Galactagogues: 10 Herbs to Increase Milk Supply (With DIY Recipes)

If you are not producing breast milk at a level required for your baby, you can look to boost your milk supply by consuming galactagogues.

These can come in the form of food, herbs or medicine.

In this article, we will look at ten common herbal galactagogues that you can incorporate into your diet.

We will help you gain an understanding of the potential benefits, and side effects of consuming each herb. Plus provide multiple options for consumption, including a DIY recipe you can do at home.

What Is A Galactagogue?

Any substance that stimulates the production or increase of milk supply in mammals is known as a galactagogue.

These substances are typically herbal, but there are also some foods and prescription medications that can have the same effect.

While they can be effective for most mothers, galactagogues should only be considered as a last resort for increasing milk supply if all other attempts have failed.

These include skin-to-skin contact, breast compressions, breast pumping, proper positioning and latch, and frequent, patient feedings.

It is important to note upfront that galactagogues do not have a perfect success rate.

A study published in The Oschner Journal concluded that there were mixed results on the efficacy of certain galactagogues, both herbal and medicinal.

However, they are still a viable treatment option that you can discuss with your doctor or lactation consultant.

Why Would I Need A Galactagogue?

The most common reason a mother may seek to increase her milk supply is that she will be either primarily or exclusively pumping her milk for her baby.

She may be returning to work, her baby may have been born premature and needs supplemental feeding, or she just may not be in love with the idea of breastfeeding directly.

Another common reason behind the use of galactagogues is due to low milk supply (either misconceived or real). Mothers may feel that they are not producing enough and need the extra help.

Although rare, there could be an inadequate supply of milk to help their little ones gain weight and develop properly.

A smaller part of the population may need to re-lactate after a break from breastfeeding. Some even choose to produce breast milk when they adopt a new baby if they don’t wish to feed the baby formula.

How Do I Take Galactagogues?

The most common way to add a galactagogue to your daily routine is through a supplement. It is the easiest way to get it into your system to allow it to start working quickly.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, but companies do have their own internal set of standards that they ensure their products live up to.

With loose herbs, powders, or even capsules, you can use some galactagogues in recipes to boost lactation (like cookies!).

Not only will this help to increase your milk, but it will also fill your belly and keep your calories up to continue to produce.

I will share some of these recipes with you in the next section.

If cooking and/or baking is not your thing, you can find tea blends with one or several of the herbal galactagogues we will discuss.

If low milk supply is truly an issue, you should see your doctor. They may be able to prescribe you a medication that can help you increase your supply.

Pharmaceutical galactagogues do come with more side effects (I will talk about this more later), but you and your doctor should be able to come up with a plan together to keep you and your baby safe.

It is important to remember that every new medication or supplement may have adverse effects if not taken properly or without a doctor’s approval.

Especially if you have a pre-existing health condition.

You should take caution and be aware of all side effects prior to consumption, and always follow the recommended dosage.

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Top 10 Herbal Galactagogues

Below you will find a list of the 10 most common herbal galactagogues that mothers use to promote breast milk production.

For every herbal galactagogues we will include the following information:

  • Possible side effects
  • Recommended supplement
  • DIY recipe you can try at home for each Galactagogue

1. Fenugreek

Fenugreek

Perhaps the most common herb most mothers try first when attempting to increase their milk supply is fenugreek.

It is often used for its seeds, whole or ground into powder, but the leaves and sprouts can be used as well.

There is a near burnt sugar taste to it, making it the go-to spice when creating imitation maple syrup.

Not only can it help increase milk supply, but it is believed to have other health benefits as well. When applied topically, it can relieve symptoms of eczema or even dress wounds.

It has recently been used to lower cholesterol and can also help with certain cases of diabetes thanks to its ability to lower blood glucose levels.

Side Effects

The most common side effects are those associated with blood sugar that has dropped too low.

These include dizziness, trembling, and weakness. This can be especially dangerous when combined with diabetic medication.

Fenugreek has also been known to interact with blood thinning medications, such as Coumadin or warfarin.

Speak with your doctor before taking a fenugreek supplement if you are on blood thinners as you may experience increased bleeding.

The other most common (non-serious) side effect is the odor. Since fenugreek has a very distinct maple syrup smell to it, it often causes the consumer to smell like maple syrup as well due to the herbs secretion through pores and sweat glands.

Other less common side effects (when taken in excess) may include diarrhea and worsening of asthma symptoms.

You should also be wary of taking fenugreek if you have a peanut allergy as fenugreek contains some of the same compounds found in nuts.

