Children sitting outside

Safe Effective Herbal Remedies for Common Childhood Illnesses

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You roll over in bed and open your eyes to the sound of little feet padding across the bedroom floor. 

“Mama, I don’t feel so good.” Cough, cough, sniffle.  

Ugh.  It’s inevitable. Kids get sick.  And then, you get sick. And if you have had a little one in daycare or preschool, you may have wondered if your home was getting hit with every virus on the planet, a new one seemingly every 2 weeks. 

The good news? Exposure to lots of germs will build your child’s immunity. The bad news? Hearing them cough all night or struggling to breathe through a stuffed-up nose will break your heart. 

What’s more, you’re not going to get the sleep you need when you’re concerned about your child. And that will do a number on your immunity, too. 

And these days, you’ll also worry whether it’s just a cold or flu or whether it’s COVID.

I have a little one of my own. So I know how heart wrenching it is when a child becomes ill. That’s why I always make sure to have some child-safe dietary supplements and nutrients on hand—just in case. 

In this blog, we will cover the most common illnesses that plague our little tykes and the home remedies to turn them around. Beyond seasonal colds and flus (where we will start), I’ll also go over tummy complaints, skin irritations, and emotional upset and agitation. I want you to have these tools to help your child at the earliest signs of illness, when it really counts.

Here are some of the children’s supplements I keep in my own natural home medicine chest. But first…


An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Of course, the best strategy is to keep your child from getting sick in the first place. Nutrition is your first and most powerful tool in keeping kids’ immune systems working right. 

Many of us find ourselves wondering what to feed our previously milk or formula fed babies when 6 months roll around and our newly sitting little one, with teeth, shows interest in food.  If you’re like me, this caused me more than a little anxiety! 

One thing to know is that at least until 12 months, food is really about exploring, introducing, and experiencing. It’s much less about nutrient intake. So don’t stress if you only get a bit or so in (or mostly in….the rest will end up on their outfit, in your hair, or on the floor. If that’s happening, you’re doing it “right”! Solid or semi-solid food can be given every few days, initially.  And, even in the toddler years, it’s completely normal for kids' appetites to ebb and flow dramatically. One pediatrician wisely expressed her advice as, “Think about what they consume over a week, rather than this or that meal.” 

Without going into detail on what to feed your baby and when, I will link to my favorite book on this subject HERE. 

For kids who are eating solid foods, avoid processed foods and grains (fun fact: we don’t really make the digestive enzymes needed to digest grains in adequate amounts until at least 2 years of age). Focus on grass-fed animal products, pasture-raised eggs, and raw dairy. Make stocks and soups from organ meats and bones. 

Most importantly, avoid sugar and fruit juice, which weakens immune cells’ ability to fight off infections. One study showed that eating 100 grams of sugar doesn’t decrease the number of immune cells (neutrophils), but it decreases how well they respond to infection. Watch out for processed grains and flours such as fruit, crackers, puffs, and chips. We want to avoid those for our children, however hard that may be. Instead, choose fruit with fiber and starchy vegetables to complement the healthy meats and eggs.   And for on the go snack options (yes, i know we all love a good puff ; )-- there are now nutrient dense grain-free options like these, which contain bone broth, cassava root, and whole veggies--toddler approved! 

Their pouches are really amazing as well, and include wild caught or pasture raised animal foods, healthy fats, bone broth, and high mineral organic veggies.


Is It Really a Seasonal Illness—Or Something Else?

Before reaching for dietary supplements, be certain your child’s problem is really a cold or a flu and not an imposter. Congestion, fever, hacking cough with a greenish discharge from the nose or eyes can mean your child is actually teething. Teeth breaking through the gums can cause inflammation. This mirrors symptoms of a viral or bacterial infection. 


Children’s Remedies for Colds, Flus, or Other Ear, Nose, and Throat Symptoms

Mother and baby

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete system of medicine that has been used to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses for more than 5,000 years. As a TCM practitioner, I have seen these safe, gentle Chinese herbal formulas work wonders for congestion of the ears, nose, throat, lungs, as well as coughs, and colds. Kan is a good brand. I know because I used to work as their herbalist, and I know they test for purity and accuracy of proper composition of herbs, heavy metals, pesticides, and microbial contamination. In general, I recommend using medical grade Chinese herbal formulas that you can buy through a healthcare practitioner. 

Give the TCM herbal formulas I mention below to your child when you nurse or when the child eats. Mix them in water, juice, or mashed fruit or veggies. My daughter even loves the taste directly on her tongue and asks for them!  Here are general doses to keep in mind:

0-4 years: 15-30 drops, 2-4 times daily. 

In very tiny babies (under 6 months), consider 3-5 drops if at all. 

