Galactagogues - Herbs that Increase Breastmilk Production
Written by Pam Caldwell Founder of Herb Lore
Certified Herbalist --- Fertility, Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum & Lactation Specialist
A galactagogue is an herb that is used to help increase breastmilk production in nursing mothers. Below is a list of some of the more effective and popular herbs and some important information about each. For a list of the products that Herb Lore offers that include these herbs, information about which one is appropriate for your situation, and helpful dosage information, please click HERE.
Fenugreek - one of the best and strongest herbs for increasing milk production. When taken in very large amounts, Fenugreek is also used for lowering blood sugar levels, and is, therefore, not recommended for use by diabetics or those who are on strict insulin regimens to regulate their blood sugar levels. It also works on the digestive system, and in a small percentage of people, it may cause gas in either the mother or baby. Many mothers of adopted babies have successfully used this herb to help establish a breastmilk supply to feed their adopted babies. Fenugreek is not recommended for use during pregnancy as it can cause uterine activity. Fenugreek must be used with consistency for best results, otherwise it can negatively affect or decrease milk production.
Moringa - Moringa, also known as Malunggay or the Miracle Tree, is a superfood used by many cultures around the world as a valuable food source due to its high nutrition levels. Its well-known for its ability to increase breastmilk production in nursing mothers, and helps support good health in general for both mother and baby. It can be used by pregnant women after the first trimester to provide nutrition, and should not pose a risk for starting breastmilk production prematurely. (If it does for some reason, its advised to discontinue the herb so as to not risk the all-important colostrum period that occurs in immediate postpartum.) The only thing of note with this herb is that it should NOT be used by women trying to conceive, as it may prevent implantation of the fertilized egg. There are no other contraindications or interactions noted with this amazing herb. Click HERE for more information on Moringa and all of the ways it supports good health. The Ayurvedic system of medicine associates it with "the cure or prevention of about 300 different diseases." This herb is a great choice for women who may not be getting optimal nutrition or tend to be run-down or frequently ill, or whose babies may need additional nutritional support.
Shatavari - This Ayurvedic herb is also well-known for its ability to increase breastmilk supply in nursing mothers. It's known as "herbal Domperidone" and helps to get things flowing. It helps to increase vital fluids in the body. It's also well-known for being a valuable reproductive system herb for both men and women. For women, it is the primary uterine tonic of the Ayurvedic system, supporting reproductive health and balance from menarche (the start of a woman's menstrual cycle) through menopause, helping to alleviate many common menopausal complaints. It helps with fertility, as it nourishes the ovum and helps support reproductive fluids, and balances the pH of the vagina. It would be a wonderful choice for nursing women working to keep their milk supply up while trying to conceive. Vitex is also an excellent herb for helping to restore hormone balance in women and, although it can support breastmilk production, would not increase the amount of milk as much as Shatavari would. For more information on Shatavari for women, which includes the other valuable benefits it has for the digestive system, respiratory system, brain and memory, and Shatavari for men's reproductive health, including supporting sperm count. Shatavari is offered in the tincture form.
Goat’s Rue - Goat's Rue is another powerful herb for stimulating the production and flow of breastmilk. It has a direct effect on the mammary glands in the breasts themselves. It is a good choice for women who experience problems with their production from the beginning, for those who have had previous breast surgeries, or with hypoplasia or IGT (Insufficient Glandular Tissue). It has been shown to increase milk production by up to 50% in many cases, and may also even stimulate the development of the mammary glands themselves. It is an extremely effective herb for increasing breastmilk production. In large amounts (grams at a time), Goat's Rue may lower blood sugar. Those on strict insulin regimen should use with caution.
Fennel - this herb is great for increasing breastmilk production, and at the same time is also extremely helpful in relieving symptoms of gas or upset stomach. It is the perfect herb to take in conjunction with Fenugreek when gas is a problem. This is also one of the main ingredients of the Nursing Tea Moringa Blend and Nursing Tincture Moringa Blend, as well as the Tummy Tincture which is specifically formulated for gas, colic, reflux, and indigestion.
Red Raspberry Leaf - also one of the ingredients of the Nursing Tea Moringa Blend and Nursing Tincture Moringa Blend. It not only helps to increase breastmilk production, but it also will help the uterus recover after birth, as it is a uterine toner. Red Raspberry Leaf is incredibly high in vitamins and minerals, including Niacin (a B vitamin), which has been said to be helpful in relieving symptoms of Reynaud's Syndrome.
Vitex - although this herb is a prolactin-inhibitor, it has traditionally been used (and is proven in case studies) to actually increase breastmilk production in nursing mothers. Its main function is that of balancing hormones, therefore, this herb is very helpful for women who are experiencing hormonal imbalances, such as PMS symptoms, while breastfeeding. Note: Vitex use may re-start the menses in nursing women. Alfalfa - a great herb for increasing breastmilk production while providing the body with lots of good vitamins and minerals. It is very high in Vitamin K in particular, which helps to staunch bleeding. Many midwives encourage all their clients to take Alfalfa for at least six weeks before birth, and for several months after, to help avoid hemorrhage at the birth, and to help the body recover and make plentiful breastmilk postpartum. (Alfalfa is also an ingredient in the Nursing Tea Moringa Blend and Nursing Tincture Moringa Blend. Note: This herb is not recommended for use by those on blood-thinning medications due to its high levels of Vitamin K or by those with Lupus.
Nettle - a similar herb to Alfalfa. Helps to enrich the milk. (Also a Nursing Tea Moringa Blend and Nursing Tincture Moringa Blend ingredient.). It increases milk production by providing nutrients to the body.
Blessed Thistle - also known as "Our Lady's Milk Thistle". It increases breastmilk while helping to alleviate mild forms of postpartum depression. It is a bitter herb (known as a digestive bitter), which is healthful for the liver and digestion. Blessed Thistle is available as a single herb in the tincture form. It tends to work for women who find Fenugreek not helpful for them. (NOTE: Do not confuse Blessed Thistle with Milk Thistle. They are two completely different plants used for two completely different purposes. Milk Thistle is a liver herb and does not help with increasing breastmilk supply.)
Borage - traditionally used to help balance the adrenals as well as increase breastmilk production. NOTE: It is not for use on a long-term basis, and because it contains an alkaloid that can be hard on the liver, it is not one of the herbs recommended for nursing mothers and babies.
Hops - used in many cultures for years to help with breastmilk production. You've heard women say that they "breastfed their babies on beer"? The Hops is why. Beer from other countries has Hops that are helpful, but our beer here in this country is not as effective. It is the dark German beers that tend to have the right ingredients and the right quality of Hops. Hops is not on the list of favorite herbs recommended for increasing breastmilk production, however, because it can be quite sedating and it can cause depression with prolonged use. NOTE: The drug Reglan, commonly used to increase breastmilk production, can also cause depression. Domperidone is another pharmaceutical drug used to increase lactation, but it does not seem to have this depression-causing quality.