Recommended Fenugreek Supplement

If you are looking for a good fenugreek supplement, I recommend Pure Naturals.

One bottle comes with 180 capsules, 610 mg each. All Pure Naturals products are made in the US and manufactured with some of the highest standards in the world (Good Manufacturing Practices [GMP]).

DIY Lactation Boosting Recipe

If baking is not your thing and you are looking for a lactation recipe that is quick and healthy, try these no-bake lactation cookies.

There is no gluten and they are completely vegan.

Source: The Butter Half

Ingredients:

  • Maple syrup
  • Coconut oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Pitted dates
  • Oatmeal (#1 recommended food for increasing milk supply)
  • FlaxseedChia seeds
  • Brewer’s yeast (another galactagogue on my list)
  • Fenugreek capsules
  • Chocolate chips
  • Cinnamon Vanilla

Preparation:

  1. Combine wet ingredients in a food processor and blend.
  2. Add dates and blend again.
  3. Add all dry ingredients, breaking the fenugreek capsules to use the powder only, then chocolate chips, cinnamon, and vanilla.
  4. Blend until the dough pulls together.
  5. Use an ice cream scoop or just roll small balls and chill in the fridge overnight.

Also Read: Fenugreek for Increasing Milk Supply

2. Fennel Seed

Fennel Seed

Fennel seed is an ancient and popular herb that has mild estrogenic properties.

These are believed to be responsible for the stimulation of milk production in mammals, including nursing mothers.

It is not only useful for increasing milk supply but is also a go-to remedy for colic in fussy babies.

It has properties that are known to reduce intestinal gas buildup.

Side Effects

Because of its estrogenic properties, fennel is not recommended for women undergoing hormonal treatment for breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer.

It can also make birth control pills less effective.

If you have any known allergies to fennel, celery, carrot, or mugwort, it is recommended you don’t take fennel as it may cause an adverse reaction.

There are no known effects on babies who are breastfeeding, but it is best to discontinue use after a few weeks.

Recommended Fennell Supplement

Few supplement brands are as well known as Nature’s Way.

Their products, including their fennel capsules, are GMO-free and adhere to GMP standards.

Trusted for 50 years, their fennel supplement is my recommendation.

DIY Lactation Boosting Recipe

If you are looking for a recipe that is gluten-free with no refined sugars, try these Lactation Cookies from Mama Natural.

Source: Mama Natural

Ingredients:

  • Rolled oats
  • Coconut sugar
  • Tapioca flour
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Ground fennel seed
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Sea salt
  • Almond butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Eggs
  • Honey
  • Vanilla

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Grind oats in a food processor until they resemble flour.
  3. Grind fennel seeds with a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle until they turn into a fine powder.
  4. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine almond butter, melted coconut oil, honey, eggs, and vanilla.
  5. Add to dry ingredients and mix well.
  6. Roll small balls and slightly flatten on a baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until slightly golden.

3. Red Raspberry Leaf

Red Raspberry Leaf

Red raspberry – both the fruit and the leaf – has several known medicinal properties. The antioxidants are believed to help blood vessels relax.

This can relieve painful symptoms due to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and labor and delivery, as well as prevent miscarriage.

Though there are no scientifically valid trials, red raspberry leaf has also been used as a galactagogue.

There has been evidence shown through a blind trial that certain tea blends that contain red raspberry leaf can improve milk supply.

Whether it is the red raspberry leaf itself or a combination with other elements is unknown.

Side Effects

Similar to fennel, red raspberry leaf may act like estrogen in the body.

This makes it potentially unsafe to use during pregnancy as well as in conjunction with certain medical conditions (breast, ovarian, uterine cancer; endometriosis).

Other than these, red raspberry leaf is generally considered safe to use.

Recommended Red Rasberry Supplement

Nature’s Way also has a great red raspberry leaf supplement you should consider if you are interested in giving this herb a try.

DIY Lactation Boosting Recipe

Besides supplements, red raspberry leaf’s effectiveness as a galactagogue is most prevalent in tea form, like this Nursing Mom Tea.

Source: Wellness Mama

Ingredients:

  • Red raspberry leaf
  • Nettle leaf
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • Alfalfa leaf
  • Chamomile flowers
  • Dandelion leaf

Preparation:

  1. Mix all herbs together and store in a glass, airtight container.
  2. When you are ready to brew your tea, add 1 Tablespoon of the mixture to 2 cups of boiling water and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Strain before drinking.

