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Don't Take That! Herbs Contraindicated During Pregnancy
By Alexis Rowe - May 19, 2014

Don't Take That! Herbs Contraindicated During Pregnancy

Pregnancy has a way of filling you with wonder and awe, but it can also make you question everything you do; especially, when it comes to herbs and nutrition. Many herbs must be taken with caution in pregnancy, and on the flip side, there are several herbs that are especially helpful in supplying your body with what it needs before, during, and after pregnancy. The issue is finding which ones are beneficial and which ones aren't! Here is a simple guide that will supply you with what you need to know about the nutrition you need, the vitamins and minerals your baby needs, and which herbs to just stay away from altogether!

The Vitamins & What We Need

During pregnancy, your baby is growing and expanding at a fantastic rate; and your body is doing the exact same thing! Even early on in a pregnancy you may start to experience aches and pains in your bones, gums, and muscles from not getting the vitamins and minerals that you need. What you may not know, is that your eating habits will affect your baby even more than they affect you at times. Your baby may be "healthy" and have 10 fingers and 10 toes, but you can further help their future health and growth by giving them these important vitamins: Vitamin D - You baby needs strong bones and teeth! Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy can cause growth retardation, abnormal bone growth, and delayed physical development in your child later on down the road. Also, if you don't get enough Vitamin D while you are pregnant, it can cause you to have a higher risk of Preeclampsia. Get out in the sunshine! Omega Fatty Acids - Next up, you want to give your baby a strong mind! Omega-3 Fatty Acid is especially important in developing a baby's brain. "Researchers found that new mothers with higher blood levels of the Omega-3 Fatty Acid (DHA) had infants that were advanced in levels of attention spans well into their second year. During the first six months of life, these infants were two months ahead of those babies whose mothers had lower DHA levels."   -Making Babies by Shoshanna Easling B Vitamins - Builds both you and your baby's brains! B Vitamins help form blood cells, antibodies, and neurotransmitters, which are vital to correctly develop your baby's brain and nervous system. Also, B6 in particular can help relieve nausea and/or vomiting from morning sickness. Folic Acid - It is very important for your baby that you get enough folic acid before and during pregnancy to prevent birth defects in the spine and brain! Folic acid is actually just a fancy name for vitamin B9. You can find the natural form, which is called folate, in many foods or herbs including: beans, spinach, avocado, Dandelion, and Nettle, to name the best! Also, when you are looking for a good prenatal, make sure to get one that contains methyl folate, not just folic acid, as it is often difficult for your body to break down and utilize plain folic acid. Methyl folate, on the other hand, is the natural, easy to absorb form of Vitamin B9! Vitamin A - Is responsible for developing most of your baby's organs including: her heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes, bones and much much more! Vitamin A also helps your body metabolize fat, repair postpartum tissue damage, and fight infection. I can't stress enough how important Vitamin A is to you and your baby! Alfalfa is full of Vitamin A, and is an ingredient in one of my favorite Bulk Herb Store teas: Mama's Red Raspberry Brew. You absolutely can not beat this tea with it's density of vitamins and minerals! Vitamin K - Helps reduce stretch marks and swelling, and is fat soluble, meaning it needs to be eaten along with healthy fats in order to be absorbed by your body properly. Vitamin K also is popularly known for its blood-clotting properties, making it great before, during, and after labor and delivery. Calcium/Magnesium - Minerals are very important throughout the entire pregnancy, and true Celtic Sea Salt is a great way to get them! However, Calcium and Magnesium are probably the most important minerals that you need to get into your diet. Did you know that if you aren't getting enough Calcium through the herbs and foods you eat to build your baby's bones, your body will start to pull it out of your own bones? That can be one of the main reasons your joints and muscles start hurting during pregnancy. Get lots of Calcium, but make sure to get Magnesium as well, to help your body absorb all that Calcium! Iron - "You need lots of Iron! Your body almost doubles in blood in the first few months of pregnancy. Your blood carries oxygen to your baby. Lack of iron equals less oxygen for your baby. Also, lack of iron will make you tired. Iron in pill form is hard for your body to digest and can cause constipation and other problems. I like to eat my iron in whole foods. I eat spinach, kale, parsley and cilantro in my daily diet. Adding citrus with your greens helps break the iron down better for your body's absorption."  -Making Babies by Shoshanna Easling So, what herbs are going to give you and your baby all of these vitamins?? The following list below is a general guideline to the "do" herbs, which you can take to supply your body nutritionally and to support your baby's growth! Then afterwards, there will be a list of the "don't" take these herbs while pregnant.

