Use of Herbs During Pregnancy & Lactation

hers for pregnancy

Herbal medicine is specific category of health-care.  Many herbs, including essential oils, are safe and beneficial during the childbearing year, while others can be dangerous.  Pregnant women must be cautious with any remedies, especially during the first trimester when the fetus is most vulnerable.  There’s a lot of misinformation concerning herbs.  Here are lists of commonly used herbs that are considered safe and unsafe through pregnancy and postpartum.

Fear of litigation leads most supplement companies to automatically label anything containing herbs as “not for use in pregnancy & nursing”.   Consult with a professional herbalist / aromatherapist who specializes in prenatal / women’s health.  One must know which herbs can be used for what and when; how they interact with each other, other medicines and health conditions; and what form / source is safe or therapeutic.  Anything can be poison if enough is ingested.  Ask your health-care provider specifically for their education and experience.  Herbalists / aromatherapists are not regulated and there’s quite a difference in knowledge of practitioners.

Herbs Considered Safe (when used in moderate doses)

  • Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) – as sprouts or leaves
  • Aloe ( Vera or A. socatrina) External use only
  • Borage (Borago officinalis) – EFA
  • Burdock root (Arctium lappa)
  • Caraway (Carum carvi)
  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
  • Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
  • Chamomile (Anthemis recutita)
  • Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis)
  • Dill (Antheum graveolens)
  • Elder (Sambucas nigra)
  • Fennel (Foeniculum officinale)
  • Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
  • Feverfew (Chrysanthemum partenium)
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
  • Lavender (Lavandula spica, L. angustifolia)
  • Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
  • Marjoram (Origanum vulgare)
  • Mint (Menth spp.)
  • Nettle (Urtica dioica)
  • Oatstraw (Avena sarivum)
  • Plantian (Plantago major)
  • Red raspberry (Rubus idaeus)
  • Rose (Rosaceae spp.)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
  • Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
  • Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva, U. rubra)
  • Strawberry leaf (Fragaria vesca)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris, T. serpyllum) and Lemon Thyme (T. citriodorus)
  • Wild yam Root (Dioscorea villosa)
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Caution List: Use ONLY under professional consultation…

…even though they’re often recommended in books.  Don’t experiment – some cause early labour or miscarriage.

  • Squaw Vine (Mitchella repens)
  • Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)
  • Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
  • Christopher Prenatal Tea (distributed by Nature’s Way Herbals)
  • False Unicorn Root (Chamaelirium luteum)
  • Lobelia (Lobelia inflata)
  • Dong quai (Angelica sinensis)
  • Rue (Ruta graveolens)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Herbs to Avoid

These herbs are to be avoided during pregnancy.  Some on this list are considered poisonous in general, not just toxic to pregnancy / fetus.  Anything ingested by mom will also affect the developing fetus.  

  • Aloe * ( Vera or A. socatrina) – internally
  • Angelica root (A. spp.)
  • Arnica * flower (A. Montana)
  • Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
  • Blood root (Sanguinaria Candensis)
  • Cat’s claw (Uncaria spp)
  • Cheladonium (C. majus)k.a. celadine
  • Cottonwood bark (Populus deltoids)
  • Ephedra (Ephedra) k.a. Ma Huang (E. sinica)
  • Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium)
  • Gentian (Gentiana lutea)
  • Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium, P. schin-seng)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis)
  • Juniper berries * (J. spp.) internally
  • Licorice root * (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
  • Mandrake (Podophyllum peltatum)
  • Myrrh * (Commiphora myrhh)
  • Oregon grape root (Berberis repens)
  • Parsley Root (Carum petroselinum) (parsely leaves are safe as food)
  • Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
  • Sassafras ( officinale) (first trimester)
  • Saw palmetto (Sarenoa serrulata)
  • Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
  • Turmeric * (Curcuma longa)
  • Wormwood (Artemesia spp.)

* Limited external / topical use is safe, as is seasoning for food.