While pregnant or trying to get pregnant it is important to be aware of the possible effects of the herbs you may consider ingesting. Herbs may contain substances that can cause miscarriage. premature birth, uterine contractions, or injury to the fetus. Few studies have been done to measure the effects of herbs on pregnant women or fetuses.
Depending on the source, some information will list a herb safe to consume during pregnancy, whereas another source may list the herb as unsafe.
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 for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. These ratings can often be confusing and hard to interpret; this is why speaking with a professional who is familiar with using herbs 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.
But in pregnancy, rosemary is considered possibly unsafe when used orally in medicinal amounts. Because rosemary may have uterine and menstrual flow effects, it is best to avoid using it. 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.
However, 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, and turmeric. 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.
The following herbs are considered LIKELY UNSAFE or UNSAFE during pregnancy:
- Saw Palmetto - when used orally, has normal activity
- Dong Quai - when used orally, due to uterine stimulant and relaxant effects
- Pennyroyal - when used orally or topically
Depending on what type of health care provider you see, he/she may recommend using herbs to promote the health of your pregnancy. Because each pregnancy is different, the best way to use herbs is under the care of a midwife, herbalist, doula, naturopathic or homeopathic doctor.
Choosing to use herbs during pregnancy is a personal choice, but to ensure the best outcome for you and your baby, you should be well educated on the types of herbs, parts of the herb (root, leaf, etc...), and the way they could be used (caplet, tonic, tea). The herbs that are considered safe to use during pregnancy are often food or tonic herbs. These are typically found in either tablet, tea, or infusion form.
Common Herbs Used in Pregnancy
The following herbs have been rated Likely Safe or Possibly Safe for use during pregnancy:
- Red Raspberry Leaf - rich in iron, this herb has helped tone the uterus, increase milk production, decrease nausea, and ease labor pains. Some studies have even reported that using red raspberry leaf during pregnancy can reduce complications and the use of interventions during childbirth. You may see pregnancy teas that are made from red raspberry leaf to help promote uterine health during pregnancy. There is some controversy about whether this should be used throughout pregnancy or just in the second and third trimester, so many health care providers remain cautious and only recommend using it after the first trimester.
- Peppermint leaf - helpful in relieving nausea/morning sickness and flatulence
- Ginger root - helps relieve nausea and vomiting
- Slippery elm bark - (when the inner bark is used orally in foods) used to help relieve nausea, heartburn, and vaginal irritations
- Oats & Oat straw - rich in calcium and magnesium; helps relieve anxiety, restlessness, and irritated skin
- Blond psyllium - when used orally and appropriately
- Black psyllium - when used orally with appropriate fluid intake
- Garlic - when used orally in amounts commonly found in foods
- Capsicum (Cayenne, hot pepper) - when used topically and appropriately
The following herbs have been rated as having Insufficient Reliable Information Available by the Natural Medicine Database, even though many are recommended by homeopathic physicians, herbalists, and midwives who treat pregnant women.
More extensive research and discussions with your treating health care provider will help you make the decision and about what herbs are safe for you to use.
- Dandelion - Rich in Vitamin A, Calcium, and Iron; dandelion root and leaf can also help relieve mild edema and nourish the liver
- Chamomile (German) - High in Calcium and Magnesium, also helps with sleeplessness and inflammation of joints
- Nettles (Stinging Nettle) - High in Vitamins A, C, K, Calcium, Potassium, and Iron. Used in many pregnancy teas because it is a great all-around pregnancy tonic. Note on the safety of Nettles: The Natural Medicines Database gives Nettles a rating of Likely Unsafe, even though it is used in countless pregnancy teas and recommended most midwives and herbalists. This may be contingent upon which part of the Nettle plant is used (the root or the leaves) and how much is used According to other sources, the use of Nettles is encouraged during pregnancy because of its health benefits
The following are commonly used herbs which have a safety rating of Possibly Safe when used orally. Again, these are herbs you would want to do more extensive research on these and discuss with your health-care provider before using.
While research shows that it can, in fact, bring on contractions, it also has a host of side effects, ranging from diarrhea to potentially dangerous dehydration. So if you're deciding whether to ingest this unpleasant tonic, it's essential to carefully weigh the pros and cons-and consult your health care provider first.
- Kava Kava
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