Pregnancy/Prenatal Health

If you’re one of the many expectant mothers out there who are interested in a holistic pregnancy, Pharmaca is here to help offer the best information on natural pregnancy health. From conception to birth, look to Pharmaca and Project Wellness for pregnancy tips and suggestions on natural vitamins and supplements that can help your baby develop healthily and help you weather the health issues that can come with pregnancy, including morning sickness, sleeplessness and body aches. Our practitioners and Project Wellness can also help guide you through lifestyle adjustments and dietary changes that can be vital to a holistic pregnancy.

  • Treating Illness During Pregnancy

    Mother with babyPregnancy represents a very unique time in a woman’s life—it’s a time to focus on our physical and emotional wellbeing to ensure the life within is nourished and healthy. But it can also present particular pregnancy-related challenges to the mother. In addition to morning sickness or constipation, pregnant women are also vulnerable to the same common conditions that can happen at any time, such as seasonal allergies, colds and coughs, headaches, insomnia, etc.

    But reaching for the same medications that you’d traditionally use isn’t always safe. Pregnancy is the most sensitive time in human development and since certain substances cross the placenta (and into breastmilk while nursing), women must be careful when it comes to their use of medications and natural remedies.

    Since pregnant women often ask what options are available to them during this time, I thought I'd share a few herbs that I have recommended over the years. As always, if you are pregnant, please speak with your physician, midwife or a qualified health care professional about possible risks and benefits before using any herb, dietary supplement, over-the-counter or prescription medications.

    Colds and Flu

    Prevention is key! Wash your hands frequently with soap and water and take your prenatal vitamin every day, which should provide adequate amounts of zinc and vitamin C to keep your immune system working tip top. Adding more garlic and onions to your soups can also give you an extra edge.

    At the first sign of an upper respiratory infection (URI), make yourself a cup of hot organic ginger tea and add a little honey and lemon. Sip slowly. Drink 1-2 cups per day. Ginger has antiviral activity and is great for relieving sore throat, stuffy nose and congestion.

    In addition, try sucking on one lozenge containing 5 mg of zinc every 3-4 hours for 1-2 days, since studies have shown that zinc can shorten the duration and severity of the common cold.

    Echinacea is also commonly used for URIs, and some studies support its effectiveness if taken early. A thorough scientific review failed to find any adverse events in mothers or babies for women who took echinacea during pregnancy. Just make sure you skip the tinctures containing alcohol and look for a high-quality extract in a capsule, tablet or softgel (and follow the dosing recommendations of the manufacturer).

    Allergic Rhinitis

    Whether from pollen or your favorite cat, allergies can definitely wear you down. Your body perceives relatively harmless substances as dangerous and reacts accordingly. Immune cells mount an attack and chemicals like histamine are released causing you to sneeze, your nose to run and your eyes to water.

    Short of moving to another state or giving away your feline friend, do your best to limit exposures. Using a wet mop on floors and a vacuum with a HEPA filter can be helpful indoors. In addition, invest in a neti pot and use a buffered saline solution every day for one week, and then twice weekly to keep your nasal passages open.

    Researchers have found that compounds within nettle leaves inhibit the release of histamine, which causes nasal swelling and itching. A randomized trial of nearly 100 people found that taking 600 mg a day of freeze-dried nettle was more effective than placebo for relieving the majority of allergy symptoms. Forty-eight percent of the participants stated that nettles equaled or surpassed previous medications that they had taken for seasonal allergies in terms of effectiveness. The good news is that nettle is considered to be safe during pregnancy! It’s important to note, however, that nettle leaf is often combined with quercetin, which has unknown safety at higher doses during pregnancy; stick with 400-600 mg of freeze-dried nettle leaves, 1-2 times per day.


    As pregnancy advances, constipation can become a problem due to hormones and the increasing size of the baby. To ease constipation, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day—adequate liquid intake is one of the best ways to keep your bowels moving regularly! Add some cucumber or berries to your water for interest and flavor.

    Magnesium is a natural laxative and is safe to use during a healthy pregnancy at doses of 300-400 mg at night before bed. Magnesium not only softens stools, but is also highly recommended for the prevention of migraines.

    If you need a little extra relief, try making this prune/bran preparation: Combine 1 cup prune juice, 1 cup bran and 1 cup applesauce, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Take 2 tbsp morning and night with a large glass of water.

    Insomnia and Irritability

    Chamomile is definitely one of my favorite herbs when one is feeling cranky, irritable and out of sorts. It is especially good for those who manifest stress in their digestive system. Chamomile can be safely taken during pregnancy and makes a lovely afternoon or evening medicinal tea.

    For those nights when it’s just really hard to fall asleep, valerian might be a good option. Valerian has been used as a mild sleep aid for centuries and it is not contraindicated during pregnancy by either the German Commission E or the Botanical Safety Handbook 2nd Edition. While available in capsules, there are some very nice high-grade medicinal tea blends that contain tasty combinations of chamomile and valerian. Snuggle up with a good book, warm blanket and sip slowly as you surrender to a great night’s sleep.

