3 Places To Get Your Confinement Herbs In The West (The Postpartum Wellness Show: Episode 3)

by Dr. Kristal Lau  - July 7, 2023

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Hey everybody!

Welcome back to the Postpartum Wellness Show. I'm Dr. Kristal Lau, your host and postpartum wellness consultant.

Today, I'm going to talk about the three places where you can get your confinement herbs while living in a Western country.

But first up, I'm gonna talk a little bit about what the confinement practice is for those of you who haven't quite heard about it or are not as familiar with it. And then we're gonna dive into the three places where you can get your confinement herbs from.

So, what is the confinement practice? Well, firstly, confinement in this sense does not mean jail or imprisonment. What it means is mom and baby are confined to the home for the period of her rest and recovery after giving birth.

In my show and in my book Postpartum 30, I use the word 'confinement' to describe the practice of Zuo Yue Zi or sitting the month, which is a traditional and cultural Chinese postpartum recovery practice that my ancestors have done for centuries, and this practice is based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine.

The reason I use the word confinement is because as a third generation Malaysian of Chinese heritage, I grew up with English as my first language. And all the women before me have taught me that this postpartum practice of recovery after childbirth is known as confinement.

We barely use the word Zuo Yue Zi because the women in my family, well, my mom and aunts, English is also their primary language.

Now, that being said, for those of us who have migrated to the West, a lot of us modern-day immigrants, or you're an expat from Asia to the West and you're building a family while living overseas, or if you are a second-plus generation Asian who has been born and bred in the West, and you want to follow this cultural postpartum practice.

Here are three ways that you can find places to get your confinement herbs so that you have your stash as you go through the confinement month.

But first, let's talk about why it isn't always easy to find confinement herbs when you're in a Western country.

Well, firstly, there are concerns about the import of a lot of these herbal items from places outside of that particular Western country, whether you're in Australia, the UK, parts of Europe, or in America. And that is an understandable concern because you don't really know where the roots and barks came from, and you want to make sure that they're of the best quality and free of pesticides and any other toxins that could potentially harm your health.

And number two, for areas that do have herbal dispensaries to dispense traditional Chinese medicine or other types of herbal preparations, those places are also running a business. So, they want to make sure they open their dispensaries and clinics in places where they can get the volume of patients and clients so that their investment pays off as well.

Another reason a lot of these businesses target cities is because there's a large population of expats and immigrants who are very likely seeking these herbal remedies that they're familiar with. This is why the cities are your best bet for finding herbal dispensaries and traditional Chinese medicine clinics to tend to your confinement herbal needs.

That being said, if you're living in a regional, rural, or suburban area, before you head out to look for these places, search for the words traditional Chinese medicine clinics, doctors, practitioners, or herbalists in the cities closest to you so that you can plan your trip and not go too far out of your way.

The first place where you can go to find your confinement herbs when you're living in the West is traditional Chinese medicine doctor clinics. Those clinics are usually attached to a herbal dispensary.

Why? Just like you've got clinics attached to pharmacies. When you go and see a traditional Chinese medicine doctor, they'll assess your health, talk to you about your concerns and needs, and then they'll give you a specific prescription for your confinement recovery.

After that, you can choose to have your herbs packaged as raw herbs that you can brew yourself. Nowadays, with modern tech, a lot of these traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinics and herbal dispensaries, they can prepare your confinement herbs into tiny little sachets of granules, so all you do is just empty those granules into your mug and brew your tea for the day, which is very easy to do and very helpful with getting you to the finish line of having your daily herbal drink every day for 30 days.

If you're not able to go to these traditional Chinese medicine doctors, but you do find one close enough to you, give them a call. Some of them will do phone consults and also do some telehealth consults because why not? Our modern healthcare does telemedicine nowadays, so it's only natural that the traditional Chinese medicine doctors do the same for their patients.

For my first confinement experience, I was living in Alabama at the time, and there were no traditional Chinese medicine clinics close by. However, I needed to renew my Malaysian passport, and the only place I could do that was in New York. So I made a trip there, seven months pregnant.

At the same time, I went to see a traditional Chinese medicine doctor there, got my prescription, and I made space in my luggage to bring back 30 days' worth of herbs. I got 15 days of herbs raw in their packages, which was easy.

