Asparagus: Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) may help promote the secretion of milk in women. There is not enough scientific evidence to recommend asparagus during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Additional study is needed.
Vitamin B6: The body needs vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, to make the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, as well as myelin. Study results of pyridoxine used to suppress lactation yield mixed results. Well-designed clinical trials are needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Traditional or theoretical uses lacking sufficient evidence
Acupuncture: The practice of acupuncture originated in China 5,000 years ago. Today, it is widely used throughout the world and is one of the main pillars of Chinese medicine. Although not studied clinically, acupuncture has been traditionally used for increasing breast milk production.
Alfalfa: Although not studied clinically, alfalfa (Medicago sativa) has been traditionally used for increasing breast milk production. Alfalfa appears to be well tolerated by most individuals, although rare serious adverse effects have been reported.
Blood sugar levels may be reduced. Caution is advised in those with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a healthcare provider, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
Bilberry: Bilberry (Vacinnium myrtillus), a close relative of blueberry, has a long history of medicinal use. Although not studied clinically, bilberry has traditionally been used for suppressing lactation.
There is not enough scientific evidence to recommend the safe use of bilberry in pregnancy or breastfeeding, although eating bilberry fruit is believed to be safe based on its history of use as a foodstuff. One study used bilberry extract to treat pregnancy-induced leg swelling (edema) and no adverse effects were reported.
Chasteberry: Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus)
is native to the Mediterranean and Central Asia. Its berries have long been used for a variety of abnormalities including "corpus luteum deficiency," mastalgia (breast pain), and menstrual abnormalities. Although not studied clinically, chasteberry has been traditionally used for lactation. However, chasteberry is not recommended in breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence. Chasteberry competitively binds to dopamine receptors and has been shown to affect prolactin secretion, possibly resulting in decreased breast milk production. However, some clinicians actually use low doses to stimulate milk production with some reported benefits.
Except under strict medical supervision, chasteberry should not be used in pregnancy due to potential uterine stimulatory properties. Some clinicians have used chasteberry in progesterone deficient women during their first trimester to prevent miscarriage, but it is not known if chasteberry is helpful or safe for this indication.
Dandelion: Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a member of the Asteraceae/Compositae family closely related to chicory. It is a perennial herb, native to the Northern hemisphere, and found growing wild in meadows, pastures, and waste grounds of temperate zones. Although not studied clinically, dandelion has been traditionally used for increasing breast milk production.
Dandelion should be avoided by individuals with known allergy to honey, chamomile, chrysanthemums, yarrow, feverfew, or any members of the Asteraceae/Compositae plant families (ragweed, sunflower, daisies).
Fennel: Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is native to the Mediterranean region. For centuries, fennel fruits have been used as traditional herbal medicine in Europe and China. Although not studied clinically, fennel has been traditionally used for increasing breast milk production.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to fennel or other members of the Apiaceae family including carrot, celery, and mugwort because of the chance of cross-sensitization. Oral allergy syndrome has been reported with the use of fennel in a woman. Allergic reactions affecting the skin, such as atopic dermatitis and photosensitivity, may occur in patients who consume fennel.
Fenugreek: Fenugreek (Tringonella foenum-graecum) has a long history of medical uses in Indian and Chinese medicine, and has been used for numerous indications, including labor induction, aiding digestion, and as a general tonic to improve metabolism and health. Although not studied clinically, fenugreek has been traditionally used for increasing breast milk production.
Literature review reveals no reliable human data or systematic study of fenugreek during pregnancy or lactation. Caution is warranted during pregnancy due to potential hypoglycemic effects. In addition, both water and alcoholic extracts of fenugreek exert a stimulating effect on isolated guinea pig uterus, especially during late pregnancy. As a result, fenugreek may possess abortifacient effects, and is usually not recommended for use in doses higher than found in foods during pregnancy.
Guided imagery: Therapeutic guided imagery may be used to help patients relax and focus on images associated with personal issues they are confronting. Experienced guided imagery practitioners may use an interactive, objective guiding style to encourage patients to find solutions to problems by exploring their existing inner resources. Biofeedback is sometimes used with imagery to enhance meditative relaxation. Interactive guided imagery groups, classes, workshops, and seminars are available, as well as books and audiotapes. Although not studied clinically, guided imagery has been traditionally used for increasing breast milk production.