  • Video: Good Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy

    Get an expert opinion on the vitamins and supplements that are vital for a healthy pregnancy from Dr. Tieraona Low Dog.

    This video is part of a series of educational videos we’ll be posting from members of our Integrative Health Advisory Board.

  • The Healthy Benefits of Omega-3s

    The reported health benefits of omega-3s keep piling up—from boosting heart health to improving memory and concentration. Omega-3s are considered “essential” fatty acids because our body needs them for a variety of bodily functions. Since we can’t make them on our own, however, we must get them through diet or supplementation. The two main omega-3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are found most commonly in coldwater fish, but are also present in oils from algae, plants and flaxseed.

    Despite their “essential” label, many people are still deficient in omega-3s, and this deficiency has been cited as one of the top 10 causes of preventable death in the US among dietary, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors.

    Here are some of the most well-researched benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

    Cardiovascular health
    Omega-3s have more scientific research backing their benefits for cardiovascular health than any other nutritional supplement. Strong evidence—thousands of clinical trials, in fact—suggest that EPA and DHA enhance overall cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol, high blood pressure and elevated triglycerides. The American Heart Association even recommends that people with coronary heart disease get 1 g each of EPA and DHA per day.

    Omega-3s also seem to reduce the risk of recurring heart attacks and abnormal heart rhythms in people who have already had a heart attack. In addition, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, large population studies have shown that people getting significant amounts of omega-3s in their diets have a 50 percent lower risk of stroke.

    Alzheimer’s and Dementia
    Recent research has shown that omega-3s may slow cognitive decline and reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. In a study published in May in the journal Neurology, researchers found that people who consumed the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids had the lowest levels of beta-amyloid plaque buildup, a marker in the brain for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in brain function. Because people with depression may have lower levels of EPA and DHA—important brain chemicals—they can benefit from supplementing with the EPA and DHA found in fish oil. It has also been shown that cultures that consume more omega-3 rich foods have generally lower incidences of depression.

    Prenatal health
    It is widely know that the EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids are vital for healthy infant development, especially for the eyes, nervous system and brain. In addition, supplementing with fish oil during pregnancy has been found to reduce the rate of respiratory illness in infants (according to a study published last year in the journal Pediatrics).

    Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, MD, member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board, recommends 200-300 mg of DHA starting in the 25th week of pregnancy (learn more about her prenatal nutrition recommendations).

    Rheumatoid arthritis
    A number of small studies have found that fish oil helps reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including joint pain and stiffness. A 2007 article in the journal Pain analyzed studies that tested the effects of omega-3s on pain and inflammation and showed that by taking omega-3s, patients were able to lower their doses of prescription anti-inflammatory medications and experienced a decrease in pain.

    Dr. Tori Hudson, ND, and member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board, highly recommends omega-3 fatty acids for her patients experiencing any kind of joint pain.

    Explore our selection of omega-3 fish oils either in store or at

  • Preparing for Pregnancy: Prenatal Essentials

    You may know that folic acid is a pregnancy necessity, but did you know that it's most effective when taken consistently before and during the time of conception? Learn more from Dr. Low Dog about supplements and other recommendations for all women of child-bearing age.

    This video is part of a series of educational videos we’ll be posting from members of our Integrative Health Advisory Board.

  • Fish Oil During Pregnancy May Keep Babies Healthier

    A study conducted by a researcher in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University has found that women who take fish oil supplements during pregnancy may boost their baby's immune system and help protect them against colds during the first few months of their lives.

    Mothers who were given DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil, had infants who got sick less often and for shorter periods of time than babies whose mothers were given no fish oil. Cod fish oil--something Pharmaca practitioners regularly recommend--is also believed to help lower high blood pressure, lower cholesterol and improve brain function in children.

    The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, followed 851 women from the second trimester of pregnancy through the birth of their babies, and until the babies were six months old. Half of the women were given 400 mg of DHA daily starting in the second trimester, and the rest were given placebos. The women were asked whether their babies had experienced various respiratory problems (cough, phlegm, etc.)  in the previous 15 days. They were also asked if their baby caught a cold in that same time period. At one month old, the babies whose mothers took DHA experienced far fewer respiratory problems and were sick for shorter periods of time.

    Find cod fish oil supplements at Pharmaca. (Note: Please consult a doctor or Pharmaca practitioner before taking fish oil during pregnancy.)

  • Prenatal vitamins shown to reduce the risk of autism

    A new study in the journal Epidemiology showed that mothers who took prenatal vitamins in the three months prior to conception had a significantly reduced risk of having children with autism or related autism spectrum disorders. The research, out of UC – Davis, suggests that taking high-quality, folate-rich prenatals before getting pregnant may help reduce risk of these increasingly common disorders by 40 percent.

    The study assessed 532 children with autism or related disorders and compared them with 278 children with normal development. Research found that mothers of children with autism were less likely to report having taken prenatal vitamins during the three months before pregnancy or the first month of pregnancy (than mothers of normally developing children).

    The moral of the story? If you plan on getting pregnant soon, start taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin now. One of Pharmaca’s best-sellers is New Chapter’s Perfect Prenatal, especially high in folate, which is also key in preventing neural tube defects.

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