Clogged Milk Ducts and Mastitis Herbal Remedy Poke Root to the Rescue

Herbal Remedies for Breastfeeding Mamas

Boobies and babies go together like peas and pods, sure, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any pain involved. For many of us breastfeeding mamas, there may be LOTS of pain involved at times. It helps to have an herbal arsenal by your side for those times when all the other home remedies you’ve read up on just aren’t cutting it, it’s 4 AM and the internet full of ideas isn’t working.

Poke root oil or poke root salve is a wonderful herbal ally for nursing mamas who are looking for a safe, traditional, effective remedy that really kicks the healing up a notch. 

Issues like mastitis and clogged or plugged milk ducts can pop up when least expected - and least wanted - especially during times of stress and depressed immunity. And what’s not stressful and draining about sleeping with a tiny creature who may be waking up every hour on the hour to suck on you? There are too many causes of plugged milk ducts to go into here - from restrictive bras to latch issues - but it’s worth checking into the root causes to help you identify the underlying issue behind the issue. 

My little is almost 2 1/2 and we are still going strong with the ‘Bobs’: Bob One (on the left) and Bob Two (on the right). He lets me know which number Bob he wants and sometimes it's pretty smooth sailing. Whenever I have dealt with a clogged milk duct since beginning my nursing career, it always lets me know it’s coming (so considerate!) a few hours in advance with just a little hint of a tingle in the breast tissue. In that moment, I run for the (massive bottle of) echinacea extract and the (tiny bottles of) poke root extract and salve in my medicine cabinet. As long as I know I have these two herbs on hand, at least I know that I have friends on my side no matter what’s to come. 

Herbs for a Clogged Milk Duct 

You may have already checked off all the boxes of things you’re supposed to do if you have a clogged milk duct: hydrate yourself, massage the inflamed area gently in circles towards the nipple to get the breast tissue more malleable and improve the circulation. Take a hot shower and use the magic combination of steamy water plus the gentle pressure of your hands to encourage the traffic jam in your milk duct to clear out. Remember that so much of your breast is adipose or fatty tissue, which can almost be melted or molded with heat. Alternatively, the alternating of heating and cooling elements - think a hot water bottle and an ice pack - can be super useful in abating the pain and swelling that comes along with a clogged milk duct. 

And when in doubt: nurse, nurse, nurse. It may be so painful that you find yourself whispering all sorts of words you don’t particularly want your innocent babe to hear, but as counterintuitive as it may seem, encouraging the flow of milk through the ducts and out through the nipple is possibly the best thing that you can do to encourage the clogged milk duct to dissipate. You can employ the healing power of gravity via the dangle nursing method, in which you aim to oh-so-delicately (or not so delicately, depending on how much pain you’re in at the time!) dangle your breast over your eager baby who’s propped on the couch or bed. 

Staying hydrated while you’re nursing - particularly in the beginning - can be a challenge in itself. Whenever I think of oatstraw infusion, I think of the phrase ‘Mothering the mother’. For nursing mamas, oatstraw is like the doula of herbs. Oatstraw is the ultimate plant-milk, nourishing the nervous system, boosting breastmilk supply, and providing the body with nutrition to pass on to baby as well as plentiful amounts of trace minerals, notably magnesium and calcium. Oatstraw is said to be the most primo source of magnesium of any botanical on the planet. I drank up to a gallon a day when I was first nursing, usually cold or even on ice but occasionally warmed up a little with milk and honey for a nourishing treat.

 

Oatstraw dried herb for breastfeeding with minerals magnesium and calcium

Oatstraw mothers the mother, even when your actual postpartum doula has gone home for the night. At the point that I start to feel the giveaway tingle, I begin dosing myself with echinacea according to our handy dandy echinacea dosage chart. I’ll take that dose every hour that I’m awake throughout the day and continue dosing (perhaps two or three times a day) for several days even after the symptoms of the threatening breast infection have disappeared. In combination with the echinacea, because these two herbs play so well together, I take 1-2 drops of poke root extract in a little bit of water every couple of hours (and no more than this, since poke is a low-dose botanical and must be taken in small drop doses only).