The Do's

So what herbs are good for use during pregnancy to supply your body with the necessary nutrition? Here are the basics: Alfalfa - Is called the King Of All Foods because of its richness in so many vitamins and minerals including 8 essential amino acids, Vitamins A, D, E, and even all the of B vitamins. It is especially popular for its high levels of Vitamin K which improves blood clotting. Alfalfa is the highest plant source of Chlorophyll! Black Haw - If used in the early stages of pregnancy Black Haw can help prevent miscarriage. Cramp Bark and Black Haw are considered the two most helpful herbs in uterine antispasmodics. Not only do they relax the smooth muscular system, but they also increase circulation, and are a mild sedative, helping the body to let go of anxiety and tension. They have even been used to reverse miscarriages by slowing or stopping uterine cramping. Burdock Root - Is extremely high in Vitamin C and A. It is commonly used to heal skin problems including acne, psoriasis, and excema, but is also good for reducing swelling in the joints. If your previous babies have had issues with jaundice, Burdock mixed with Dandelion and Catnip makes a great tincture, that you can take while pregnant, to help your baby ahead of time. Chamomile - Calms the nerves and can be used for digestive issues during pregnancy. Use Chamomile with Ginger to help calm the upset stomach of morning sickness or nausea. It is also very high in Calcium and is great as an anti-inflammatory aid. Chastetree Berry - May be taken safely through the 3rd month of pregnancy and may help prevent miscarriages that are due to hormonal imbalances. Chastetree Berry also helps stimulate and normalize the pituitary gland, and therefore is fantastic for regulating hormones! If you want to continue using Chastetree Berry throughout your pregnancy it is best to get the advice of your midwife.
stimulating and normalizing the pituitary glandRead more at WPBeginner: Health Benefits of Chaste Tree Berry http://www.exhibithealth.com/general-health/health-benefits-of-chaste-tree-berry-671/
stimulating and normalizing the pituitary glandRead more at WPBeginner: Health Benefits of Chaste Tree Berry http://www.exhibithealth.com/general-health/health-benefits-of-chaste-tree-berry-671/
Cranberry - Okay, I know it's technically not an herb, but it is the most popular fruit used for booting out urinary tract infections. Try this recipe from the Making Babies Book! 1 cup Cranberry (no sugar added) + 1 Tbsp. Pomegranate concentrate + 2-4 Tbsp. Blueberry Concentrate = Chiller for UTI's! Dandelion - Is extremely high in Vitamins A, B-Complex, C, and D, as well as other minerals including Calcium, Iron, and Magnesium. It is fantastic for improving digestion, nourishing the entire body and ridding the body of excess water retention. Ginger - Is most commonly used for morning sickness and digestive problems, and is also safe during pregnancy for treating colds, sore throats, and congestion! Ginkgo - Contains bitter compounds (flavonoids) that decrease capillary permeability, thrombosis and platelet aggregation. These compounds increase peripheral blood flow and reduce inflammation. Ginkgo is also an excellent source of iron, calcium and vitamin C. Kelp -  Is rich in minerals and vitamins, too many to be listed here, while also aiding the Thyroid for optimum function. To read more on how Kelp is just fantastic. Nettle Leaf - Is high in so many vitamins and minerals that are needed for healthy development of the baby, as well as continued health of the mama. Nettle is especially high in Iron and therefore very useful for those suffering from chronic fatigue or exhaustion. It is one of THE best herbs to take during pregnancy! Oatstraw -  Is very rich in calcium and magnesium; helps relieve anxiety, restlessness, and irritated skin. Red Raspberry Leaf - Tones and nourishes the uterus; preparing your body for the workout of a lifetime. It also restores your uterine system after childbirth. Red Raspberry also contains high levels of vitamins and minerals, and helps enrich and increase milk supply in nursing mommies. I recommend not taking Red Raspberry until your second trimester if you have not already been drinking it regularly before getting pregnant, as it may cause slight uterine contractions. Slippery Elm Bark Powder - Is an amazing internal and external contact healer! It is used to help relieve nausea, heartburn, and vaginal irritations, while being extremely gentle and effective. Spirulina - Is jam-packed with nutrients including proteins (18 amino acids), vitamins (E, B1, B2, B3, B12, and ET P), essential fatty acids, minerals, polysaccharides, and trace elements. But that's just the vitamins; the mineral list goes on to include Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Sodium, Phosphorus, Calcium and more! Spirulina is also an abundant source of Beta- carotene (40 time more than spinach), and Gamma-Linolein acid. To top it all off, it contains one of the strongest natural occurring anti-oxidants know, called Phycocyanin. I honestly believe it is the natural "Super-Herb!"