4-8 years, 30-45 drops, 2-4 times daily. 

8-12 years: 60-90 drops, 2-4 times daily. 

1 full dropper = 30 drops 

In very little ones, give the TCM formulas through breast milk. If you might need to give this treatment through breast milk to your nursing infant, please consult with a trained practitioner first. Dosing varies for mothers. In general, I recommend mothers take 2 milliliters per dose, 30-45 minutes before nursing for the highest concentration in breast milk.


Immune-Boosting Nutrients

It’s best to start with the basics. Defending your child against common childhood illnesses starts with making sure he or she is nourished with the most effective children’s immune vitamins. 

Vitamin C and Zinc – Both of these are immune-boosting powerhouse nutrients that can stop viruses in their tracks. Vitamin C may stop your child from getting sick in the first place. And when your child is already ill, vitamin C and zinc can shorten the amount of time your little one is sick. They can also make the illness less severe.  

The bad news? Deficiencies in these nutrients are really common. Zinc deficiency is an especially big problem. That’s because an anti-nutrient known as phytate found in many cereals blocks zinc absorption. If your child gets a lot of upper respiratory tract infections like colds or respiratory flus, you can probably blame it on zinc deficiency. Giving kids zinc reduces the risk of respiratory infections and their duration.

Signs of low zinc:

  • Growth retardation
  • Neuro-sensory disorders or cognitive impairment
  • Rough skin (bumps on arms is need for omega-3 fats or vitamin A usually)
  • Lowered immunity
  • Signs of depression and ADHD correlation

Vitamin D – This is another nutrient important for immunity. And many people are deficient. We live in a sun-starved society where people stay indoors for fear of getting skin cancer or are simply too busy to step outside. 

I give my kid a sugar-free vitamin D gummy every day. Just be certain your child is old enough to chew, otherwise this type of vitamin D is a choking hazard. You can use vitamin D drops for very young kids who can’t chew and make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D yourself, especially if you’re breastfeeding. 

Multivitamin – Still breastfeeding? Then make sure you’re taking a good prenatal vitamin. For children who are older and able to chew, I like Xymogen Kids Chewable Multi


Anti-Viral Supplement

Monolaurin – This coconut-oil-derived supplement hits the virus where it counts: its protective lipid shield, which destroys the virus’ main defense. South Pacific islanders who ate a lot of coconuts had almost no colds or flus compared to other non-coconut-eating native peoples. 

Monolaurin is one of my favorite children’s cold or flu remedies. You can give your child monolaurin proactively or at the first signs of a cold or stomach flu. This reduces their symptoms and speeds up their healing. The product I like is called Lauricidin. The mini pellets should be swallowed with water or juice or placed in apple sauce, pudding, or peanut butter. 


Immune Support

Probiotics – These friendly flora do double duty. They can keep children healthy over the long-term and reduce symptoms when your little one is sick. They’re especially good at reducing symptoms of colds and flus and fending off the ear infection known as otitis. I’m particularly fond of Klaire Labs Ther-biotic for Infants powder and Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Children’s Chewable. Garden of Life Gummy Probiotics is another good one for children who can chew, as is RAW Probiotics Kids.  

Colostrum – This is a fluid released from the breasts of female humans, cows, and other mammals after they’ve given birth and before breast milk is released. It’s a powerful immune-booster packed with antibodies that fight infections. This is an important supplement for infants who aren’t breastfed, are under six months old, and who have GI issues. Keep in mind that taking too much colostrum can cause constipation and the non-spray form has dairy.  My favorite product is PRP Spray

Myco-Forte Liquid – This moisturizing supplement is a good choice to support immunity in kids with dry mucous membranes and respiratory tracts. Ideal for kids who tend to have dry skin or get a dry, barking cough when they get sick.

DHA – An omega-3 fatty acid, DHA fortifies kids’ immune and respiratory function in utero and during developmental stages in childhood. DHA also prevents asthma attacks. And we haven’t even touched on its stellar actions for brain development! Important for mom to take during pregnancy and for kids throughout childhood and beyond. 

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) – This amino acid breaks up thick gunky mucous in the nasal passages and respiratory tract. It boosts the production of glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant. One bonus: NAC may also make kids with autism less irritable and cut down on obsessive compulsive behavior like hair pulling, nail biting, and skin picking.

Bioray NDF Immune – Supports lungs, throat, and sinuses and reduces body aches during viral infections. It bolsters the immune system, calms irritability, and strengthens respiratory health. The formula contains chlorella, antioxidants from organic fruit, and naturally occurring vitamin C, zinc, copper, manganese, calcium, and potassium. Great to pair up with the two traditional Chinese medicine formulas Chest Relief and Pipe Cleaner (more on these below). 

