A lot of women are not aware that there are many more herbs they need to avoid during pregnancy then those safe to use. They believe that if herbal teas and herbal treatments are natural, they can not do any harm. This is a dangerous misconception that has to be corrected right away. Many of herbs, even those known for their numerous beneficial properties, are simply too strong for a baby to handle, and therefore, should be avoided or used in moderation during the 9 months of pregnancy.
If the only spices you use in your house are salt, pepper, a little parsley and more salt, then you have nothing to worry about (well, maybe except for the amount of salt you add to your dishes).
In fact, many of the herbs that you will find in this article will sound unfamiliar and even strange to you. But this does not mean that you should stop reading it as soon as you stumble on a few herb names that you have never heard of before. Believe me, it is worth taking time to research and make your own list of herbs to avoid during pregnancy as you may be faced with unexpected situations where this information will come in handy.
For example, your friend might offer you a cup of decaffeinated herbal tea and try to convince you that it is safe for you to drink. Or your mother-in-law might share with you some of her natural remedies to treat heartburn, indigestion or morning sickness. Unless you know what herbs are safe to use and which ones are best avoided, you might end up eating or drinking something that will jeopardize your health and/or the health of your baby.
4 Major Categories of Herbs to Avoid During Pregnancy:
Strong or irritating herbs
Some culinary herbs and spices such as Basil, Oregano, Catnip, Chicory, Fenugreek, Licorice Root, Marjoram, Parsley, Saffron, Sage, Turmeric, Thyme and Nutmeg are safe to use in small amounts in cooking, but not in the large doses used for teas. Their properties, beneficial in regular circumstances, can be too strong and even toxic to the fetus, whose digestive system has not been fully developed yet.
Other herbs that should be avoided for the same reasons are: Arnica, Bee Balm, Barberry, Black Walnut, Blessed Thistle, Comfrey, Ephedra, Henbane, Horsetail, Juniper berries, Lobelia, Valerian, UvaUrsiand Yarrow.
Herbs known for their laxative properties
Herbs such as Aloe Vera, Butternut, Buckthorn, Poke Root, Cascara Sagrada, Castor Oil, Rhubarb and Senna have been known for centuries for their purgative properties and widely used to treat constipation and strengthen the digestive system.
And since constipation is a common problem that around 50 percent of pregnant women experience, it is important to know that many doctors agree – these herbs are not the best treatment choice during pregnancy. While they stimulate intestinal muscles to contract harder and move waste through the colon faster, they can also cause uterus muscles to contract, increasing the risk of bleeding and miscarriage.
Herbs that affect hormone levels
Emmenagogues are herbs which stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus and help to promote and regulate menstruation. Of course, emmenagogues are on the list of herbs to avoid during pregnancy. They not only cause hormonal changes, but can also provoke uterine bleeding and greatly increase the risk of miscarriage. This is why moms-to-be should absolutely avoid herbs such as Arbor vitae, Borage, Bugleweed, Chasteberry, Damiana, Dong Quai, Sarsparilla, Speedwell, Motherwort, Mugworts, Pennyroyal, Peruvian Bark, Siberian Ginseng, Rue and Vitex.
This is another group of herbs to avoid during pregnancy. Just like emmenagogues they affect the uterus and induce labor. In the past, herbs known for their uterine stimulating properties have been used during child birth to facilitate difficult labour. Some of these herbs include Angelica, Basil Oil, Birthwort, Beth Root, Black cohosh, Blue cohosh, Bloodroot, Cotton Root, Elecampane, Feverfew, Goldenseal, Horehound, Mistletoe, Myrrh, Red Raspberry Leaf, Squill, Tansy, Juniper Oil and Wormwood.Traditional medicine, however, no longer relies on their help during childbirth and warns pregnant women to avoid using these herbs throughout pregnancy and especially during the first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage is relatively high.
Some Other Herbs to Avoid During Pregnancy:
While not enough medical test have been done in this area to be certain, there are a few herbs that are associated with birth defects and, therefore, should be avoided. For example, it is known that Autumn crocus can affect cell division in the beginning of pregnancy and lead to health issues in the baby. Goldenseal is another very powerful herb, known for its antibiotic properties that should not be used during pregnancy nor the nursing period.
Word of Caution
If the name of the herb sounds unfamiliar to you – it is better not to use it. If you know, like or must take herbal remedies to treat common pregnancy “side effects” such as constipation, heartburn, indigestion, headaches or lack of energy, see a qualified herbalist, OB or health care provider. And even herbs that are safe to take should only be taken in MODERATION.
Are there any other herbs to avoid during pregnancy that have not been mentioned in this article?