18 Herbs You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

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Herbs are nature’s gifts that have been used for a long time to cure illnesses and stay healthy. However, you should be aware of some herbs to avoid during pregnancy as they may have adverse effects such as miscarriageiAn unexpected loss of a woman’s pregnancy before 20 weeks of gestation , development delays, or premature laboriAn early labor that starts before 37 weeks of gestation in pregnant women . Although herbs have several health benefits, their use during pregnancy is uncertain. You cannot take herbal medicines without the advice of a healthcare provider because they have not undergone extensive testing and research like synthetic medicines. This post provides you with an extensive list of safe and unsafe herbs for pregnant women.

In This Article

Risks Of Using Herbs During Pregnancy

Consuming herbs during pregnancy may cause premature labor.

Image: Shutterstock

Yes, herbs are natural. But unlike modern medicines, herbs and herbal remedies do not go through extensive tests. What this means is that there is no scientific research to prove the safety of these herbal medicines, making its use a risky proposition during pregnancy. There are categories of herbs to avoid while pregnant.

The FDA recommends that pregnant women avoid using herbal products without consulting their healthcare professionals. The ingredients that go into making herbal potions are not always well known. It is a distinct possibility that some of these ingredients may cause problems during your pregnancy.

Some of the risks associated with using herbs while pregnant include:

  • Miscarriage
  • Premature labor and birth
  • Injury to the fetus

Herbs may cause several other health hazards, which remain obscure due to the lack of scientific data.

Herbs To Avoid During Pregnancy

According to research by numerous herbal companies, the following herbs are unsafe for use during pregnancy:

1. Saw Palmetto:

Saw Palmetto may trigger hormonal activity.

Image: Shutterstock

The oral intake of this medicinal herb can trigger hormonal activity.

2. Goldenseal:

If you are pregnant, you should avoid consuming goldenseal. It can cross the placenta and adversely affect the embryonic development of the brain in the fetus.

3. Dong Quai:

Pregnant women should stay away from Dong quai as it can cause uterine contractions and lead to a miscarriage.

4. Ephedra:

Ephedra can cause uterine contractions.

Image: Shutterstock

The oral use of this herb can cause uterine contractions and premature labor. So, do avoid herbal products that contain ephedra when you are pregnant.

5. Yohimbe:

The herb can cause poisoning and endanger the life of your unborn baby. Please, stay off the herb when you are pregnant.

6. Pau D’arco:

Large doses of the herb can spell danger during your pregnancy.

protip_icon Quick fact
Willow bark, cat’s claw, and sage are a few other herbs that should be avoided during pregnancy (3).

7. Passionflower:

Passionflower offers a host of health benefits. But during pregnancy its use is avoidable.

8. Black Cohosh:

Another herb to avoid during pregnancy is black cohosh. It can trigger uterine contractions and cause premature labor.

9. Blue Cohosh:

Blue cohosh may have embryotoxic effects.

Image: Shutterstock

Blue cohosh has abortifacient propertiesiThe ability of a chemical or drug to cause a termination of pregnancy and may have teratogeniciA property of a drug or other substances that can cause abnormalities in the developing fetus and embryotoxiciFactors, toxins, or other substances that can cause fetal growth abnormalities effects. It is unsafe for use while expecting (1).

10. Roman Chamomile:

Consumption of Roman chamomile even in medicinal amounts can increase the risk of miscarriage.

11. Pennyroyal:

The use of pennyroyal during pregnancy is unsafe. It can cause miscarriage and fetal death due to brain and liver damage.

Other toxic herbs that may pose a danger to maternal health and your baby’s growth during pregnancy include:

  • Aloe
  • Ginseng (American & Korean)
  • Evening Primrose
  • Feverfew
  • Kava Kava
  • Senna (2)

12. Fenugreek

Consuming fenugreek in quantities larger than what is found in food is regarded as unsafe during pregnancy as it has been linked to an increased risk for birth defects (3).