 

If I have poke root salve or oil (see the difference between a salve and an oil) on hand, I head myself to bed, since rest is another key component of recovery, and start doing hourly massages with poke root salve or poke root oil, making sure that I carefully wipe off any excess that might be around the nipple area before baby’s next feeding. If you don’t have access to poke root salve or oil, you can use a general Breast Massage Oil, Comfrey Oil or Salve, or Calendula Oil to help gently stimulate the lymphatic flow, but it won’t have the powerful anti-infective properties of the poke. Don’t have either of those on hand? Try a few drops of poke root extract or calendula extract in a cupful of hot water and use a cloth to create a comforting compress to apply to your breast for a few minutes at a time. Sore breasts that hold residual discomfort in them even after the clogged milk duct is history can really benefit from a gentle massage with one of these oils every few hours. Got nothing in the house but a cabbage and a potato? Get grating … you’re in luck! Grated, raw potato and raw cabbage leaves make a terrific, absorbent poultice in a pinch. Bonus: you will look and smell just as healthy as you’ll feel afterwards. 🙂 

 

Herbal Poke root oil for clogged milk ducts and mastitis

A clogged milk duct often rears its little head as a way of saying - to the busy, tired mama who definitely doesn’t want to hear it - ‘Self-care, self-care, self-care! Please, more, self-care!’ This plaintive cry gets louder and louder until it, if ignored, turns into…you know what’s coming…the big MA-ma-mastitis. 

Herbal Remedies and Mastitis 

When full-blown mastitis is in the house, it can be a monster. Mastitis must have invented the saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s often accompanied by fever, chills, aches, and all the other signs of acute and severe infection, which thankfully are what poke root does battle with best. Faced with mastitis, I pull out all my herbal allies: put your echinacea and poke root extract bottles by your bed next to your Breast Massage Oil and prepare to hunker down until the herbs have done their thing. 

Mastitis is a force to be reckoned with. While poke and echinacea are my absolute no-brainer mastitis buddies, I also stock my nightstand with Immune Blend (usnea, elderberry, and echinacea) to help fight off the infection, Yarrow to speed healing and for the fever, and perhaps some Skullcap, California Poppy, Sleepy Blend, or Passionflower to help with the pain and promote rest. 

Treat Poke Root with Respect, and She Will Treat You with Healing

Poke root medicine can only come to the rescue if it’s properly made. An extract or oil made from dried poke root isn’t going to be nearly as potent or effective as one made from the fresh root, which holds vibrant constituents and properties that just don’t show up in medicine made from the dried herb. But use caution if you’re going to embark on making your own poke root products: the fresh root is so strong that many people who encounter it closely suffer an allergic reaction, breaking out into a rash or experiencing other varied symptoms. Be sure to keep it away from your face, use gloves and respect, and wash your hands and arms after you are done with your medicine making.

Fresh Wildcrafted Poke Root Phytolacca americana

Poke root is your power plant. There is no messing around with this potent herb that seems like it was just made to be a strong warrior for nursing mamas. It’s even in the name - Phytolacca americana - catch the milk reference in there? -Lacca, as in lactation, as in plant milk. Poke is the herbal ally for breastmilk. Poke is a drop-dose herb only, never to be taken in doses larger than a couple of drops at a time because if used in abundance it can lead to nausea, vomiting, and other unwanted side effects. It demands respect. Poke root has a direct and virtually immediate affect on the lymphatic system, which is interwoven into so much of breast tissue. Its amazing abilities to act as a lymphatic stimulant and adversary against acute infections help the ‘waters’ or milky channels of the body to flow smoothly once again. According to its traditional uses, many people find poke root a highly effective ally for healthy sinuses, promoting lymphatic flow, general skin health, and so much more.

Poke root extract tincture herbal medicine for clogged milk ducts and mastitis

Poke, like a mama, knows what’s best. And if it's used appropriately it will lead to remarkable healing for your clogged milk ducts and stressed breasts. 

Blessings to you and your boobies on this breastfeeding journey! 

NOT FOR USE DURING PREGNANCY

Sources:
  • The Nursing Mother’s Herbal by Sheila Humphrey
  • Botanical Medicine for Women's Health and Natural Health After Birth by Aviva Romm

Comments

Rachael Stanze

Rachael Stanze said:

Brilliant! Thank you for your wealth of knowledge. I am student midwife and happened upon your page while doing some research, but man I wish I would have found it during one of my many bouts with mastitis!

Kim

Kim said:

Just learned about Poke Root for breast health. I’m interested in using it for very fibrocystic breasts.
I’ve made an oil blend:
2oz of poke root oil from mountian rose herbs
32 drops of frankincense,
12 lavender
12 cedar wood
12 cypress
18-20 fennel
20 lemon, orange, or lime.
4 oz of organic oil.

I’m massaging 2x per day. How long does it take to have a significant effect?
55 and post menopause .

Tara Moore

Tara Moore said:

I lent becaus of COVID, battling mastitis blocked duct now for 3 weeks, on 2Nd course antibiotics. Large lump ? Galactoclele

Tara Moore

Tara Moore said:

I have a Baldwin’s pike root tincture 1:3 45% alcohol. It’s generic instructions are 5-15 drops daily but because of Xbox I can’t get advise On a treatment dose, what is the concentration of your poke wood extract and would you like not to a tincture. How many drops per ml in your extracts. Mine is 15-20 drops per ml therefore each drop is
Aprox 0.05 ml

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