In India, we have so many foods and compositions that are galactagogues. A new mother could use her family’s wisdom regarding milk producing foods or approach an ayurvedic vaidyar to get a prescription for galactagogues.
In the Western world, more emphasis is on mechanical methods such as breast pumps for increasing lactation. Lactation consultants advise mothers on how to feed the baby; they also have recommendations on herbal methods for increasing lactation, goat’s rue being a popular one among them. This herb (Galega officinalis) is also known as galega or French lilac, Italian fitch, professor-weed or holy hay.
Indigenous to Southern Europe, it was first mentioned by a dairy farmer, Gillette Damitte, in 1873. He wrote to the French Academy saying milk production increased in his cows fed with goat’s rue by 35-50 per cent. French women used the herb as a galactagogue, which is slowly getting popular among American mothers seeking holistic natural foods. Because of its anti-diabetic properties, goat’s rue is particularly useful for mothers who have had gestational diabetes. Metformin, a popular drug for diabetes, was originally developed from goat’s rue. It is used in treating Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
The herb is available as liquid extracts or capsules. My pick for breast-feeding mothers would be goat’s rue tea. Add one teaspoon of dried goat’s rue leaves to a cup of hot water and allowed to sit for 10 minutes. Filter, drink. It is that simple!
Fenugreek, which belong to the same family (Fabaceae) is given as a galactagogue in Kerala Ayurvedic tradition. While galactagogues in Europe seem to be more from random discoveries, in Ayurveda, it has been systematically documented by Charaka, thousands of years ago. Charaka has given a list of 10 herbs each for augmenting milk supply and for cleansing and detoxifying breast milk.
For Increasing Breast Milk
• Virana (Vetiveria zizanioides Nash.)
• Shali rice (Oryza sativa Linn.)
• Shastika rice (Oryza sativa Linn.)
• Ikhsuvalika (Asteracantha longifolia Nees)
• Darbha (Desmostachya bipinnata Staff.)
• Kusha (Desmostachya bipinnata)
• Kasha (Saccharum spontaneum Linn.)
• Gundra (Saccharum sara)
• Itkata (Sesbania bispinosa)
• Katruna (Cymbopogon schoenanthus Spreng.)
For Cleansing and Detoxifying Breast Milk
• Patha (Cissampelos pareira Linn.)
• Mahausadha-ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.)
• Suradaru (Cedrus deodara)
• Musta (Cyperus rotundus)
• Murva (Clematis triloba B. Heyne ex Roth.)
• Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia Miers.)
• Fruit of Vatsaka (Holarrhena antidysenterica Wall.)
• Kiratatikta (Swetia chirata Buch-Ham.)
• Katurohini (Picrorhiza kurroa)
• Sariva, Indian Sarsaparilla (Hemidesmus indicus)
I am convinced that Ayurveda is far ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to taking care of its postpartum mothers.
The writer is retired Additional Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org/arogyamantra.blogspot.com