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Dr. Tori Hudson, Portland, Oregon, Blog Healthline Blog

Health care providers, governments and private organizations are supportive of the benefits of exclusive Mother is taking care of her baby.breastfeeding to promote health and optimal development of newborns. The World Health Organization recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. Not all women around the world are able to accomplish this due to education, confidence, nutrition, nipple problems, pain, milk storage and adequate milk volume. Many breastfeeding mothers do try to increase their milk volume and use traditional foods and medicines and herbal preparations. In Thailand, where the current study was conducted, fenugreek, ginger and turmeric are traditional galactagogues.

The study was a randomized double-blind placebo controlled trial, conducted at the Mahidol University in Thailand. Fifty breastfeeding women, ages 20-40, who were 1 month postpartum and exclusively breast feeding were enrolled in this study. Women were randomly assigned to the herbal supplement or placebo, with 25 in each group. The herbal formula contained 200 mg fenugreek seed, 120 mg ginger and 100 mg turmeric per capsule. Three capsules three times per day of herbal combination or placebo were given for 4 weeks.

Breastfeeding mothers receiving the herbal supplement had a 49% increase in milk volume at week 2 and a 103% increase at week 4. The increases in the placebo group were 11% at week 2 and 24% at week 4. The energy and nutrient composition of the human milk before and after the intervention was similar between the treatment and placebo groups, although the percent change in vitamin A tended to increase in the herbal group.

Commentary: Fenugreek is used in many parts of the world, including the U.S. as a galactagogue and has been proven to be safe and effective. The major compounds in fenugreek are flavonoids, terpenoids and saponin (diosgenin). These compounds stimulate the anterior pituitary gland to increase prolactin. The increase in milk production often seen with fenugreek occurs within 24-72 hours. Ginger also can increase milk flow, possibly by improving blood circulation. Turmeric is used as a galactagogue in India but may also be able to decrease pain, tension and inflammation in the breast. Ginger and turmeric may also stimulate the anterior pituitary to produce more prolactin resulting in increased quantity of milk.

Reference: Bumrungpert A, Somboonpanyakul P, Pavadhgul P, Thaninthranon S. Effects of fenugreek, ginger and turmeric supplementation on human milk volume and nutrient content in breastfeeding mothers: A randomized double-blind controlled trial. Breastfeedg\ing Medicine 2018;13(10)

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