Serious adverse effects have not been reported in the available scientific literature. Theoretically, intense inward focusing may cause pre-existing psychological problems or personality disorders to surface. Guided imagery should not be relied upon as a sole therapy for potentially serious medical problems. Guided imagery is usually used as a supplemental technique to other treatments, not as a replacement.
Guided imagery techniques should not be practiced while driving or during other activity requiring strict attention. Guided imagery may trigger physical symptoms that can be brought about by stress, anxiety, or emotional upset. If practicing guided imagery produces anxiety, a qualified healthcare professional should be consulted. Similarly, people with a history of trauma or abuse should speak with a healthcare professional before using this technique.
Healing touch: Healing touch (HT) is a system of biofield- or energy-based therapy involving the practitioner's use of mental intention and the placement of hands in specific sequences either on the body or above it in the recipient's energy field. It also includes movement of the hands through the field to influence the flow or circulation of energy in a variety of ways. Although not studied clinically, healing touch has been traditionally used for increasing breast milk production.
Hypnotherapy: Various forms of hypnosis, trance, and altered states of consciousness have played roles across cultures throughout history. Hypnosis-like practices can be traced to ancient Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Persia, Britain, Scandinavia, America, Africa, India, and China. Wong Tai, a father of Chinese medicine, made an early written reference to hypnosis in 2600 BC. Mention is made in the Bible (the Bible warns against the practice of hypnosis because in hypnotism, faith is shifted from God and His Word to the hypnotist and his technique; God speaks to people through the conscious, rational mind vs. an altered state of consciousness.), Talmud, and Hindu Vedas, and trance-states are included in some Native American and African ceremonies.
Milk thistle: Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) has been used medicinally for over 2,000 years, most commonly for the treatment of liver and gallbladder disorders. A flavonoid complex called silymarin can be extracted from the seeds of milk thistle, and is believed to be the biologically active component. The terms "milk thistle" and "silymarin" are often used interchangeably.
Milk thistle has been used historically to improve breast milk flow, and two brief studies of milk thistle in pregnant women reported no side effects. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the safe use of milk thistle during pregnancy or breastfeeding at this time.
Physical therapy: Although not studied clinically, physical therapy has been traditionally used for increasing breast milk production. Physical therapy has been used in pregnancy, specifically to treat women with pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy and at three, six, and 12 months postpartum. Reports of major adverse effects are lacking in the available literature, but caution is advised nonetheless. All therapies during pregnancy and breastfeeding should be discussed with a licensed obstetrician/gynecologist before initiation.
Raspberry: Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) is cultivated and grows wild throughout temperate climates, including North America and Europe. For several centuries, midwives have used raspberry leaf to stimulate and ease labor.
Although not studied clinically, raspberry has been traditionally used for increasing breast milk production. Raspberry leaf may induce labor. However, a clinical trial using raspberry leaf tablets reported no adverse effects. More study is needed in this area before a recommendation can be made.
Relaxation therapy: Relaxation techniques include behavioral therapeutic approaches that differ widely in philosophy, methodology, and practice. The primary goal is usually non-directed relaxation. Most techniques share the components of repetitive focus (on a word, sound, prayer phrase, body sensation, or muscular activity), adoption of a passive attitude towards intruding thoughts, and return to the focus. Although not studied clinically, relaxation therapy has been traditionally used for increasing breast milk production.
Therapeutic touch: The way therapeutic touch (TT) may affect the body is unknown. It is theorized that TT affects patients through the connection of energy fields within and outside of the body. Energy is thought to stimulate internal mechanisms to treat physical symptoms. The autonomic nervous system is felt to be particularly sensitive to TT, followed by the lymphatic, circulatory, and musculoskeletal systems. Female endocrine disorders are believed to be more sensitive than those affecting males. Manic and catatonic patients have been reported to respond to therapeutic touch. Most scientific studies of TT have examined effects on pain and anxiety.
Turmeric: Historically, turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been considered safe when used as a spice in foods during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, turmeric has been found to cause uterine stimulation and to stimulate menstrual flow, and caution is therefore warranted during pregnancy. Animal studies have not found turmeric taken by mouth to cause abnormal fetal development. Although not studied clinically, turmeric has been traditionally used for increasing breast milk production.