Windbreaker – A combination of Chinese cinnamon, chrysanthemum flower, Chinese mint, burdock seed, and honeysuckle flower, this formula fights an invasion of viruses and bacteria. It’s good for kids with symptoms like sneezing, coughing, runny nose, mild fever, aches, irritability, and itching or scratchy eyes, nose, and throat. Start this at the first sign of illness and continue it while your child is ill. Pair it with any of the below formulas for colds and flu. 

Minor Bupleurum combined with Windbreaker – Antiviral and antibacterial, Minor B is used both to ward off colds and flus and to fight them after they’ve gotten into the body. It opens blockages, so I love this for ear infections. 

Chest ReliefA combination of citrus peel, licorice, bamboo juice, and white mulberry leaf, Chest Relief formula gently clears phlegm and boosts immunity. It’s best for cough with sticky phlegm that’s hard to cough up and that’s made worse by drafts, temperature changes, or when your child is out in the wind or lying down. It’s not a good choice for severe wheezing.  

Pipe Cleaner – This combination of schizandra, radish seed, and honeysuckle flower, normalizes mucous secretion and breaks up congestion and strained breathing. Best for children with symptoms like wheezing, coughing, dry throat, sticky phlegm (yellow or green), and feeling thirsty. This can be used together with Chest Relief.

Open Air – Apricot seed, tangerine peel, and Chinese cardamom team up to relax the chest, and open up air tubes in the lungs known as bronchioles. It’s good for wheezing, shallow breathing, and a cough with phlegm, as well as a dry mouth and throat. Open Air is used more for when cold or flu symptoms resemble asthma. 


This Little Piggy and Other Tips

Acupressure of the feet – Massage your child’s sides of toes to open up and drain the sinuses. Gently roll each “little piggy” between your fingers.

Use a Humidifier with Eucalyptus Oil – Adding eucalyptus oil to a humidifier can fill the air with an antiviral scent. 


Children’s Remedies for Belly Aches and Poor Digestion

Mother and small child on a couch

Grow and Thrive – This is a gentle Chinese medicine formula that can help with loose stools, diarrhea, poor appetite, slow growth, indigestion, and more. It promotes digestion and assimilation of food for better nutrition and growth. It encourages food to pass smoothly through the intestines, training peristalsis (the muscular actions that squeeze food through the gastrointestinal tract). Grow and Thrive promotes a healthy gut microbiome.  It contains lycii berry, Chinese hawthorn berry, tangerine peel, radish seed, fennel, magnolia bark, and toasted kudzu root.

Grow and Thrive is indicated for children with underdeveloped “spleen.”In Chinese medicine, spleen has many functions, but it somewhat correlates with our ability to digest and assimilate our food. When we can’t digest and assimilate properly, our bodies become starved for nutrients and our cells and organs malfunction. When the “spleen” is weak or underdeveloped, we will often see “dampness” in Chinese medicine. In Chinese medicine each organ system has a state of relative moisture and temperature in which it functions optimally; generally speaking, the Spleen operates better when dry and warm, and problems arise when it is cold and damp. A cold, damp spleen  can show up as loose stool, drooling, poor appetite, and kids who tend to start solids later. That’s because spleen strength is required to be able to handle and use those solid foods!  

When your child cuts teeth, it means that the “spleen” and “kidney” are developing well. Not to be taken literally. In Chinese medicine, “kidney” is related to the ability to develop and grow. In other words, digestion, assimilation, healthy growth, and development are underway!

This is a sign that your baby is ready for solid food introduction. What we feed them can support or hinder this development. Focus on nutrient-dense foods. For example, avoid rice cereal and opt instead for liver and egg yolk.  Meat broths, veggie broths, and pureed veggies are great. Fruit  in moderation.

Tummy Tamer- This formula helps move food through the intestines and counteracts indigestion, belching, gas, bloating, nausea, bad breath, or stinky poo.  With cardamom, fennel, bitter orange, licorice, and water plantain, Tummy Tamer eases belly aches, slow digestion, and irregularity. It also helps relieve symptoms after eating such as nasal congestion, fatigue, or irritability. If your child has these or other food sensitivity symptoms, you will like this product. But dietary changes and addressing root causes of gut-immune imbalance are also necessary to send food sensitivities packing.

Easy Going- If your little one can’t go, this is a gentle and tasty option containing rhubarb root, flax seed, hyssop, and bitter orange fruit. It does many of the good things for digestion as Tummy Tamer but it is specifically designed for constipation.  I tend to use this along with Liquid Magnesium (Douglas Laboratories) and sometimes combine it with NDF Pooper formula as well. This should be discussed with a trained practitioner if your child has ongoing constipation, but it is generally safe for occasional or short-term use.

