What are the risks of using natural herbs during pregnancy?
Although herbs are natural, not all herbs are safe to take during pregnancy. Women are urged to consult a trained and experienced herbalist (or other professional who is trained to work with herbs) if they want to take herbs during their pregnancies.
What are some herbs I should be cautious about during my pregnancy?
Depending on the source, some information will list an herb as safe to consume during pregnancy, whereas another source may list the same herb as unsafe. Therefore, it is best to consult with your health care provider or someone trained in using herbs before taking any natural medicine or herb during pregnancy.
Some organizations that specialize in herbs have done extensive testing on their safety. Often these organizations will list herbs with their safety ratings for the general population and also safety during pregnancy and lactation. These ratings can often be confusing and hard to interpret; this is why speaking with a professional who is familiar with using herbs during pregnancy is recommended. One key thing when understanding the safety ratings is to pay attention to what type of use the rating is for.
For example, the rating for Rosemary is considered Likely Safe ...when used orally in amounts typically found in foods. (Rosemary has a Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status in the US.) But in pregnancy, Rosemary is considered Possibly UnSafe ...when used orally in medicinal amounts. Rosemary might have uterine and menstrual flow stimulant effects; avoid using. There is insufficient reliable information available about the safety of the topical use of rosemary during pregnancy.
This is a prime example of how the method of use of the herb changes its safety rating. We know that rosemary sprinkled in your tomato sauce is not a risk to you and your baby. If you were to use Rosemary in a large dose, like that used in medicinal amounts, it could be dangerous for your pregnancy. The same goes for herbs such as Garlic, Sage, Ginger and Tumeric. All of these herbs could be contraindicated in pregnancy when used in large or concentrated doses, but are considered safe when used in amounts found in food.
These are herbs that will help the mother and baby in the early development stages:
- Black Haw - used in the early stages of pregnancy to help prevent miscarriage
- Blessed Thistle - used in the latter stages of pregnancy as a liver tonic and builder, as well as a stimulant of blood flow to the mammaries, and used to increase milk production; also reduces hemorrhaging during childbirth
- Burdock Root - has a high concentration of vitamins and minerals and is a liver booster
- Chamomile - lifts the spirits and calms the nerves, used for digestive disorders during pregnancy, is combined with ginger to help morning sickness, and has a high calcium content as well as an anti-inflammatory aid
- Dandelion - greens and root - a high source of vitamins and minerals, aids digestion, nourishes and tones the system, diuretic, useful for fatigue and exhaustion, liver booster
- Ginger Root - used for morning sickness and digestive problems, safe during pregnancy for treating colds, sore throats, and congestion
- Kelp - high in vitamins and minerals, aids thyroid
- Nettle Leaf - rich in many vitamins and minerals, especially iron, so it is very useful for those suffering from chronic fatigue and exhaustion due to low iron, aids in enriching and stimulating flow of milk; good for use throughout all stages of the pregnancy
- Red Raspberry Leaf - tones and nourishes the uterine muscles, rich in vitamins and minerals, enriches and increases milk flow, restores the system after childbirth; good for the entire pregnancy
- Spirulina - high in vitamins and nutrients
Herbs to avoid or use with caution during pregnancy:
- Angelica - stimulates suppressed menstruation
- Black Cohosh - uterine stimulant - mostly used during labor
- Blue Cohosh - a stronger uterine stimulant
- Borage oil - a uterine stimulant - use only during the last few days of pregnancy
- Comfrey - can cause liver problems in mother and fetus - use only briefly, externally only, for treating sprains and strains
- Dong Quai - may stimulate bleeding
- Fenugreek - uterine relaxant
- Goldenseal - too powerful an antibiotic for the developing fetus, also should not be used if nursing
- Henbane - highly toxic
- Horsetail - too high in silica for the developing fetus
- Licorice Root - can create water retention and/or elevated blood pressure
- Motherwort - stimulates suppressed menstruation
- Mugwort - can be a uterine stimulant
- Nutmeg - can cause miscarriage in large doses
- Pennyroyal Leaf - stimulates uterine contractions (NOTE: Pennyroyal essential oil should not be used by pregnant women at any time!) - do not handle if pregnant or nursing
- Rue - strong expellant
- Shepherd's Purse - used only for hemmorhaging during/after childbirth
- Uva Ursi - removes too much blood sugar during pregnancy and nursing
- Yarrow - uterine stimulant
(Excerpts from americanpregnancy.org.)
Herbs Which May Be Beneficial During Pregnancy:
(Antiemetic, astringent, laxative, tonic)
The leaves of red raspberry are often considered useful for making “Pregnancy Tea.” Red Raspberry used reasonably can help with pregnancy sickness, help prevent miscarriage, reduce the chances of uterine hemorrhage, reduce labor pains and aid in increasing milk.
(High in IRON and therefore excellent for anemia. It does not constipate as most iron pills can do. It works best combined with other iron-rich herbs such as Alfalfa, Dandelion and Nettles. It is a blood purifier.)
TEA: up to 3 cups daily
TINCTURE: 5 - 30 drops 3 times daily
POWDER: 5 - 10 caps daily
(Alterative, nutritive, antipyretic, diuretic, tonic)
NUTRIENT, blood purifier, fever reducer, source of calcium, magnesium, vitamins K & P, potassium, phosphorus.
TEA: 3 cups daily
TINCTURE; 5 - 15 drops 3 times daily
POWDER: 5 - 10 caps 3 times daily
(Aperient, cholagogue, diuretic, tonic, stomachic)
Good for jaundice, gallstones, fever, insomnia, and constipation. Good source of iron.
(Astringent, diuretic, galatagogue, hemostatic, tonic)
Promotes the flow of milk. Good for urinary tract problems and calcium deficiency.
(Excerpts from birthmattersmidwifery.com. PLEASE NOTE: Any of the recommendations given on this web site are not to be a replacement for the counsel of your own personal midwife or doctor. Please discuss your own situation with them before using any herbal suggestions given here.)