And the herbalist at the clinic taught my husband how to brew those herbs. They gave us written instructions as well. So it was really easy for us to use those herbs, which we were told just to stick them in the fridge and leave them be until we are ready to use them.

And for the other 15 days, I got sachets where all we had to do was just empty those granules into a mug, and that was my confinement herbal drink for the day. So I was all set for my confinement herbal remedies despite living in rural Alabama at the time.

The second place where you can find your confinement herbs while living in a Western country is to go to local pharmacies where they have in-house herbalists or even better, TCM pharmacists that are attached to that local pharmacy.

For example, in Germany, there are a few local pharmacies here that have traditional Chinese medicine pharmacists or at least a herbalist attached in-house. And the best thing about this setup is that you can self-prescribe herbs, and then these herbalists will then dispense the herbs for you, and they're able to give you general advice.

In my experience, I had my second baby while my husband and the rest of us are stationed here in Germany, and I needed to find somebody to give me my confinement herbs while we're out here. Luckily, I managed to find a traditional Chinese medicine pharmacist located in Munich at a small village in the local pharmacy there, and she, based on the prescription that the traditional Chinese medicine doctor gave me for my previous confinement, she was able to dispense for me the exact confinement herbal preparation that I needed.

Best part, she did it all in a big bottle of granules, so I just had to spoon out the scoops into a mug, throw some hot water in there, and I had my confinement herbal drink for the day.

The great thing about this method is the herbalist is able to dispense a generic confinement herbal preparation for you provided that you do not have health conditions that require a traditional Chinese medicine doctor to assess you and then giveyou special prescriptions.

However, if this is the first time that you've heard of confinement or the first time that you're trying it out and you're not as familiar with Chinese herbs, then I do recommend that you see a traditional Chinese medicine doctor first and get their opinion so that you know that the prescription you got is safe and specific for yourself.

Now, the third place where you can get your confinement herbs while living in the West is to approach businesses and services that offer confinement herb packages. What a lot of them do is they offer, again, a generic confinement herbal preparation, but everything's packaged for you for the 28 to 30 days, depending on what you choose, and depending on what the businesses offer.

This is again a great option if you cannot find a specific herbalist or traditional Chinese medicine doctors in your area, but you're able to get hold of these businesses and have them deliver this package to your home. Once again, if you're not as familiar with Chinese herbs or you want a bit more reassurance before consuming the herbs, then yes, consult a traditional Chinese medicine doctor in your area or through phone or telehealth consults before going ahead and ordering from these businesses.

One of the good things about seeing a traditional Chinese medicine doctor first to get a prescription is you could potentially reuse this prescription for your next confinement practice, especially if you don't have access to TCM doctors in your area, which is what happened to me.

And there you go. Those are the three places where you can get your confinement herbs while you're living in the West. First, directly through a traditional Chinese medicine doctor, their clinic, and their herbal dispensary.

Number two, through a local pharmacy that has an attached herbalist or a traditional Chinese medicine pharmacist.

And number three, through businesses and services that offer confinement herb packaging or confinement food services.

I hope you enjoyed this episode. Please leave me a review so that I know what you liked, what you didn't like, and that'll help me improve as I develop this show.

Until then, I'll see you in the next episode!

Welcome to the blog post for Episode 3 of the Postpartum Wellness Show with me, Dr. Kristal Lau, your host and Postpartum Wellness Consultant. 

Today, I want to delve into the topic of confinement herbs and discuss the 3 places where you can find them while living in a Western country. Before that, let's take a moment to understand what the confinement practice entails for those who may not be familiar with it.

Understanding Confinement Practice

In the West, the word 'confinement' immediately brings to mind visuals of jail or imprisonment. But confinement in this context refers to the practice of mom and baby staying at home during the postpartum period for rest and recovery after childbirth.

The term "confinement" is commonly used to describe the traditional Chinese postpartum recovery practice known as Zuo Yue Zi or sitting the month, based on principles of traditional Chinese medicine. As a third-generation Malaysian of Chinese heritage, I grew up learning and using the word "confinement" to describe postpartum recovery due to my English-speaking upbringing.

Challenges of Finding Confinement Herbs in the Western World

Finding confinement herbs can be a challenge when you're living in a Western country.