The Don'ts

Several herbs are wrong for the same reason; they can induce contractions, and you really don't want that before your baby is ready. As a general guideline, stay away from these unless instructed to use a specific amount by a midwife or doctor.
  • Angelica
  • Barberry
  • Black and Blue Cohosh (Okay to be used when full term, under the supervision of a midwife.)
  • Bloodroot
  • Borage Oil
  • Clove Oil
  • Devil's Claw
  • Dong Quai
  • Fenugreek Seed
  • Feverfew
  • Goldenseal
  • Juniper
  • Lady's Mantle
  • Mistletoe
  • Pennyroyal (Pennyroyal Essential Oil should never be used by pregnant women at any time! Do not handle if pregnant or nursing.)
  • Rue
  • Sassafras
  • Shepherd's Purse
  • Tansy
  • Wild Yam
  • Wormwood
These herbs are okay in small doses, culinary usages, or for use externally, but are best if used sparingly, because they are natural uterine stimulants. Keep in mind though, these herbs, if taken in normal small doses are quite safe:
  • Caraway
  • Celery Seed/Oil
  • Chamomile
  • Cinnamon (Avoid Oil Entirely)
  • Fennel Seed (Avoid Oil Entirely)
  • Gotu Kola
  • Ginseng
  • Jasmine Oil (Best reserved for labor.)
  • Lavender
  • Marjoram & Marjoram Oil
  • Myrrh
  • Oregano Leaf/Oil (Avoid oil entirely)
  • Parsley
  • Passionflower
  • Peppermint Oil
  • Rosemary (Avoid using oil entirely)
  • Saffron
  • Sage Leaf/Oil (Avoid using oil entirely.)
  • Yarrow
The following herbs need to be used carefully because during pregnancy, they can cause hormonal fluctuations that may harm a baby:
  • Bugleweed
  • False Unicorn Root
  • Red Clover Tops
  • American/Korean Ginseng
Next up, we have more herbs that are cautioned against and the various reasons why:
  • Autumn Crocus - Can affect cell division and lead to birth defects.
  • Black Tea - Limit to 2 cups a day, as excess caffeine may lead to an increased heart rate in mama and baby.
  • Blessed Thistle - May cause acid reflux.
  • Cat's Claw - May cause cellular defects or miscarriage.
  • Chili Powder - May be used in small dosages, but may cause heartburn.
  • Comfrey - Contains chemicals that will cross the placenta and cause liver problems for mother and baby; use externally only.
  • Fenugreek Seeds - May cause neurological and/or brain defects in babies.
  • Garlic - Avoid high doses as it may cause heartburn.
  • Green Tea - Contains Caffeine, limit use to 2 cups a day.
  • Horsetail/Shavegrass - Contains a high silica content which can result in birth defects in fetus. For external use only.
  • Licorice - May worsen high blood pressure levels. Safe in moderation.
  • Lemongrass - If drunk in larger doses, may inhibit a baby's growth rates.
  • Mugwort - Is a uterine stimulant that may also cause birth defects.
  • Nutmeg & Nutmeg Oil - Inhibits prostaglandin production and contains hallucinogens that may affect a fetus. Safe in normal culinary usages.
  • Pennyroyal - A uterine stimulant that may also cause birth defects.
  • Peruvian Bark - Toxic if used in excess, may cause blindness and coma.
  • St John's Wort - Use caution when taking St John's Wort while pregnant, ask your doctor or midwife before taking.
  • Uva Ursi - Lowers mother's blood sugar.
  • Valerian - May slow both you and your baby's heart rates.
Wondering about the Bulk Herb Store mixes?? Well here you go!!
  • Black Spice Chai Tea - Good; however, minimize usage to 1-2 cups a day.
  • Brain Booster Tea - Use in moderation: 2-4 cups a week after first trimester. Contains Red Raspberry; see cautions below.
  • Circulation Herba Smoothie Mix - Use in moderation: 3-4 1/2 tsp doses per week.