13. Rosemary

When rosemary is used as a condiment to sprinkle on soups or salads, it may be safe to consume. However, the oral use of rosemary in medicinal amounts is considered unsafe during pregnancy, as it has stimulant properties that may cause uterine contractions (2).

14. Basil

This herb is safe to use as a condiment; however it is recommended to refrain from using an essential oil made from basil during pregnancy (4).

15. Borage oil

It is considered to be unsafe during pregnancy as it is linked to premature labor, birth defects, or blue baby syndrome, a blood disorder in babies (5).

16. Parsley

This herb, in large amounts, is considered unsafe during pregnancy as it may increase one’s chances of experiencing a miscarriage or the way the fetus develops (6).

17. Licorice Root

This herb is unsafe and should be avoided during pregnancy as some studies suggest that the use of this herb is linked with stillbirth (7).

18. Angelica

Angelica is linked to causing uterine contractions, and therefore it is best to avoid using it without the doctor’s consent during pregnancy (4).

Herbs Safe For Use During Pregnancy

Don’t let this list make you believe that all herbs are unsafe during pregnancy. Here are some herbs that can prove beneficial during pregnancy:

protip_icon Did you know?
Ginger is one of the most used herbs in pregnancy, especially during the first trimester, to ease morning sickness and other difficulties (8).

1. Red Raspberry Leaf:

Here’s a herb that can make you enjoy a healthy pregnancy. Rich in iron, red raspberry leaf can decrease nausea and ease labor pains. So, you can enjoy a cup of red raspberry leaf tea without any worries.

2. Peppermint Leaf:

Peppermint helps relieve nausea and flatulence.

Image: Shutterstock

Do you enjoy a cup of peppermint tea every day? Don’t worry, it won’t cause your pregnancy any harm. In fact, it can help relieve nausea and flatulence.

3. Slippery Elm Bark:

A moderate use of the slippery elm bark will not cause any harm to your unborn baby. It can help relieve nausea, heartburn, and vaginal irritation.

Some other safe herbs that you can use during pregnancy include:

  • Blond Psyllium
  • Black Psyllium
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne
  • Dandelion
  • Chamomile (German)

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I have ginger during pregnancy?

Ginger, in amounts typically used in food, is generally considered safe for pregnant women (2). According to experts, ginger may help alleviate pregnancy-related symptoms, such as nausea and morning sickness (8).

2. Is nannari syrup good for health during pregnancy?

Nannari syrup is a concoction made from the root of the Indian sarsaparilla plant. Traditional plant-based medicine, such as Ayurveda, uses it to treat/manage several ailments, such as anemia and fever. However, the clinical evidence supporting its safety and efficacy during pregnancy is sparse. Therefore, consulting a doctor before consuming nannari syrup during pregnancy is essential. Your healthcare provider can ascertain the syrup’s safety for you and your baby.

3. What are some alternative remedies that pregnant women can use instead of herbs?

What alternatives you can use instead of herbs depends on the intended use of herbs and the safety of the alternative for expecting women. Some common alternatives to herbs pregnant women can use under medical guidance include prenatal vitamins, acupuncture, yoga, gentle exercise, relaxation techniques, and aromatherapy (9) (10) (11).

4. How long should pregnant women avoid certain herbs after giving birth?

The duration a mother should avoid specific herbs after childbirth may vary and depends on factors such as the mother’s overall health and the herb’s effects on breast milk production. Therefore, mothers should consult their healthcare provider about the safe use of herbs postpartum.

5. Can herbs interact with prescription medications during pregnancy?

Several studies show that herbs like chamomile and sage can interact with prescription medications (12). A herb-drug interaction may alter the drug metabolism and cause several issues, such as reduced drug effectiveness or increased drug side effects.

6. How can I find reliable information about which herbs to avoid during pregnancy?

Seek advice from reputable healthcare professionals, obstetricians, or midwives. Trusted sources such as authoritative medical websites, books, and organizations focusing on pregnancy and herbal medicine can also offer valuable guidance about which herbs to avoid during pregnancy.

