*This post was originally created for the Relief Parenting blog - be sure to check them out!
Mother nature knows best which is why using food first to heal is our approach over at Small Batch Wellness. While new mothers are getting their bearings, they need support from every facet of their life - including their food! Prioritizing nourishing food as a pillar of postpartum care is a cornerstone of balanced Fourth Trimester. Healing foods during this time can be a gift to the new mother that will last her well beyond those cute onesies. Post-baby, the abdomen needs time to gently settle back into place. It’s time to reignite the digestive tract, as it is naturally slower at this time. One of our most overlooked and deeply effective ways is probably sitting in the pantry right now.
Warming spices are a wonderful food ally for recovery after birth. These thermogenic spices have long been used for their medicinal and culinary qualities. They improve overall digestion with better absorption of nutrients. They get things moving gently by making the metabolism work harder and more efficiently.
We have six easily accessible spices here, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Across various cultures, cooking and infusing with spices has been built into the foundation of their postpartum care. This is a gift from our ancestors that is often overlooked and underestimated.
Cardamom: Medicinally, cardamom is an under the radar powerhouse. A gastroprotective that is known to ease intestinal spasm, reduce swelling, treat constipation. It’s also anti-bacterial and great for the common cold and much more. We use the pods most often but whatever form will work. It’s best in foods or as a tea.
Cinnamon: It’s a quintessential true ‘warming’ spice. This familiar friend is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and an antioxidant. Increases circulation and blood flow with restorative properties for both digestion and overall energy. May lower blood sugar and protect the brain, cinnamon is a great and accessible add-in to postpartum healing.
Ginger Root: Fresh is best but the powder is great too. Known for calming an upset stomach as the mother's digestion settles and is well known to alleviate nausea. Supportive of lactation, it’s shown to be helpful in easing colic in newborns. It contains zingibain, a digestive enzyme that is supportive of a baby’s immature gut. Many of us are aware of its soothing and warming abilities in tea and food.
Turmeric: The medicinal qualities (particularly curcumin) have become increasingly well known. It has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-viral properties as well as rich in immune-boosting mineral, magnesium. It acts as a gentle uterotonic which helps get the uterus back to pre-pregnancy size. It has mood-boosting qualities including balancing hormones and dopamine. It’s also a bit of a blood thinner in higher doses so it should be consumed in food and in moderation. It has a short lifespan in the body so it’s better to add it in small amounts throughout the day. It has a gorgeous, deep golden color and is excellent at staining everything in its reach!
Clove: Powerful clove! Not to get overly technical with its medicinal properties here but it has a very high concentration of eugenol - which dilates capillaries and increases blood circulation. This inherently makes your skin feel warmed. If you’ve ever used clove as an essential oil before you know how potent and effective it can be for tooth, muscle, and joint pain. High in manganese, fights free radicals (an antioxidant) and is known to be antimicrobial and antibacterial. And a natural mood booster to boot!
Fennel: The distinct flavor of fennel makes it fairly well-known kitchen spice. Medicinally it is known to be supportive of lactation, it light doses. Fennel works to eliminate gas and bloating, eases stomach upset and aids digestion. Easy to cook with but great as a relaxing tea.
Like everything listed here, using spices in food and teas is the most beneficial. Don’t go overboard just because it’s delicious and familiar. Moderation is key, more of something does not make it better. As with anything new, start slow and don’t overdo it. Consult a skilled herbalist for any specific questions.