Are Astralagus and Ginseng Safe in Breastfeeding?
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: A. Blunt
Posted on: December 23, 2002

I saw a naturopathic physician recently, and she advised me to take Korean ginseng twice daily for 6 months. I am breastfeeding a 5-month-old. Is ginseng safe while nursing, and is it safe to take for a 6-month period?

Would astralagus be a safe adaptogen for a nursing mother to take daily for an extended period? How does one know when to stop taking an adaptogen?

Lastly, would astralagus (or some other adaptogen) be OK for a kindergartner to use daily, in order to build up her immunity to disease? If so, how much tea would I give her; and how often?

Adaptogens are substances that help the body adapt to stresses (environmental, chemical, personal and biological) by supporting immunity and regeneration of body tissues and fluids. Adaptogens include the ginsengs, shiitake mushrooms and bee pollen.

Astragalus is considered an immune tonic, to improve resistance to infections and allergies. It is used in chronic conditions and in recovery from illnesses. It is not generally used in acute infections.

Astragalus and the ginsengs are generally considered safe in breastfeeding. If you notice any side effects in your baby while on these herbs, then discontinue them. Astragalus is used to build immunity in children. Signs of ginseng overdose to watch for your in your baby are overexcitability, including nervousness, insomnia, skin rashes and morning diarrhea. We recommend taking Korean ginseng for no longer than one month without a break.

A safe and effective way of using astragalus or ginseng to build family immunity is the traditional Asian method of adding a root to simmering soups and stews.

Herb dosage for a child can be calculated by multiplying the adult dosage times the age of the child, and then dividing by (12 plus age of child). If the adult dosage is given in ml, one ml is equal to twenty drops. For example, if the adult dosage on the bottle is one 5 ml teaspoon, three times a day, then the dosage for a 5 year old child will be (5 ml times 20 drops times age 5) divided by (12 plus age 5) or 500 divided by 17, which equals 29 drops three times a day. You can use this formula to determine the dosage of whatever form of herb you are using. The adult dosage of dried astragalus root is: two teaspoons per cup, simmered gently for 20 minutes, half to one cup of this tea, three times a day (for an adult). Children respond quickly to herbs.

The length of time needed to restore health will vary. Herbalists generally encourage the use of diet to maintain strong immunity. A good "immune soup" once or twice a week is more effective, providing more of the needs of the immune system, than taking a single herb for long periods. For example, simmer 1/2 astragalus root, 1/4 ginseng root, one inch of fresh ginger, 3 chopped onions, 4 sliced carrots, 8 chopped shitake mushrooms and 1/4 cup of brown rice in 8 cups of water for one hour. Dried astragalus root, ginseng root and shiitake mushrooms are generally available at health food stores.

Depending on the reasons that you were prescribed ginseng, you may want to consider nettle tea, which can safely be taken daily forever. Nettle encourages the milk supply, strengthens the kidneys, improves energy, supports the nervous system, the immune system and the adrenal glands.

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