Herbs for Labor XIV: Ginseng Part 2

herbsIn this edition of “Herbs for Labor” renowned herbalist Susun Weed continues our journey into the woods to go deeper with Ginseng. This amazing root has been shown to improve stamina, energy, enhanced performance, improved response under stressors, and mental alertness.

We are in the woods with Grandmother Growth, who, for all her age, is setting a rapid pace uphill. She talks as she goes, her words trailing behind her like a rainbow, creating a resonance of wholeness that sinks deep, nourishes us, and moistens seeds that will germinate in their time.

“As I said, ginseng is the most valuable root in the world. Many monographs, entire books, have been written on ginseng, and thousands of studies have delved into its mysteries. Its constituents have been torn apart, examined, isolated, and used in experiments. And many say it shouldn’t be taken by pregnant women, or lactating women, or menopausal women, or, to hear some tell, any woman.

“So why are we women climbing this mountain in search of the elusive wild ginseng? I want you to talk with her, lady ginseng, and let her tell you if she wants to be added to our collection of herbs useful during labor.

“Science says ginseng can cause fetal abnormalities. True, if high doses of an isolated glycoside found in ginseng (ginsenoside Rb1), are given to lab animals during the first trimester of pregnancy. This has never been seen in humans. Perhaps it is only true in small animals. Perhaps it is only true of an isolated constituent, and not so when the whole root is used. Perhaps it is no more damaging than coffee or sonograms, both of which are generally considered safe during the first trimester when used with care.

“Ginseng is widely used during pregnancy in China; and has been for more than 5000 years with no reports of adverse effects, teratogenicity, or mutagenicity, according to Aviva Romm, MD. In fact, she continues, women who consume small amounts of ginseng during pregnancy have less pre-eclampsia than controls.

“Ginseng has a long history of being sequestered for privileged, wealthy, men. So perhaps the anti-woman sentiment associated with ginseng is merely a miasmic, misogynic (disease-causing, woman-hating) folk belief. Let’s see what Lady Ginseng says about that, shall we?”

Grandmother Growth stops so sharply we nearly run into each other. She shrugs off her pack and sits down with her eyes closed. We are mystified, but follow her example, taking off our packs and finding places to sit comfortable. Just as we close our eyes, her voice resumes.

“Let your breathing be deep and even. Give your breath away to the plants. Take in what the plants are breathing out to you. Let yourself be present to the give-away dance between plants and people, the dance of oxygen and carbon, the dance of consciousness. Sink your roots into the Earth. Breathe earth energy into your womb space (whether it is physically present or not).

“Listen. Listen without your ears. Listen without words. Listen with your womb space. Listen with your heart. Listen.”

In your mind, in your heart, in your womb space, a knowing arises. It is wordless. It is instantaneous. It is complete. Slowed down and put into words, it would be something like this:

Welcome to my home. I trust you enjoy the warmth of the late afternoon sun as much as I do. I have lived here for many turnings: from light to dark, from heat to cold, turning, turning. I have found the silent center of the turning and I can share it with you.

Can you feel me in your womb space? Can you feel my energy?

I can help you find your second wind. I can give you courage to continue when all seems lost. I can show you how to root yourself so deeply that the winds of change do not uproot you.

Stamina, energy, enhanced performance, improved response under stressors, mental alertness. Yes, I can give you all of these and more, much more. Use me during labor not just to strengthen the labor, but also to hasten recovery from birthing. I will step up your metabolism and protect your baby’s heart and immune system during its passage from wet to dry, from in to out.

Feeling unfocused? Reach for ginseng. Feeling too beat to push? Reach for ginseng. Feeling nervous, anxious, fearful? Reach for ginseng. Feeling like you can’t breathe? Reach for ginseng. Feeling your heart racing? Reach for ginseng.

Overuse me and we may find ourselves on a fast ride to nowhere. Use me wisely and we will get to your goal in record time.

Birds sing. Crickets chirp. The wind rustles the leaves.

“Another uterine stimulant. Another helper during labor. Ginseng is a woman, is she not? Ask her to help you when you attend women who are pale, weak, scattered, unsure, and likely to panic. Ask her to help you when you feel too tired, too conflicted, too befuddled. Ask her. Have you any doubt that she will aid you?

“And now we must be off. Look the sun is getting low. Quick time, now, or we shall have to do the last part of our walk in the dark.”

Grandmother Growth is holding a ginseng leaf. She gives us each a piece. “Chew. Don’t swallow until we get home. Let ginseng guide you, let her support you. Let’s go! There are more roots waiting for us at home.”

Susun Weed has appeared on numerous national radio, television, and new-media venues, including National Public Radio, NBC News, CNN, and ABCNews.com. She has been quoted and interviewed in many major magazines, including Natural Health, Woman’s Day, First for Women, and Herbs for Health. She is a contributor to the Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women’s Studies, and writes a regular column in Sagewoman and for Awakened Woman online. Visit her at www.susunweed.com or buy her books Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year (Weed) and Herbal Healing for Women (Gladstar) at

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