Belly Binder- Much like Tummy Tamer above, Belly Binder moves food through the intestines and optimizes digestion, but it is specifically designed for children with diarrhea or loose stool. It contains lotus seed, Chinese yam, anemone root, and cardamom.  Chronic loose stools or diarrhea aren’t normal so you may need to meet with a trained practitioner and run a stool panel to get to the root cause. But for occasional or short-term use, it is generally safe.

 Any of the above 3 can be combined with NDF Tummy.


Children’s Remedies for Skin Irritations, Rashes, and Skin Allergies

Fire Fighter – This is a very energetically “cold” formula for rashes, swollen glands, or gooey leaky rashes. It’s great for infections of the eyes, ears, nose, or throat (think sinus infections or Strep throat). It clears and moves heat and toxins out of the blood using dandelion root and flower, Chinese mint, scrophularia root, and clove flower. It circulates healthy blood and oxygen to the skin and mucous membranes where it is needed. Fire Fighter can help with hives, boils, acne, or itchy insect bites or stings. It can help with mild allergic reactions and even food sensitivity symptoms.  It is not for long-term use, but is very safe.


Children’s Remedies for Emotional Upset, Agitation, and Poor Sleep

Child sleeping

NAC – Mentioned above for thinning mucus, NAC also helps to calm irritable children. It can help with hair pulling, nail biting, skin picking, children on the autism spectrum, or other signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It supports detoxification by making the master antioxidant, glutathione. I recommend 300 – 900 mg/day three times daily in kids over 5 years old.

NDF Focus – Improve your child’s cognitive function, focus, and his or her ability to handle stress. This is a perfect addition when your child also has a histamine response, such as seasonal allergies, runny nose, and/or itchiness. I like this in cases where ADD is a consideration. NDF Focus reduces environmental sensitivities, supports adrenal health (Eluethero, reishi mushrooms, Chinese licorice root, Schisandra berry), and liver health (milk thistle, Agaricus, Chinese licorice). 

Quiet Calm - This formula clears heat from the mind and spirit, relaxes muscles and nerves, and stops spasms. It will help your little one with mood swings, crying spells, moodiness, pensiveness, anxiety, timidity, and/or tantrums. With jujube seed, Schisandra, lotus seed, mimosa tree bark, gardenia fruit, and red tangerine peel, it’s good for kids with difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or with nightmares. It is even more appropriate if there is mucus in the ears, throat, or sinuses.

 NDF Sleepy- Good for restlessness and worry, it is similar to Quiet Calm and can help kids fall asleep more quickly. Similarly, it contains jujube seed, and albizzia bark (bigger happiness tree), which has been shown in studies to improve getting to sleep and staying asleep. It also contains dan Shen and reishi mushroom to soothe irritability and restlessness.

 Quiet Calm and NDF Sleepy are very similar, some kids respond better to one over the other. I usually try one and then the other to see which is the best fit.  

 Nutrition plays a big part in children’s stress, anxiety, attention deficit, and mood. Check out The Better Brain, a book by premier researchers Dr.s Bonnie Kaplan and Julia Rucklidge, which explores the topic further.


Don’t Be Frightened of Fevers 

Does your child spiking a fever send you into a panic? Even as a trained medical professional, the first time my child spiked a fever it was scary!  We might even reach for the Tylenol (acetaminophen) to lower that fever. After all, it’s safe compared to aspirin, right?  Nope. Tylenol (Acetaminophen) in excess is well known to harm the liver. Tylenol is tied to increased risk of asthma, eczema, allergies, and runny nose. All of these are symptoms of liver toxicity and leaky gut, indicating Tylenol could contribute to these two conditions. 

Mother and baby

Even worse, Tylenol is dangerous when mixed with other drugs. Every year there are 100,000 calls to poison control centers and 450 deaths from Tylenol-caused liver failure alone. Acetaminophen causes more cases of acute liver failure than all other medications combined.

Listen; I’m not saying don’t ever use Tylenol. Just think twice about whether your child really needs it.  Consider leaning  on the natural remedies mentioned earlier,  first,  when your child is feverish, coughing, or congested. Generally, fevers under 102 degrees are not something to worry about. Viruses like cold. They don’t like heat. A fever sends the virus on a one-way trip to the Sahara desert, where it heats and destroys the little bugs and stops them from thriving. The faster your child burns off the virus, the sooner they will be feeling good again!

That said, if you are confused or think you need to seek medical help for your child with a fever, then by all means do so. Your intuition is primary!

Here are some general rules of thumb about navigating your child’s fevers.

