Herbal Teas During Pregnancy: Are They Safe?

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The use of herbal tea during pregnancy is widely common. Herbal teas are commonly considered to be a safer alternative for other beverages. But during pregnancy, you need to be careful about what you eat or drink. Examples of pregnancy-safe herbal teas include raspberry, ginger, chamomile, thyme. But are they all safe to be consumed while pregnant? Read on as we discuss the benefits and possible side effects of having herbal teas when pregnant and also a list of the popular ones.

Is It Safe To Consume Herbal Tea During Pregnancy? 

Herbal teas are generally considered safe. But there is not enough scientific evidence to prove their safety or benefits during pregnancy.

Herbal teas that are safe for one woman may not be safe for another. A given herbal tea may not be safe for you if you are allergic to the components in the herb. Also, the herbs might interfere with your medicines possibly leading to reactions.

Hence, you should know which herbs can be safe for you during pregnancy, and which ones you should avoid. You may try a small sample cup with your doctor’s approval and check if it suits you.

Buy these teas from only well-known and certified brands.

Popular Herbal Teas: Can You Drink Them When Pregnant? 

Below is a list of popular herbal teas that women consume during pregnancy. If your health permits and the doctor gives you a go-ahead, you may try these occasionally. But it is good not to make a habit out of it.

1. Peppermint leaf tea

Peppermint herbal tea is said to alleviate a few pregnancy symptoms such as nausea, heartburn, vomiting, and bloating. It can also help facilitate smooth delivery. However, high dosage should be avoided as it contains emmenagogue properties (causing abortion) (1) (2).

2. Red raspberry leaf tea

Also called as women’s herb, red raspberry is known to be good for treating morning sickness in pregnant women. It can also prevent complications and make the delivery smoother. However, you should not have raspberry tea if you have high blood pressure, if you are planning a c-section, or are on medications (3). This tea may be taken during labor. It is good to avoid it when you are at a risk of preterm labor.

3. Ginger tea

Ginger helps improve your mood, reduce irritability, and alleviate nausea and vomiting, which are common during pregnancy (4). However, it could lower the blood sugar levels and therefore may not suit women who are taking medications for diabetes.

4. Dandelion tea

The leaves of Dandelion are known to have mild diuretic properties that help in the proper functioning of the urinary system. There are no proven studies on the use of dandelion during pregnancy (5). It should be avoided by women who have gall bladder problems and acidity.

5. Nettle tea

The nettle leaves are diuretic and rich sources of iron and calcium. It could help prevent allergies during pregnancy. Nonetheless, it is good to ask your doctor before drinking it (6).

6. Chamomile tea

Sipping chamomile tea before bed is said to promote sleep. However, limit it to one cup a day is recommended when you are pregnant. Avoid this tea if you’re allergic to chamomile (3). The relaxing nature of the tea could make you feel drowsy, and it could also interact with medications such as painkillers, sedatives and antimicrobial drugs.

The above teas may have been found safe in women but the evidence is anecdotal. Therefore, it is safer to try a diluted version in small quantity and check if it has any adverse effects. Even if there are not adverse reactions, do not consume more than one cup a day.

There are another set of herbs that you should avoid during pregnancy.

Herbal Teas To Avoid During Pregnancy 

Some herb teas that are not recommended for pregnant women include:

1. Pennyroyal tea 

This herbal extract belongs to the mint family. It is toxic and could result in liver failure, illness, and severe health concerns. In pregnant women, it could induce abortion and must be avoided (7).

2. Licorice root tea

Licorice is usually used as a sweetener in drinks. However, drinking licorice root herbal tea during pregnancy could result in cognitive, psychiatric, and pubertal problems in the baby (8).

3. Slippery elm bark tea

If you are pregnant, you should avoid herbal teas made with or including slippery elm bark. The bark is known to have harmful substances that are said to increase the risk of miscarriage. However, it is not scientifically proven (9).

4. Alfalfa tea

Alfalfa contains components that could have estrogenic effects and hence, is not recommended for pregnant women (10).

5. Lemon balm tea

A cup of lemon balm tea is said to alleviate anxiety, depression, irritability, and insomnia. But it is not recommended during pregnancy due to lack of sufficient evidence. Anecdotal evidence shows that lemon balm could have emmenagogic, antithyrotropic, and antigonadotropic effects (11).

Considering that not all herbs are safe for use during pregnancy, it is vital that you know how to pick a safe herbal tea.

How To Choose A Safe Herbal Tea? 

Here are a few things to remember when purchasing herbal teas during pregnancy.

  • Check the ingredients on the label before purchasing. In case you are allergic to any ingredient, avoid buying that herbal tea.
  • If you are on medications, ask your doctor what teas are safe or unsafe when combined with the medicines.
  • In case you have certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, ask your doctor if a specific herbal tea is good or bad for you.
  • Only buy from well-known and certified brands.

If you’re not sure what’s in a pack of herbal tea powder or leaves, avoid it.

Herbal teas have become increasingly popular due to their health and medicinal benefits. However, you may be wondering if it is safe to try herbal teas during pregnancy, such as peppermint tea, ginger tea, chamomile tea, etc. Though some of these teas are healthy and safe to consume while pregnant, it is best to limit the intake to one cup every day. Furthermore, you may avoid certain herbal teas, including pennyroyal, alfalfa, and licorice root teas, as they may adversely affect pregnant mothers and the fetus. Speak to your doctor about your medications and health conditions before consuming herbal tea, and ensure to check the ingredients and manufacturer before purchasing herbal tea.

References:

1. M. Ahmed, J. H. Hwang, S. Choi, and D. Han; Safety classification of herbal medicines used among pregnant women in Asian countries: a systematic review; BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine (2017)
2. M. Wilson; Herbal tea consumption during pregnancy; University of Wollongong (1993)
3. Red Raspberry; Beth Israel Lahey Health Winchester Hospital
4. Ginger; Mother To Baby (2017)
5. Dandelion; Beth Israel Library Health
6. P. Shinde, P. Patil, and V. Bairagi; Herbs in pregnancy and lactation: a review appraisal; International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research (2012)
7. Pennyroyal oil; Poison Control
8. K. Raikkonen et al.; Maternal Licorice Consumption During Pregnancy and Pubertal, Cognitive, and Psychiatric Outcomes in Children; American Journal of Epidemiology (2017)
9. Slipper elm; Mount Sinai
10. Alfalfa; Beth Israel Lahey Health Winchester Hospital
11. Ulbricht C, et al.; Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.): An evidence-based systematic review by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration; Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy (2005)
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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years 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. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more

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