Sasha Geerken is an anthropologist and herbalist with a passion for birth work. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology from Montana State University and became a Certified Herbalist through Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism in Boulder, CO.
Sasha is also a certifying Birth and Postpartum Doula through DONA and is currently training to be a Midwifery Assistant through Birthwise Midwifery School. As a certified herbalist, Sasha makes organic body products that are safe for both mother and baby - handmade in small batches, her body products are crafted using certified organic ingredients to nurture, soothe, and heal.
Do you have “must have” list of herbs for women in the postpartum period?
When it comes to herbal healing in the immediate postpartum, I choose herbs that are effective for first-degree perennial tears and bruising. Astringent, Vulnerary (wound healing), and Anti-microbial herbs work well for this type of tissue healing, and my “must have” herbs would be Calendula, Witch Hazel, Yarrow, Comfrey, Chickweed, Lavender, Plantain and Rose.
These herbs can be used in a special preparation to heal the perineum, labia and vaginal tissues in the form of an herbal sitz bath, peri-bottle, compress, poultice or as an infused oil. These astringent herbs help to regenerate new skin growth, bring tissue back together and many of them also fight bacteria, microbes and fungi that cause infection.
Arnica (Arnica montana) is also a very effective remedy for bruising and soreness when used as an infused oil blend and can be used on perineal muscles and leg muscles if they are sore. It should, however, not be used directly on the vaginal opening or on any broken skin. It should also not be taken internally unless in a homeopathic remedy.
Some nice herbs for “after pains” (taken internally as a tincture) are motherwort, black haw/cramp bark, hops and catnip. “After Ease” tincture from Wish Garden is a classic go-to!
What are the benefits of working with an anthropologist and herbalist? What can a client expect by working with you?
A client can expect a holistic approach to wellness by working with me. I believe all aspects of health should be acknowledged and I want to create a caring and strong connection with my clients. A well known Anthropologist and birth activist, Robbie Davis-Floyd, once stated, “as an anthropologist and a birth activist, I am trained to honor and respect people's choices and the knowledge systems on which they base those choices, but also to deeply question the cultural conditioning underlying all "choices." I couldn't agree more with her words - just because something in our culture is considered “normal”, doesn't necessarily meant it is right for you personally. I believe in educated, informed choice and I want my clients to feel empowered in their decisions when it comes to their bodies, health and wellness. Learning about other cultures traditions surrounding birth and reproductive wellness is incredibly important and beneficial to a holistic approach to health - it keeps us curious and open minded to learn more about our options when it comes to holistic wellness.
Where is the best place to source high quality herbs?
Finding a company that sells certified organic, ethically sourced herbs can be difficult to come by. Personally, I feel most comfortable using local, organic herbs in the area where I live so I can physically feel the plants growing; I have a deeper connection to the medicine when I can be part of the process of seeing them grow. However, that's not always realistic, especially in the winter or when I need to use the medicine of an herb that is not native to my area of the US. When this happens I trust the following companies: Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene, Oregon (https://www.mountainroseherbs.com), Rebeccas Apothecary in Boulder Colorado. (https://www.rebeccasherbs.com) and Zach Woods Herb Farm in Hyde Park, Vermont (http://www.zackwoodsherbs.com).
For someone looking to replace commercially made products with more natural herbs, do you have any advice?
-Try to find a brand with good customer service that will actually answer your questions. Many times I've asked companies where they source their herbs from and never get a response, which to me is a red flag. I want to know where the herbs are coming from and if they are organically and ethically grown/harvested.
-Make sure you can read and understand all the ingredients on the label of whatever product you are interested in.
Two brands I personally love and trust:
Mother Love - a company that creates 100% certified organic products for mother and baby in Fort Collins, Colorado ( https://www.motherlove.com)
Wish Garden Herbs - a family-owned and family-run business that uses only the finest organic and sustainably wild-harvested herbs, to make their whole herb extracts in Louisville, Colorado (https://www.wishgardenherbs.com)
What are some herbs a breastfeeding parents should stay away from?
If you are breastfeeding, it’s important to stay away from tea blends and tinctures that have astringent herbs in them. If you’ve ever had a glass of wine, you've definitely experienced astringency - the drying, tightening feeling on your palate is the astringency action at work. While astringent herbs are wonderful for wound and tissue healing, its not good for lactating women as they contain constituents that have a binding action on mucous membranes, and can dry up milk supply. Examples of astringent herbs to avoid using internally would be: parsley, goldenseal, sage, yarrow, witch hazel, raspberry leaf, lady’s mantel and calendula. (Interesting fact: over-the-counter and prescription medications that dry up sinus congestion will also dry up breast milk!) Instead, looks for tea blends or tinctures that include galactagogue herbs, which are herbs that help increase the flow of breastmilk for lactating women such as Fennel, Fenugreek, Alfalfa, Hops, Goats Rue.