  • Cough Tea - Not Recommended; Contains Licorice and Red Clover Tops. See cautions above.
  • Creamy Pumpkin Pie - Enjoy!
  • Daily Boost Herba Smoothie Mix - Not Recommended, contains Horsetail/Shavegrass. See cautions above.
  • Detox+ - No, it is best to wait and do cleanses before or after pregnancy and nursing.
  • Double-E Immune Booster - Good to go!
  • Dr. Cinnamon - Use caution because of the Red Raspberry and Green Tea.
  • Erin's Super Green Drink Mix - Not Recommended; contains Fennel, Green Tea, Passionflower, Red Raspberry, and St John's Wort. See cautions above.
  • Fast Asleep Tea - Fine in moderation: 2-3 cups per week. Contains Passionflower; see caution above.
  • Ginger Snap Tea - Use Moderation: 2-3 cups per week. Contains Fennel and Licorice, see cautions above.
  • Heart Healthy Herba Smoothie Mix - Good to go!
  • Hibiscus Orange Delight - Drink in moderation because of Green Tea and Red Raspberry Leaf. See cautions above.
  • IM Life Tincture Mix - Not Recommended; Contains Red Clover Tops and Cat's Claw. See cautions above.
  • Lemon Drop Tea - Okay with moderate use; Contains Lemongrass. Use at the most 1-3 cups per week.
  • Less Stress Herba Smoothie Mix - Not Recommended; Contains St. John's Wort and Passionflower. See cautions above.
  • Liver Cleanse Tincture Mix - Not Recommended; I don't recommend doing any kind of cleanse while pregnant.
  • Mama's Milk Tea - Not Recommended; Contains Red Raspberry, Fennel, Fenugreek, and Blessed Thistle. See cautions above.
  • Mama's Red Raspberry Brew - Consider moderate usage in 1st Trimester. Contains Red Raspberry; after 1 st trimester, drink gallons! For more info see caution above.
  • Pomegranate Green Tea - Consider moderation; contains natural caffeine. See Green Tea caution above.
  • Red Rooibos Spice Chai Tea - Consider moderation; contains Fennel, but is fine if used within 1-3 cups per weeks.
  • Red Rooibos Tea - Fine for use by pregnant women.
  • Resolution Fiber Mix - Excellent to use, especially if you struggle with irregular bowel movements.
  • Resolution Tea - Consider moderation; contains Green Tea and Ginseng, see cautions above.
  • Resolution Tincture - Not Recommended; contains Fennel Seed, Green Tea, and Milk Thistle. See cautions above.
  • Rise and Shine Tea - Use in moderation; contains Green Tea, see caution above.
  • Snooze Tincture - Use sparingly; contains Passionflower, see caution above.
  • With these lists as tools, you should be able to better evaluate how to take herbs while you are pregnant! Also check out Shoshanna's book & DVD Making Babies for mountains of research and recipes to help you through fertility, conception, pregnancy, labor, and beyond!
PLEASE NOTE: Any of the recommendations given on this post are not to be a replacement for the counsel of your own personal midwife or doctor.
What herbs do you just love to use while you are pregnant? Do you have any herbs that your midwife has cautioned you against?


  1. valdez
    Need iron rich tea mix while pregnant. Had 6 blood transfusions with last pregnancy and got pregnant again with very low blood, iron, clotting factor count. Any suggestions?
    1. Alexis Rowe
      I would personally try the Iron Infusion from the Making Babies book. It contains:
      2 1/2 cups Nettle Leaf
      1 cup Rose Hips
      1 cup Dandelion Leaf
      1 cup Fennel
      8 cups Hot Water

      1. Place all herbs in a glass canning jar and cover herbs in hot water.
      2. Cover and let sit overnight.
      3. Strain out herbs, and sip throughout the day.