Seek medical attention for:

  • Babies under 3 months with a fever of 100.4 or higher
  • Babies between 3 and 6 months with a fever of 101°F (39°C) or higher
  • Kids over age 3 with a fever over 102° F that lasts for 2 or more days

Seek medical attention right away if your feverish child has these symptoms:

  • Trouble feeding (nursing)
  • Trouble breathing
  • Rashes
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Inconsolable
  • Lethargic and drowsy, less responsive, or trouble waking up
  • Lowered urine output or not pooping (if very young)
  • Rapid or strained breathing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Body or neck seem stiff

Herbs can help lower fever in children but you will need to discuss this with your trained healthcare provider. 


Safe, At-home Remedy for Fevers

Here is an old Chinese medicine treatment, called the “Lemon Wrap,” to lower fever. It is safe to try at home, and especially when fevers are on the lower end and not accompanied by any of the symptoms mentioned above. I have used it with babies older than 6 months, and with  toddlers, with fevers higher than that mentioned above.

Lemon Wrap Recipe

You will need:

  • A lemon
  • Hot water (2-3 cups) in a pan
  • One pair of adult cotton socks
  • One pair of adult wool socks
  • Rubber dishwashing gloves


  1. Warm up your child’s feet with warm water or a warmed water bottle first.
  2. Squeeze the juice of a lemon in 2-3 cups of water.
  3. Heat in a pan until hot to the touch.
  4. Soak the cotton socks in the mix.
  5. Put on gloves and squeeze out the excess liquid from the socks. It may be hot on your hands. Let the sock cool until you can comfortably touch it, like to the safe but warm temperature of bathwater for your child.
  6. Pull on the cotton socks over your child's feet, all the way up the calves, or thighs if it reaches.
  7. Put the wool socks on over the cotton ones, and cover up your child with a blanket.
  8. Wait until the socks are completely cool to the touch, or dry. They will actually dry out pretty quickly,
  9. Then apply another round. Up to 3 times.

Your child will probably nap after this fever-lowering treatment. You should see the fever come down several degrees in a relatively short time, as few as 1-2 hours.  If the fever persists, seek medical help.


How To Improve Children’s Immunity

Illnesses are part of daily life with children. But there are so many preventative, nutritional, and herbal tools at your disposal to ease their discomfort and get them well sooner. If you’d like to work with me to support your child’s immune health naturally, let’s meet for a free 15-minute troubleshooting call. During this chat, I’ll get to know more about your biggest concerns and where your child might be struggling. Then I’ll work with you to devise a customized plan to keep your little one healthy and strong and ready to face any immune challenges that come your way. 

Mother and new born baby

Effective Ways to Deal with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Feeling like a hot mess after having your baby? 

Are you blitzed out in love but also feel like you want to crawl into a hole and disappear? Or are you awake at night worrying even though you need sleep more than anything? Are you having trouble wanting to hold your baby and then feeling guilty about it?  

You’re not a bad mom. Your hormones are just scrambled.

While a few days of hormone crash or baby blues is common, anything beyond that is a sign of postpartum depression or anxiety. Having a baby should be one of the happiest times of your life, right?      

Sadly, though, many of us feel unhappy after our baby is born and suffer from postpartum depression. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says one in eight new mothers have this condition. 

In my experience, it’s more like one in three. 

Motherhood turns our worlds upside down and there’s no getting around that. But postpartum depression or anxiety makes it so much harder. Keep reading to learn why you’re feeling blue and how to get back to normal as soon as possible after birth. It’s a wild ride and you deserve to feel good while you bond with your new baby and adjust to your new life. 


What is Postpartum Depression? 

Postpartum depression is a feeling of sadness that new mothers experience after giving birth. Symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Feeling angry
  • Crying more often
  • Postpartum mood swings
  • Not communicating, or withdrawing from others
  • Feeling numb
  • Worrying about harm coming to the baby
  • Worrying you’ll harm the baby*
  • Preoccupied with the sense that you’re not a good mom
  • Feeling like you won’t do a good enough job caring for your baby

Sound familiar? Anyone? If so, raise your hand.

* If you feel concerned you might actually harm your baby, please speak with a professional.      Generally, your OBGYN office is a really supportive place to start.


Is It Postpartum Depression or Baby Blues?

Postpartum depression isn’t the same as baby blues. Postpartum depression lasts longer than two weeks and can hang around for four years or longer. 

Baby blues, on the other hand, usually appear soon after delivery and last only up to ten days after birth. Baby blues are related to the exhaustion from labor and giving birth, as well as the effects of the heroic hormonal shift that occurs during this time. 

Baby blues are a normal part of giving birth. They happen in up to 85% of new mothers.      Symptoms of this emotional condition may include crying for no reason, irritability, restlessness, and anxiety. These symptoms last a week or two and generally resolve on their own without treatment. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, can be a lot more severe.