Do you have any easy recipes you can share?
Simple Nourishing Oat-Meal (Breast Feeding Super Food):
1.)Steep an infusion of Fennel and Fenugreek tea
2.) Use the infusion as a liquid to make oatmeal
3.) Mix the oatmeal with equal parts sweet potato
4.) Mix in butter and coconut oil
A nourishing meal of healthy fats and galactagogue herbs!
Soothing Lavender Oatmeal Bath:
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup epsom salt
Lavender Flowers (as much as you want!)
Blender or Food Processor
Lavender Essential Oil
Blend the oatmeal in a blender or food processor until a fine, flour-like texture. Combine oatmeal and lavender flowers. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the cup of epsom salt, and stir until well distributed. (If you add the essential oil to the oatmeal mixture, it will clump.) Combine the lavender oatmeal mixture with the epsom salt, stir, and you're done!
While working at Stonegate Farm in Balmville, NY this past summer, I harvested Chamomile flowers and Lemon Balm leaves to infuse in an oil for a salve. Olive oil is the standard base typically used for herbal salves/balms. This is due to olive oils tolerance to heat, its nourishing properties and relatively low cost (cold pressed, extra virgin oil is preferred, use of organic olive oil is up to the medicine maker as its only being applied topically, not internally).
Infusing herbs into oils is a wonderful way to deliver herbal healing for a wide variety of ailments such as cuts and other skin wounds, various skin irritations as well as stiff, sore muscles and joints.
I created this recipe from the plants that were available to ethically harvest this past summer at the farm. Chamomile and Lemon Balm are both gentle nervine/anti-inflammatory herbs so I thought they would make a good hand salve for me, since I was working my hands so much with all the planting and gardening and weeding I was doing. This recipe is safe to use with children and can be used to help soothe a wide variety of mild irritants such as dry and irritated skin, sunburn, cuts, scrapes and bruises.
Chamomile and Lemon Balm Hand/Body Salve Recipe:
1/2 cup Chamomile and Lemon Balm infused Olive Oil
1 Tbsp beeswax
2 Tbsp shea butter
Lemon Essential Oil, Chamomile Essential Oil
Possible nourishing additions:
-Vitamin E oil
-Rosehip Seed oil
Is there any way to incorporate herbs into newborn care?
The only way I personally incorporate herbs into newborn care would be natural body products such as a moisturizing baby balm (made with organic olive oil, shea butter and mild, soothing herbs such as chamomile, lavender and calendula). There are many wonderful herbal suggestions for babies once they are on solid foods, but before that point I typically just stick to the external/topical use of herbs with newborns.
What are the benefits of using organic and handcrafted products over more commercial products?
-You know you are using a product on your body, and your babies body, that you can trust.
-Your skin absorbs what you put on it - you want to know what you are putting on, and in your body!
-You can actually read and understand every single ingredient listed on the label.
-You know where the herbs in the product are coming from - you know where they were -harvested, and know that no chemicals or pesticides were used on them
-You know the herbs have been ethically harvested
-Certified Organic, handcrafted products generally strive to do not only what's best for mothers and babies, but what's best for the environment as well
Think of a body product that lists ingredients you can't even pronounce, compared to a certified organic body product used with herbs from Zach Woods Herb Farm, whose herbs are grown and harvested ethically - “We start by feeding minerals and organic matter to our soils to provide the plants with the proper nutrients. All of the harvesting is done by hand at the peak of potency. Herbs are then dried immediately in our wood-fired drying sheds where light, humidity and temperature levels are carefully monitored to ensure maximum constituent levels. From there, the herbs are minimally processed and packaged by hand. The finished product is of the highest quality available.” Wouldn’t you rather put an herbal body product made from herbs grown this way, rather than a product with ingredients you can't even pronounce, or know where each ingredient is coming from?
Proper nutrition is needed to heal and replenish from birth. What are some great foods to add into a diet to help with this?
-Emphasize protein intake
-Vitamins and Trace Minerals
Leafy green vegetables (kale, napa cabbage, mustard greens, mesclun, arugala, dandelion greens, collards): very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and vitamins A, C, E and K.
Healthy Fats and Oils:
Omega-3s - Fish Oil, leafy greens, flaxseed, chia seeds
Avoiding canola, vegetable and soy oils (they are lower-quality, pro-inflammatory and genetically modified oils) and cooking with ghee (clarified butter), grass-fed butter avocado oil or coconut oil instead (they can withstand high-heat cooking and are especially nutrient-dense).
I would absolutely suggest the book The First Forty Days by Heng Ou (https://www.amazon.com/First-Forty-Days-Essential-Nourishing/dp/1617691836)
Anthropologist, Certified Herbalist Birth and Postpartum Doula, work Certified Organic Body Products for Mother and Baby (coming soon)
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