4. Brewer’s Yeast

Brewers Yeast

Brewer’s yeast may seem like a strange thing to use as a galactagogue since it is better known for its use in beer and bread.

However, it is one of the most widely used galactagogues thanks to its compatibility with various baking ingredients and its ability to mix into various dishes and smoothies.

It is rich in vitamins, such as chromium, potassium, selenium, protein, iron, zinc, magnesium, and multiple B vitamins.

Besides its ability to increase milk supply, brewer’s yeast is also commonly used to aid in digestive health.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lactose intolerance, and diarrhea have all reacted positively to the use of brewer’s yeast.

Side Effects

There are few side effects associated with brewer’s yeast, but you should speak with your doctor before adding it to your diet as it may interact with other medications.

The few side effects that have been seen include excess gas, bloating, and migraine headaches. However, these are usually only prevalent when brewer’s yeast is used in excess.

You should also keep track of any strange side effects that may signify an allergic reaction.

These include throat tightening, difficulty breathing, or chest pain.

Recommended Brewer’s Yeast Supplement

The best way to use brewer’s yeast is in its powder form.

It is most versatile in this form allowing it to be used in various recipes, including cookies and smoothies.

If you are interested in a powdered supplement, I would recommend Herbal Secrets Powder.

However, if you prefer the convenience and simplicity of a capsule, try Amazing Nutrition Capsules instead.

DIY Lactation Boosting Recipe

These Nutritious Lactation Bars from Aloha Nutrition are the perfect snack when you are on the go.

They are packed with fruit and nuts, the ideal snack to replace a sugary, processed granola bar.

Source: Aloha Nutrition

Ingredients:

  • Old fashioned oats
  • Steel cut oats
  • Pitted dates
  • Bananas
  • Walnuts
  • Salt
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • Craisins

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Blend nuts, sunflower seeds, and dates in a food processor.
  2. In a large bowl, mix oats, bananas, and date mixture. Add brewer’s yeast, salt, chia and flaxseed, chocolate chips, and Craisins.
  3. Grease a baking pan so the bars don’t stick. Pour in the mixture and flatten it out to the edges.
  4. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

5. Alfalfa

Alfalfa

You probably only know alfalfa as the healthy salad topping, but did you know it can also help increase a mother’s milk supply?

Alfalfa’s leaves and sprouts have been valued for centuries all over the world for their numerous health benefits.

They are rich in vitamins and nutrients essential to many of the body’s daily functions, particularly the circulatory and immune systems.

Side Effects

If you are healthy with no history of any medical conditions, alfalfa is generally safe to use.

However, if you are pregnant or suffer from autoimmune disease or hormonal cancer, it is recommended that you stay away from alfalfa.

Some cases of alfalfa use have triggered mild side effects, which affect the gastrointestinal system.

These include swelling (water retention) as well as mild nausea

Recommended Alfalfa Supplement

While alfalfa is preferred in its leafy or sprout form, you can supplement with these pills from Nature’s Life if you so choose.

DIY Lactation Boosting Recipe

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this is especially true for breastfeeding mothers.

You get the most milk at the start of your day, so why not fuel up with this Avocado Sprout Toast from Cooking Light.

Source: Cooking Light

Ingredients:

  • Whole grain bread
  • Avocado
  • Salt and pepper
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Lemon juice

Preparation:

  1. Toast the bread, mash and spread avocado, and top with remaining ingredients. It’s that easy.

6. Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is commonly found in the Mediterranean and was used by ancient Greeks and Romans to treat an array of ailments, including low milk supply.

It is not as widely used today, as there are few scientific studies to back its effectiveness. However, there was one study conducted on female rats that did show an increase in prolactin, which could, in turn, increase milk supply.

Not to be confused with blessed thistle (another herb on my list of galactagogues), milk thistle also has the ability to detox the liver, ensuring that the milk you are producing is clean and toxin-free.

Side Effects

Just like with many other galactagogues, you shouldn’t take milk thistle if you have breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer, or endometriosis.

You may experience adverse reactions to milk thistle if you are allergic to ragweed, marigold, chrysanthemums, marigolds, or daisies.

In addition, milk thistle may react negatively with a variety of medications, so be sure to speak with your doctor before starting an herbal supplement.

Recommended Milk Thistle Supplement

If you are looking for a good supplement, these capsules from Jarrow Formulas are a great choice thanks to their purity and high concentration of milk thistle extract.