Postpartum depression tends to show up within the first month after delivery—usually after the first ten days. Sometimes it can start as baby blues, which turns into a second wave of postpartum depression. You might even be able to tell when baby blues turns into something more.


When You Worry Too Much About Your Baby

Postpartum anxiety is also a real thing. In this condition, new mothers obsessively worry about the health and well-being about their child. Symptoms can include:

  • Constant or near-constant worry
  • Feelings of dread and fear about things that could happen
  • Insomnia even when your baby is sleeping
  • Thoughts that won’t calm down

You can also have physical symptoms of postpartum anxiety. These include fatigue, heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, shaking, and hyperventilating. 

In modern times, we have so many apps and methods to track a baby’s health and progress. Postpartum anxiety might show up as excessively tracking baby’s metrics like feedings, liquid, wet or dirty diapers, etc. If it feels like you are over-focused on this and it is not medically necessary, or if it is adding to your anxiety, consider if tracking your baby’s metrics is best for you. If you are Googling about your baby’s well-being much more than what seems appropriate, it may be a sign of postpartum anxiety.


The Heroic Hormonal Shift

Can’t relate with those magazine-ad mommies who are wearing their new baby while going for hikes in the beautiful outdoors, gorgeous hair whipping in the wind? How about those well dressed and fully makeup’d Instagram influencers? 

It’s easy to compare. We’re all guilty to some extent. And while I won’t tell you to stop (easier said than done), I do want to encourage you to try and stay true to yourself and the things you love about you. 

This is NOT a moment of weakness. Hormonal changes, depression, and anxiety make this so much easier said than done. It’s cloudy. It’s dark. It’s confusing. It’s a roller coaster. Remember that every single journey is different. Everybody is different and every healing journey looks different, even from someone you may know really well. 

When you’re giving birth, your progesterone levels take a nosedive. At the same time, estrogen levels increase. This hormonal shift is what causes the uterine contractions that lead to delivery of the baby. 

That’s a good thing. The bad news, though, is that this puts you into a near-instant state of estrogen dominance

This is a heroic amount of hormonal shift. And it happens in just this one moment of pregnancy.

This sudden dramatic drop off of both estrogen and progesterone essentially mimics menopause.

Interestingly, these changes depend as much on the hormones of the baby, as they do on the mother’s! This is why induced deliveries** are more likely to require hormonal interventions after to restore a mother’s good mood and well-being. When a birth is induced, the hormonal cascades that promote the stages of labor aren’t encouraged in the same way. 

Induced labor triggers the release of higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the baby. This in turn leads to a drop in progesterone, just like you would experience before your period. Only it’s much more dramatic because progesterone levels are 20 times higher in pregnant women. 

Whether labor is induced or occurs naturally, the resulting hormonal changes happen relatively quickly. But it can take a long time to restore them to a more balanced state. 

The postpartum period is defined as six to twelve weeks after delivery. Yet, sometimes it takes up to four years for out-of-whack hormones to rebalance themselves. This usually depends upon the stage of your reproductive cycle when you give birth. By that I mean, are you 20-years-old when delivering your baby or 45-years-old and perimenopausal?

During and after birth, new mothers also produce high levels of a hormone known as oxytocin. This is sometimes called the bonding hormone or love molecule. This is because it leads to feelings of euphoria and connection. It makes you love and want to take care of this tiny, needy little animal you have created. Oxytocin is triggered at birth, by touch, and by breastfeeding. It helps take the sting out of the other hormones dropping so severely. 

**Please note: Whether you chose or needed a certain intervention in your birth plan, there is no judgement or shaming intended here. We are just talking about the evidence related to these labor and delivery events. Many women dream of the “perfect birth,” and few of us get it. 


Hormonal Causes of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

One or more of four hormones tend to be out of whack in women who are depressed or anxious after giving birth. 


Thyroid Hormones

The thyroid works extra hard in pregnancy. It generally returns to pre-pregnancy levels within six weeks after you’ve given birth. But if it’s not working properly this can create depression, anxiety, or fatigue. In this case, a women can have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroid) or a sluggish thyroid (hypothyroid). 

New mothers could also develop thyroid autoimmunity (Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease). Or they can have a flare-up of a pre-existing thyroid autoimmune condition. 

Women who have higher levels of antibodies known as thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPO), which indicate Hashimoto’s disease, have higher risk for postpartum depression. The same is true for women with lower levels of the thyroid hormone known as free T4.



This is the stress response hormone. Your body produces it according to a circadian rhythm every day. During regular daily life, cortisol is high in the morning and lower at night before bed. That’s why you have energy in the morning and get tired at night. But throughout pregnancy it naturally increases in both mom and baby. 

