Herbs that you take during pregnancy can affect your baby. Many of them contain compounds that can lead to demonstrable effects on the body. Some also contain oils and alkaloids which impact the nervous system. Therefore, it is essential to know which herbs you can safely take as well as the ones to avoid during pregnancy and while breastfeeding later. Some of the herbs discussed below may be safely consumed in small quantities. In general, following herbs are best avoided in all trimesters and also later while nursing.
Aloe vera is generally safe but, during pregnancy it could lead to uterine contractions. So, avoid taking it internally in pregnancy. You can, however, safely apply Aloe Vera creams or gels topically without harming you and your baby.
Angelica Sinensis and Dong Quai
Angelica is contraindicated during pregnancy because it can cause miscarriage in the early weeks.Dong Quai or Chinese Angelica is particularly harmful as it can restart menstruation causing miscarriage. Dong quai could even lead to fibroid and increase risk of postpartum hemorrhage. Stay away from all varieties of Angelica during and after pregnancy while you are nursing your baby.
This herbal remedy can cause severe diarrhea in the pregnant mother leading to dehydration. It contains an alkaloid which is known to cause miscarriage in the early weeks.
Licorice root is best avoided during pregnancy since it mimics estrogen and leads to premature labor in pregnant women. Also, male fetus exposed to this herb could develop abnormalities in the sexual organs.
Rue, tansy, black cohosh and penny-royal
These are extremely strong herbs that can cause uterine contractions and even miscarriage in pregnancy.
Senna is a cathartic laxative herb that can cause many potential problems in the mother and her child. Senna could even pass down to the child through the breast-milk and can be toxic to the infant.
Some more herbs and spices to limit during pregnancy
Turmeric, sage, ginger, Arnica, barberry, borage, buckthorn, camphor, castor oil, colt’s foot, false Unicorn, fenugreek, Goldenrod are some spices and herbs that should not be taken in large quantities. Spices like ginger, fenugreek and turmeric may be used in cooking, but only in small quantities. Borage oil and fenugreek are stimulants that can impact the uterus and lead to premature contractions. Both may be safely taken during lactation since they improve mother’s milk supply. If you are wondering if sage is safe during pregnancy, the answer is that it is best to take it in limited quantities only. Blessed thistle, when taken in large amounts, can induce vomiting. Henbane, Elder, Mugwort and Nutmeg are some other herbs and spices that are best avoided entirely or consumed in small quantities as they could cause miscarriage.
Summary of herbs that can cause miscarriage or bleeding in pregnancy
Following are some more herbs that could cause menstruation to restart:
- Devil’s claw
- Lily of the Valley
- Ma Huang which is a Chinese herb that is best avoided during pregnancy as it could cause bleeding. It is called by different names like Ephedra, Ephedrine, Mormon Tea or Desert tea.
- Uva Ursi
- Calamus root
- Cotton root bark.
Summary-List of 104 herbs and spices to avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Aloe Vera (avoid internal consumption but is safe for topical use)
- Autumn Crocus
- Balm of Gilead
- Beth Root
- Black, blue and red cohosh
- Blessed Thistle
- Blood root
- Chaste tree
- Cotton root
- Devil’s Claw
- Dong quai
- Ephedra or Ma Huang
- Garlic in high doses
- Ginger (food use is okay)
- Gota Kola
- Gravel root
- Horse chestnut
- Juniper berries
- Kava Kava
- Kola nut
- Lady’s Slipper
- Licorice root
- Lemon balm (may be consumed in small quantities)
- Lily of the Valley
- Ma Huang
- Mate (occasional use okay)
- Motherwort (small quantities okay)
- Nutmeg (may be consumed in small quantities)
- Oregon Grape root
- Parsley (small quantities okay)
- Passion Flower
- Peruvian bark
- Poke root
- Queen of the meadow
- Red Clover
- Red cohosh
- Roman Chamomile
- Saw Palmetto
- Senechio Aureus
- Shepherd’s purse
- Tea tree
- Tien Chi
- Vitex Agnus Castus (avoid high quantities)
- White clover
- Witch Hazel (topical use okay)
- Wood Sorrell
Many of these herbs actually impact the pregnancy hormones and upset their delicate balance. If you are unsure as to which foods, spices or herbs to stay away from during pregnancy and breastfeeding, consult a knowledgeable herbalist to guide you.