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 postpartum fatigue 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 inflammation, joint pain, arthritis, and gout.

The Warnings and Side Effects Of Stinging Nettle

  • 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 breast engorgement, mastitis, or an overabundant supply of breast milk.
     
  • 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.
     
  • Like all leafy greens, nettle contains vitamin K. Vitamin K can interfere with medication used to thin your blood. Talk to your doctor before taking stinging nettle if you take anticoagulant medication (blood thinners).
     
  • 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 may lower your 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. Do not use this herb if you are taking diuretic medication (water pills).
     

Stinging Nettle and Breastfeeding: The Summary

Stinging nettle is packed with vitamins and minerals, and it's an excellent 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 breast 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. 2014: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/stinging-nettle: Accessed January 9, 2017

Nice FJ. Common herbs and foods used as galactogogues. ICAN: Infant, Child, & Adolescent Nutrition. 2011 Jun 1;3(3):129-32.

Upton R. Stinging nettles leaf (Urtica dioica L.): Extraordinary vegetable medicine. Journal of Herbal Medicine. 2013 Mar 31;3(1):9-38.

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