The placenta—an organ that grows in the uterus during pregnancy to provide oxygen and nutrients to your unborn child—is its own hormone manufacturing plant during pregnancy. It acts like this to ensure fetal development is happening like it’s supposed to do. 

The placenta signals the baby and mom to make more cortisol. If cortisol levels don’t return to normal after delivery, there’s an increased risk of postpartum depression. 

Ironically, though, the problem isn’t high cortisol after giving birth. It’s low cortisol.

Cortisol levels are high during pregnancy. After pregnancy, they drop. This can cause problems because for months the placenta has signaled the mother’s body to make cortisol. Sometimes, a new mom’s body has to relearn how to make cortisol. That’s why cortisol levels don’t always bounce back right away.    



Serotonin is a hormone that makes you feel content, happy, calm, and ready for sleep. You need estrogen in order to convert amino acids into serotonin. When estrogen levels take a tumble after giving birth you may not have enough estrogen to encourage adequate serotonin production. This is especially true if you’re close to menopause.  



Trauma early in life is associated with low oxytocin later. High stress also is not a friend to your oxytocin levels. 

What’s more, women who are given synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) during labor might not make enough oxytocin on their own. Research shows these women have a higher risk of postpartum depression. Sadly, women aren’t often told this when deciding whether to use this drug during labor and delivery. 


It Takes a Village but You Likely Don’t Have One

It’s not just hormonal issues that are causing your depression. To make matters worse, you’re also exhausted. Caring for a baby is 24-hours a day, non-stop. 

You’re not getting together with your friends. You’re losing sleep. You’re often not eating balanced meals or at regular intervals and you’re not exercising like you used to do. 

You might also be feeling a loss of sense of self. 

We used to live in villages where aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, and cousins all helped with the care of a child. Today’s women are feeling the lack of overall support networks. This leads to feeling isolated.  New mothers and fathers often have to do the work of a whole village. These feelings of isolation and overwhelm are even worse in women with postpartum depression and anxiety. 

Sure, some couples have the support of grandparents that live nearby. But in many cases, grandparents live in distant cities or states and are only visiting for a short while after the birth. 

Don’t hesitate to build your support network. Ask for help. Call on friends and family. Use Facebook mother/parent groups in your local area. Check out postpartum support groups through your OBGYN’s office or lactation support organizations. For those who have a religious or spiritual leaning, there are many community resources provided by synagogues, mosques, or churches. Gyms sometimes have childcare rooms to give you a break while you do self-care. Hire help for childcare or housework. Motherhood isn’t something we can do alone.  


Other postpartum resources are:

Postpartum Progress is the world’s most widely-read blog dedicated to maternal mental illness. It gives a list of providers who specialize in PPD in your state.

Postpartum International is a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness “among public and professional communities about the emotional changes that women experience during pregnancy and postpartum.”

La Leche League is a nonprofit that provides breastfeeding information and support to those who want to breastfeed their infants. In addition to groups that offer support to pregnant women and new moms, breastfeeding is thought to have a protective effect against postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression screening tool (or Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) helps identify women who may have postpartum depression.

Birth trauma resources  Stress caused by a traumatic pregnancy and delivery can often override the ability to emotionally cope, leading to psychiatric complications such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and post-partum depression.


Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

You’re more likely to suffer from postpartum depression if you:

  • Had major depression prior to pregnancy
  • Experienced high levels of stress before or during pregnancy
  • Have a history of trauma
  • Had a traumatic birth.*** 
  • Struggled with anxiety disorder prior to pregnancy
  • Have a history of insomnia or other disruption in your circadian rhythm
  • Have high testosterone, which occurs more often in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Are low in oxytocin 
  • Have low thyroid hormone levels  
  • Have a history of severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Your natural drop in estrogen and progesterone is particularly severe
  • Fall into the category of low socioeconomic status

***Traumatic births are not often acknowledged by medical professionals and good options for healing and recovery aren’t well publicized. Many people don’t know where to start or that they could get help with this. There are therapists, counselors, and support programs available for women who experienced birth trauma.


Racial Differences in Postpartum Depression

There’s an important fact to bring to light. It’s that women of color who suffer from postpartum depression often don’t receive the right treatment. Postpartum depression care and awareness in all women is lacking. However, there are definite racial and ethnic differences in postpartum treatment.

For example, in one study, 9% of white women began postpartum mental health care, compared with only 4% of Black women and 5% of Latinas. Blacks and Latinas were significantly less likely to begin treatment for postpartum depression compared with whites. Among those who did begin treatment, Blacks and Latinas were less likely to receive follow-up treatment or continued care compared with white women. 