DIY Lactation Boosting Recipe

Smoothies are great; they are like a meal in a glass. Easy to make and take on the go, this Milk Thistle Seed Blueberry Smoothie from My Organic Life is sure to fit any nursing mother’s lifestyle.

Source: My Organic Life

Ingredients:

  • Frozen banana
  • Frozen blueberries
  • Maca powder (optional)
  • Milk thistle seed powder
  • Chia seeds
  • Water or nut milk
  • Mint leaves

Preparation:

  1. Toss it all into a blender and blend until smooth.

7. Anice

Anice

Anise is a spice that is highly reminiscent of the holidays; similar to cinnamon and nutmeg, the smell and taste automatically fill your mind with Christmas dreams.

It is most commonly found in Mediterranean dishes, particularly chai spiced tea.

Not only is this spice delicious but it can also be helpful with milk production.

It is rich in antioxidants, a great source of B vitamins as well as C and D, and even provides a variety of minerals that are necessary for various bodily functions.

Side Effects

Anise does not mix well with some medications, particularly those used for hormone therapy (estrogen in particular).

Rare but serious side effects can include seizures and pulmonary edema.

Keep a close eye on any reactions that can signify an allergy as well.

If you notice anything abnormal, discontinue use and call your doctor immediately.

Recommended Anice Supplement

While you can enjoy most of the benefits of anise directly from the spice or seeds, there are supplements available if it better suits your lifestyle.

These capsules from Secrets of the Tribe are a little pricey but are sure to do the trick.

DIY Lactation Boosting Recipe

You could always enjoy a nice cup of chai tea if you are looking to add some anise spice to your diet, but why not try this Moroccan Semolina Soup with Milk, Anise Seeds, and Honey?

Source: All Recipes

Ingredients:

  • Water
  • Coarse semolina flour
  • Salt
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Anise seed

Preparation:

  1. Bring water to a boil and stir in salt and semolina flour.
  2. Simmer and continue to stir until soup begins to thicken.
  3. Stir in milk, butter, and anise seed.
  4. Continue to simmer for roughly 5-10 minutes.

8. Blessed Thistle

Blessed Thistle

Earlier in my list, I mentioned milk thistle; it is not to be confused with blessed thistle, which is also an excellent galactagogue.

It receives its name from the claim that it heals all ailments. It is even said to have been used to treat the plague back in medieval times.

Today, it is commonly used to help increase a mother’s milk supply.

While proof of its (solo) effectiveness has yet to be solidified, it has been found extremely effective when taken in conjunction with fenugreek.

Side Effects

Blessed thistle is generally safe to use, but of course, too much of a good thing can still be a bad thing.

If taken in excess, you may experience side effects such as vomiting and stomach irritation.

Recommended Blessed Thistle Supplement

Most supplements you find that contain blessed thistle also include fenugreek.

If you are looking for blessed thistle for its numerous health benefits, including increasing milk supply, there is a good one from Mother’s Select.

DIY Lactation Boosting Recipe

There are a variety of tea blends that are recommended for milk supply, but if you want to make your own, try Mother’s Milk Tea.

Source: The Kitchn

Ingredients:

  • Fennel seeds
  • Red raspberry leaf
  • Nettle leaf
  • Fennel seeds
  • Lemon verbena
  • Blessed thistle

Preparation:

  1. Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.
  2. When you are ready for tea, use 1 teaspoon of the mix for every cup of water.
  3. You can steep in either a tea infuser or tea bag. Allow to steep for 5 minutes.

9. Chaste Tree

Chaste Tree

Chances are you have probably never heard of chaste tree or chaste berry.

It is more commonly referred to as Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus), which is what you will find written on most supplements.

Chasteberry is almost exclusively used for women’s health, particularly premenstrual symptoms and milk production.

It is believed to have the ability to raise estrogen and progesterone levels, hormones responsible for the production of breast milk.

Side Effects

There are very few reported side effects associated with the use of chaste tree berries, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak with your doctor if you decide to use it while lactating.

There is still sufficient testing that needs to be done to determine if there are any interactions with medications or if there are any contraindications to be aware of.

Recommended Chaste Tree Supplement

VH Nutrition offers a supplement call Vitex+, which is just caste tree berry extract.

It is one of the most highly reviewed and rated chaste tree products and a great choice if you are looking at supplementing.

DIY Lactation Boosting Recipe

At first glance, the use of a tincture may be alarming to breastfeeding mothers.

After all, you’re always told that alcohol and breastfeeding don’t mix well.

