For mothers that don’t seem to produce enough breast milk for baby, there are natural proven herbal solutions for boosting lactation. Research on herbal remedies for increasing breast milk production has found that several natural herbs can safely boost lactation, increasing infant weight and growth.
As we’ve discussed with other research, breastfeeding is healthier for the long-term health of the baby. It boosts immunity and helps prevent food allergies. Breastfeeding also helps prevent obesity in children later on.
Evidence for herbal galactogogues – those traditional herbs that can stimulate more milk production – is evident from research spanning the past two decades.
Several herbs prove to boost milk production
In a 2016 study from the University of Queensland School of Medicine and New Orleans’ Ochsner Baptist Medical Center found significant evidence for the use of malunggay, silymarin and shatavari remedies.
They found in a study of 60 mothers, that shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) boosted prolactin production by nearly a third (32.87%) while the placebo group saw less than a 10% increase.
The researchers also found that babies gained more than 16 percent more weight as a result of the shatavari herb.
The researchers also found in a study of 50 mothers, that mothers who consumed 420 milligrams a day of silymarin (a component of milk thistle (Silybum marianum)) boosted their milk production by more than 64 percent after 30 days. Furthermore, after 63 days, mothers taking silymarin boosted their milk production by over 85 percent.
The researchers also found in a study of 116 mothers, that those taking malunggay (Moringa olefera) had significantly higher prolactin production than the placebo group. And after four months, their babies weighed significantly more than the placebo group.
New evidence for chamomile tea
In a 2018 paper, doctors from Portugal’s University of Coimbra documented that chamomile tea can produce an increase in milk production along with breast tension a few hours after consuming the tea.
The researchers reported this was the first case report documented for chamomile. However, traditional herbalists have been recommending chamomile tea to aid breastfeeding for centuries.
Fenugreek and Torbangun boosts milk production
Multiple studies have also found that fenugreek (Trigonella foenumgraecum) increases breast milk production.
Fenugreek contains phytoestrogens, which appear to bind with estrogen receptors and thereby increase not only breast milk production but also sweat gland activity.
A 2011 study tested 66 mothers. They divided the mothers into three groups. One group was given a fenugreek tea daily. Another group was given a placebo tea. The third group was a control group.
The mothers drinking fenugreek herbal tea three times a day boosted their milk production by more than 73 milliliters per day.
The researchers found the babies from the fenugreek group also had greater weight gain than the other two groups.
A 2006 university study tested 63 mothers for four weeks. They gave a soup of torbangun leaves to 23 mothers, , fenugreek seed capsules to another 22 mothers, and a B12 vitamin to 22 mothers.
The researchers found the torbangun tea resulted in a 65 percent increase in milk production after two weeks of supplementation. The mothers given the fenugreek capsules saw their breast milk production increase by 20 percent during the same two weeks. The vitamin B12 group had a 10% increase in milk production.
Torbangun is a plant with the scientific name Coleus amboinicus Lour – also referred to as Plectranthus amboinicus or Country Borage in Western herbalism. This herbal remedy is typically used in Sumatra by placing fresh leaves of the plant into a soup or stew. The effects of Torbangun have been confirmed in animal studies as well.
Each of these herbs work differently and tend to work on a deeper level when compared to pharmaceuticals. For example, some of these herbs naturally boost estrogen levels as well as prolactin levels.
Shatavari is one of those herbs that appear to boost estrogen levels naturally. This Ayurvedic herb has been used for increasing lactation along with helping balance other female issues for over a thousand years. Shatavari has been found to contain steroidal saponins. Steroidal saponins have been linked with estrogenic activity in other research.
Another herb we’ve discussed is milk thistle. This herb also promotes liver health as well as boosts lactation. Silymarin from milk thistle has also been shown to increase milk production among cows – by five to six liters a day in one study.
One of the considerations on herbal remedies is the relationship with time and use. Traditional clinical application of an herbal remedy over centuries comes with its own set of controls: That is, each time an herbal remedy is prescribed or passed down to the next generation, it undergoes a clinical evaluation among the patients that have taken the remedy.
Yes, there may be some placebo effect as exists with any type of prescription. But a traditional healer could not readily retain his or her position among the community if he or she was not able to clearly provide viable treatment. And with the passing down of a remedy from one generation to the next comes necessary provings among that next generation of patients.
This time-tested manner of clinical evaluation for natural remedies has resulted in an astounding record as traditional remedies have met with modern clinical research. Those rare failures have typically been the result of a misapplication of an extracted herb or otherwise weakened set of active constituents. In addition, in practically every study, the herbal remedy has proven to be safe and easily tolerable by those using it.
That’s because nature is smart.
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Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.