Of the new mothers who started taking antidepressant medication, Black women and Latinas weren’t as likely as white women to refill a prescription. 

Research shows that BIPOC women experience postpartum depression at a rate of nearly 38%. Meanwhile, the rate is much lower—only 13% to 19%—when statistics include all women with postpartum depression. 


Promote Equal Postpartum Care for Mothers of Color

There are certain action steps we can take to make sure mothers receive healthy, safe, fair pregnancy and postpartum care. We recommend you read this Center for American Progress article, which offers a number of great suggestions on what policy-makers, health care providers, and you, can do to support mothers in underserved communities. Here are other steps you can take to bring about social change for this serious problem affecting mothers of color.  

  • Amplify and support women of color-led organizations.
  • Support policies that improve work-family balance for women in the workplace.
  • Support the Shades of Blue Project, an organization focusing on maternal mental health in underserved communities, before, during, and after childbirth. 
  • Donate to the National Birth Equality Collaborative (NBEC), an organization that provides training, research, and other assistance for the issue of black maternal mortality.
  • Support the National Association to Advance Black Birth, an organization founded to help provide training and access to midwives and doulas of color and lower pregnancy-related deaths.
  • Support the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, an organization that educates and advocates for better legislation to reduce black maternal mortality. They highlight needed research, and spread information about the social determinants of health that influence outcomes like traumatic birth or maternal and infant mortality.


How to Get Rid of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

If you have postpartum depression and/or anxiety, please know that you don’t have to suffer alone. Here is what I do with my patients who are feeling emotionally and physically debilitated       after giving birth. I’ve had a great deal of success with each of these strategies. 

Test hormone levels.

I test women’s sex hormones, adrenal, and thyroid markers. I usually use the dried urine test for comprehensive hormones (DUTCH) to look at adrenal hormones (cortisol and DHEA) and sex hormones. This involves collecting a small amount of urine on filtered paper four times per day. I also order blood tests to look at thyroid function.

Various types of therapy.

Here are some I recommend:

  • In women who have suffered a trauma in the past or who had a traumatic birth, I recommend a type of therapy known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). 
  • Hypnosis therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy also work really well. 
  • Meditation programs like Ziva can be a powerful tool. 
  • Apollo neuro wearable touch therapy is another interesting solution. You wear it on your ankle or wrist and it emits silent, soothing vibrations that work on your central nervous system.
  • Body therapies like acupuncture and craniosacral therapy can help.

Hormonal Support and Dietary Supplements

It’s critical you work with a trained functional medicine healthcare practitioner when taking hormones or dietary supplements. He or she can help you use them appropriately for your specific health concerns. They will order testing to find out the root cause of your postpartum depression or anxiety in the first place. Everyone is unique. The problem could be imbalances in hormones like thyroid, cortisol, progesterone, and estrogen. Or the culprit could be nutrient deficiencies, problems with brain chemical imbalances, anemia, etc.


These are the areas I work on with my postpartum patients to kick anxiety and depression:

  • Oral natural progesterone in appropriate cases
  • Estrogen (estradiol) support in appropriate cases 
  • Serotonin support, when testing indicates it, and under supervision of a clinician. This involves supplementing with tryptophan or 5-HTP. If your serotonin levels are high, it can be a marker of inflammation and supplementing with tryptophan or 5-HTP can only make things worse.
  • A prenatal supplement. The same one you used during pregnancy can work wonders on your mood and mental health outlook.  
  • Lactation-safe herbal formulas and nutraceuticals. 

At the risk of repeating myself, it is best for you to work with a skilled practitioner on this journey. With that in mind, these products are safe across the board if you’re breastfeeding your baby:

  • Herb Lore Anxiety Blend tincture. Reduces stress, calms anxiety, fear, and agitation. 
  • Herb Lore Happy Day tincture. For women feeling sorrow, sadness, or depression.
  • Lavella. An oral lavender essential oil that reduces anxiety and helps with sleep. 
  • Rescue Remedy. For trauma, stress, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, accidents, or injuries. Safe for newborns, pets, siblings, spouses/partners, too!


We Can Help You Feel Happy Again

If you have postpartum depression or anxiety, you’re not alone. We can order the right testing to help you balance your hormones and other factors that can cause your sad mood. We’ll pinpoint the root causes, and design a customized protocol just for you. 

Babe, you can get through this rough time. We’ll hold your hand every step of the way to show you exactly what you need to do to feel happiness and joy again. 

Your path to a happier life begins with a free 15-minute troubleshooting call. During this chat, I’ll get to know more about what troubles you. If after the call you come on board as a patient, I’ll work with you to get rid of your postpartum depression and anxiety. Book your call today so you can start enjoying the precious moments of a new beginning- for you and your little one.