The alcohol used to make a tincture is really to just extract all the benefits that an herb has to offer, and the amount that you take per dose is nothing to be concerned about.

If you want to make your own Vitex Tincture, try this one!

Source: Integrative Medicine

Ingredients:

  • Chaste tree berries
  • Vodka

Preparation:

  1. Start by labeling a Mason jar with the date and amount of alcohol used.
  2. Grind berries coarsely and combine with vodka in Mason jar. Ensure the lid is on tight and shake to mix.
  3. Allow it to sit for two weeks, shaking periodically.
  4. Strain the mixture with cheesecloth or muslin and place in a dark, labeled bottle.

10. Goat’s Rue

Goats Rue

Goat’s rue may be another strange sounding name for an herb – also known as French lilac.

The leaves are used for supplements and medical use; they are most effective for lowering blood sugar and increasing milk supply.

Side Effects

Diabetics should be particularly wary when using goat’s rue. Monitor your blood sugar closely as goat’s rue can cause it to drop too low.

In addition, goat’s rue may also slow the body’s ability to clot, causing excessive bleeding.

More testing needs to be done to determine any effects goat’s rue may have when taken in conjunction with other medications, so be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a supplement.

Recommended Supplement

This goat’s rue supplement from Mommy Knows Best is a great substitute for those who may have an allergy or sensitivity to other popular galactagogues, such as fenugreek or blessed thistle.

Just be aware that it is a little more expensive.

DIY Lactation Boosting Recipe

If you want to easiest lactation tea recipe, you will want to try this Goat’s Rue Tea.

Source: Breastfeeding Problems

Ingredients:

  • Goat’s rue leaves
  • Water

Preparation:

  1. Use 1 teaspoon of dried leaves for 1 cup of water.
  2. Let it steep in a tea bag or diffuser for about 10 minutes.
  3. You can drink this up to 3 times per day.

Alternatives To Natural Galactagogues

Going through this list, you may have picked up on a common problem: there isn’t enough sufficient scientific evidence to support the claims that these herbs help to increase milk supply.

There have been several firsthand accounts of mothers who experienced an increase and a few studies that support these claims – such as the increase in prolactin resulting from milk thistle, which may increase milk supply.

But not enough evidence to fully back their usage from a scientific perspective.

This also means that these herbs may not be effective for every lactating mother.

Sometimes something more potent and scientifically supported may be needed to see a true increase in milk supply.

Thankfully, there are pharmaceutical medications formulated to do just this.

Two of the most commonly prescribed galactagogues are metoclopramide (most common in the U.S. and sold as Reglan) and domperidone (most common in Canada).

Both promote lactation by stimulating the release of dopamine and raising prolactin levels.

Even though several herbal galactagogues do have known side effects, there is an even bigger risk when you take pharmaceuticals.

Common side effects associated with metoclopramide include restlessness, drowsiness, diarrhea, and fatigue.

There are also some less common (but more serious) side effects as well, including “sleeplessness, headache, confusion, dizziness, mental depression, or feelings of anxiety or agitation.”

Any history of epilepsy, depression, or hypertension should also be discussed with your doctor before you decide to take metoclopramide.

Domperidone is less likely to affect the nervous system in the same way(s) that metoclopramide does, but there are still severe warnings against its use.

It was originally formulated to treat gastric disorders, such as heartburn, and was discovered to have potentially positive effects on a mother’s milk supply (even though this was never the manufacturer’s intention).

There have been reports of irregular heart rhythms and sudden death when using this medication, but the majority of these were reported in elderly users, those with preexisting heart conditions, and overdoses.

Even so, the drug is not currently approved for distribution in the U.S. due to these potential health risks.

Before Consuming Galactagogues

Just because you think you may have low milk supply doesn’t mean you should run out and buy an herbal supplement to boost your production.

You must carefully consider your health before starting any sort of supplementation.

Speak with your doctor regarding any medications you may be taking or any preexisting conditions you may have.

Certain herbs do not mix well with medications and can cause severe and even life-threatening side effects if taken with a preexisting medical condition.

When speaking with your doctor, ask them about testing for low milk supply. Certain blood tests can determine if your hormone levels are unbalanced and causing low milk supply.

If your hormone levels are fine, a galactagogue will not likely do you any good anyway.

Remember to Join Our Breastfeeding Support Page Here

Final Word

If you have the need to increase your breast milk supply, an herbal galactagogue may help.

Just be sure to always follow the dosages and take proper precautions when starting a new supplement, watching for any adverse reactions.

Questions or comments? Let us know below.

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