First, there are always concerns about the import of herbal items from outside the country we're residing in. Bringing in herbs from different regions will always raise questions about their quality, origin, and potential presence of pesticides or toxins. Naturally, you want to ensure that the herbs you consume are of the highest quality and safe for your health.

The good thing about certain regions, such as the European Union (EU), is that the authorities have very strict laws around importing and selling herbs. An example: for a local pharmacy in Germany (apotheke) to sell Traditional Chinese Medicine herbs, all the herbs must be screened and cleared by a recognised German laboratory. 

Secondly, in areas that have herbal dispensaries that provide traditional Chinese medicine or other herbal preparations, these places are first and foremost a business. As a result, they are more likely to open their dispensaries and clinics in areas with a higher volume of patients and clients.

This often means targeting cities with a large population of expats and immigrants who are familiar with and more likely to seek these herbal remedies. So, it's not surprising if you have difficulty finding nearby herbal dispensaries or TCM clinics if you're living in regional, rural, or suburban areas.

3 Places To Find Your Confinement Herbs

1) Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Doctor Clinics: One of the best ways to get your confinement herbs is by visiting TCM doctor clinics. These clinics often have their own herbal dispensaries.

During your visit, the TCM doctor will assess your health, discuss your concerns, and provide a specific prescription tailored to your confinement recovery. You can choose to receive the herbs as raw ingredients for brewing or opt for convenient pre-packaged granules that can be easily prepared into a daily herbal drink.

If accessibility is an issue, consider contacting nearby TCM doctors for phone or telehealth consultations. They can guide you through the process and ensure you receive the appropriate prescription for your needs.

When I was living in rural Alabama where I had my first kid, I traveled to New York while seven months pregnant, to see a TCM doctor and got my 30-day supply of herbs. The clinic provided clear instructions, making it convenient for my husband to prepare the herbs for me during my confinement month.

2) Local Pharmacies with Herbalists or TCM Pharmacists: Another option is to explore local pharmacies that have in-house herbalists or TCM pharmacists. These professionals can assist you in self-prescribing herbs and dispense them accordingly. They can also offer general advice on confinement herbs.

During my stay in Germany where I had my second kid (#militarylife ya'll!), I was fortunate to find a TCM pharmacist in Munich who prepared my confinement herbs based on my previous confinement herb prescription from the TCM doctor in New York. She prepared my herbs in granule form, simplifying the preparation process for my daily confinement herbal tea.

This approach is suitable for generic confinement herbal preparations. However, I recommended you consult a TCM doctor if you're new to the confinement practice or you're unfamiliar with Chinese herbs. Their expertise ensures your prescription is safe and tailored to your specific needs.

3) Businesses and Services Offering Confinement Herb Packages: If you can't find specific herbalists or TCM doctors in your area, try searching for businesses and services specializing in confinement herb packages and confinement food service. These packages typically contain a generic herbal preparation for the duration of your confinement (usually 28 to 30 days).

While these businesses may not provide personalized herbal prescriptions, they offer convenience and can deliver the confinement herbal package directly to your doorstep. Once again, I recommend you consult a TCM doctor for guidance if you have concerns about Chinese herbs and if you want to seek reassurance before consuming them.

Reusing Prescriptions and Final Thoughts

One advantage of obtaining a prescription from a TCM doctor is you could potentially reuse it for your next confinement practices. This is especially helpful if you don't have easy access to TCM doctors in your area.

Remember, the 3 places to find your confinement herbs in the Western world are through traditional Chinese medicine doctor clinics, local pharmacies with herbalists or TCM pharmacists, and businesses offering confinement herb packages.

Incorporating confinement herbs into your postpartum recovery can be a valuable practice, especially if you wish to honour your cultural heritage or explore traditional remedies. By familiarizing yourself with the available options and seeking guidance from TCM professionals, you can embark on a fulfilling and enriching confinement experience.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and episode! If you found this information helpful, please leave a review to provide valuable feedback and help me improve the show. Stay tuned for more insightful episodes on postpartum wellness and the postpartum confinement practice!

Prefer video? Watch Episode 3 below!

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Why Postpartum Care and Wellness Is A Necessity. Not A Luxury! (The Postpartum Wellness Show: Episode 4)

Dr. Kristal Lau

Physician and Postpartum Wellness Consultant. Author of 'Postpartum 30'. International Speaker. Mother of 2 girls and U.S. military spouse.

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