April 2022

Do Any Natural Medicines Help with Milk Supply?

It’s a common question. And there are a lot of wives’ tales and internet myths circulating. It’s important to help your patients separate fact from fiction.

Fenugreek is a big one – many swear by it for increasing milk production. While research is limited, small clinical studies suggest that taking fenugreek in a tea or a supplement might slightly increase milk production. There’s also some evidence that using it in combination with other natural ingredients might help. When taken for up to 21 days while breastfeeding, fenugreek appears to be safe. It might cause the nursing infant to smell like maple syrup – beyond the odor, this doesn’t seem to be a safety concern. But be aware that fenugreek is not safe to take while pregnant. It can stimulate the uterus and cause potential serious side effects.

You might also get questions about moringa. It’s native to India and has been traditionally used to stimulate milk production. Similar to fenugreek, some small clinical studies suggest that it might help, particularly during the first week of breastfeeding. Moringa leaf powder and extract appear to be safe for the nursing baby for up to 4 months. But it’s not clear if other parts of the moringa plant are safe, so those should be avoided.

Flaxseedfennelmilk thistlecaraway and many others are also touted for their milk-stimulating effects, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these claims. Nor is there safety data. Fennel in particular should be avoided until there’s more safety data. There have been reports of infants with damage to the nervous system after being exposed to herbal tea containing fennel through breastmilk.

Keep in mind that most natural products have not been studied in those who are breastfeeding, and safety information in the nursing babies is very limited. Just because a product is marketed as natural doesn’t mean it’s safe for the baby. Always check the pregnancy and lactation safety sections in our monographs for more details. And take advantage of our easy-to-use Pregnancy & Lactation Checker.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.