      Also, you could try drinking Chlorophyll in your water. Spirulina is incredibly high in Iron as well! Make sure to eat lots of leafy greens such as spinach and eat it with a citrus dressing or sauce, as the citrus helps break the iron down for better absorption in the body. Hope this helps!
  2. alyssa
    Can you make a similar list for breastfeeding moms please?
    1. Meagan
      We'll work on it Alyssa!
      1. Antoinette
        Hello! Was a similar list for breastfeeding mom's ever made :) Thank you!
        1. Meagan
          I'm sorry Antoinette. We don't have one yet.
  3. Tricia
    Love this list thanks! I am wondering about elderberry? I am 20 was pregnant and our house has been hit with the flu..looking for some safe remedies. Thanks!
    1. Meagan
      I can't find any information that says elderberry isn't safe during pregnancy. The only precaution is to make sure the berries are cooked (which they would be if you make elderberry syrup). 1 tsp. hourly is recommended when active illness is in the home. Hope that helps, and best of luck!
  4. Laura
    I am 26 weeks pregnant and I used a lip balm with cinnamon oil in it twice yesterday, and didn't think anything of it. Later that afternoon, I started having contractions occasionally (thought just Braxton hicks) and then more frequently into the evening and didn't calm down after taking my midwifes advice to take a bath, drink water, etc. It later occurred to me that I had possibly irritated my uterus by using the lip balm... Contractions have since calmed (24 hours later), but now I'm worried I may have done irreversible damage. Any info you can give me on what effects it might have on my baby? She has been moving around as usual so far.
    1. Meagan
      We can't give medical advice here Laura so it would be best to ask your OB or midwife. However, I wouldn't imagine that using a lip balm with cinnamon oil 2 times would contribute to strong contractions. I could totally be wrong... I'm not an aromatherapist. And I'd also think that no harm would have come to your baby from that, especially if all is well now and she's moving around just fine. Again, it's something I'd talk over with your doctor.
  5. Bri K
    Thoughts on catnip? I've been looking and can't find decent info on the safety of catnip in pregnancy
    1. Meagan
      I'm actually not finding a lot of info on it either. With that being said, after looking in several books and online reference sources, I haven't found it listed anywhere as contradictory in pregnancy, but I did find one source that gave a hint that excessive use may cause issues in pregnancy. My guess is that the volatile oil content could potentially lead to contractions or something along those lines as that's common with herbs high in volatile oils. So, talk with your doctor or midwife (or an herbalist) about it, and I definitely wouldn't use large, frequent doses of any herb high in volatile oils.
    2. Meagan
      Catnip is fine with normal use. However, all mints should not be used in large, frequent doses during pregnancy as the high volatile oils found in these plants can stimulate stomach upset, cramps, and sometimes contractions. Hope this helps!
  6. Shon young
    Hi i am 11 weeks and 3 days pregnant and my acid reflux is so bad that im up all night coughing and gagging. Dr is not much help, OTC meds are not much help. I was taking slippery elm bilk powder as a tea for years. Now i read that slippery elm is not safe during pregnancy,but ur site says its safe. I am hoarse from all this refluxing. Slippery elm helped me in the past. Please help me!
    1. Meagan
      Hi Shon. I'm not sure where you got the info that slippery elm wasn't okay during pregnancy, but I've never seen that anywhere. In fact, herbalist Shonda Parker (as well as many others) advises pregnant women to use slippery elm for dry, scratchy throats in her Naturally Healthy Pregnancy book. As always, especially during pregnancy, it's probably best to consult with your OB or midwife first, just to be on the safe side. Hope this helps!
  7. Bernadette

    "The following herbs need to be used carefully because during pregnancy, they can cause hormonal fluctuations that may harm a baby:

    False Unicorn Root
    Red Clover Tops
    American/Korean Ginseng"

    I have been drinking red clover in tea form - 1-2 cups almost every day the past two weeks, am 26 weeks pregnant and have had light cramps last couple of weeks, when out for my daily walk. Sort of felt like stitch or cramps in my abdominal muscles. Could it just be the muscles stretching or are the cramps connected to the herb you think, and/or how much is 'using the herb carefully', not sure if that means 1 cup a day or a week... I didn't realise it could be harmful, but hoping I won't have caused any damage to my baby - have stopped the tea now of course.

    Many thanks for your reply.