Like most expectant mothers, you may also want to consume everything natural and safe while pregnant. However, it is best to include organic and herbal teas and foods in your pregnancy diet only after you take your doctor’s consent. Take note of herbs to avoid during pregnancy, such as Ephedra, Dong Quai, Cohosh, Pennyroyal, etc. These are unsafe and pose a risk of adverse effects for you and your fetus. However, you may enjoy sipping refreshing teas with safe medicinal herbs such as red raspberry and peppermint during pregnancy.

Infographic: Herbs That Are Safe For Pregnant Women

Herbal supplements should not be taken without adequate caution during pregnancy. However, there are some herbs that are safe for both the mother and baby. Some of them can even help you manage pregnancy-related symptoms. Scroll through the infographic below to learn about the safe herbs for pregnancy.

herbs that are safe during pregnancy (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Herbal medicines should only be taken during pregnancy after medical consultation and allergy checks to avoid complications such as miscarriage, preterm labor, and fetal developmental delays.
  • Herbs such as saw palmetto, dong quai, ephedra, black cohosh, and roman chamomile may trigger uterine contractions and increase the risk of preterm labor and pregnancy loss.
  • Goldenseal, yohimbe, blue cohosh, and pennyroyal are known to be embryotoxic and can hamper the unborn baby’s health and development.
  • Herbs such as red raspberry leaf, peppermint leaf, and slippery elm bark, are safe for moderate consumption during pregnancy and may help alleviate certain pregnancy discomforts.

When you are pregnant you may wonder which herbs are good for you and which ones are harmful. Check out this informative video to get a good idea about which herbs are safe and which herbs may be harmful to you and your baby.

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Jean-Jacques Dugoua et al.; (2008); Safety And Efficacy Of Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum Thalictroides) During Pregnancy And Lactation.
    https://e-lactancia.org/media/papers/CaulofiloBF-CanJClinPharm2008.pdf
  2. Herbs and Pregnancy.
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/herbs-and-pregnancy/
  3. Fenugreek.
    https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/fenugreek#:~:text=Fenugreek%20is%20not%20safe%20for
  4. Herbs To Avoid During Pregnancy.
    https://www.utep.edu/herbal-safety/populations/herbs-to-avoid-during-pregnancy.html
  5. Borage.
    https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/borage#:~:text=Borage%20oil%20contains%20pyrrolizidine%20alkaloids
  6. Herbal Teas During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding.
    https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/herbal-teas-during-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding
  7. Licorice.
    https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/licorice
  8. Ginger for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4755634/#:~:text=Can%20ginger%20treat%20nausea%20and%20vomiting%20of%20pregnancy%3F&text=In%20the%20first%20trimester%20ginger
  9. The safety of acupuncture during pregnancy: a systematic review
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/is-it-safe/herbs-and-pregnancy/
  10. Systematic Review of Yoga for Pregnant Women: Current Status and Future Directions
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3424788/
  11. Effects of Aromatherapy Massage on Pregnant Women’s Stress and Immune Function: A Longitudinal, Prospective, Randomized Controlled Trial
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28783372/
  12. Herbal Medicines—Are They Effective and Safe during Pregnancy?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8802657/
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Dr. Miguel Razio Osorio began his career in 2004 and has 19 years of experience in various fields of gynecology. After two years of internship and social service, he decided to specialize in G&O. Since 2013, Dr. Razo has dedicated his training and practice to improving his patients' obstetric and gynecological health, getting his degree as a certified specialist in 2017.

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Ria Saha
Ria SahaB.Tech
Ria is a techie-turned-writer and writes articles on health, with special emphasis on nutrition. She did her B.Tech from West Bengal University of Technology and was previously associated with IBM as SAP ABAP technical consultant.

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Swati Patwal
Swati PatwalM.Sc. (Food & Nutrition), MBA
Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with more than a decade of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children.

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Lorraine is a postgraduate in Life Science from Mount Carmel College and previously worked as a freelance scientific illustrator. As a project associate and lab technician at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Lorraine received valuable insights into Covid-19, transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, and neuro-degenerative diseases.

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