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Dangerous Herbs and Vitamins during Pregnancy Dangerous Herbs and Vitamins during Pregnancy

Dangerous Herbs and Vitamins
During Pregnancy


Herbal remedies can be natural alternatives to certain medications and they can be very helpful.  However, during pregnancy it can be dangerous to consume some herbs and herbal remedies. The information below deals with herbs and vitamins that can be dangerous during pregnancy while a different page on this website, "Herbs and vitamins during pregnancy", deals with healthy vitamins and herbs.

Herbs, Pregnancy, and Safety

Most health care providers recommend you avoid taking any herb during the first trimester and during the second trimester and third trimester you should use only minimal amounts and only with your health care providers knowledge and approval. Some herbs contain steroids that can affect the baby's development during pregnancy and/or nursing. Others may be of a mild toxic type and others may be strong uterine stimulants.

If you wish to use a herb or herbal remedy to treat a common problem such as constipation, indigestion, or heartburn see a qualified herbalist and talk to your health care provider before taking any herb or medicine during your pregnancy.

The following list of herbs to avoid or use with caution during pregnancy has been adapted from the website Naturalark:

  • Angelica - stimulates suppressed menstruation
  • Black Cohosh - uterine stimulant - mostly used during labor
  • Blue Cohosh - a stronger uterine stimulant
  • Borage oil - a uterine stimulant - use only during the last few days of pregnancy
  • Comfrey - can cause liver problems in mother and fetus - use only briefly, externally only, for treating sprains and strains -
  • Dong Quai - may stimulate bleeding
  • Elder - do not use during pregnancy or lactation
  • Fenugreek - uterine relaxant
  • Goldenseal - too powerful an antibiotic for the developing fetus, also should not be used if nursing
  • Henbane - highly toxic
  • Horsetail - too high in silica for the developing fetus
  • Licorice Root - can create water retention and/or elevated blood pressure
  • Motherwort - stimulates suppressed menstruation
  • Mugwort - can be a uterine stimulant
  • Nutmeg - can cause miscarriage in large doses
  • Pennyroyal Leaf - stimulates uterine contractions (NOTE: Pennyroyal essential oil should not be used by pregnant women at any time!) - do not handle if pregnant or nursing
  • Rue - strong expellant
  • Shepherd's Purse - used only for hemorrhaging during/after childbirth
  • Uva Ursi - removes too much blood sugar during pregnancy and nursing
  • Yarrow - uterine stimulant

The two charts below are from "Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy: From Conception to Childbirth" by Penelope Ody. Ody is an author of the best-selling "The Complete Medicinal Herbal" and a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists.

Herbs to completely avoid during pregnancy:

Herb

Reason to avoid

Aloe Vera

The leaves are strongly purgative and should not be taken internally.

Arbor vitae (Thuja occidentalis)

A uterine and menstrual stimulant that could damage the fetus.

Autumn crocus (Colichicum autumnale)

Can affect cell division and lead to birth defects.

Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)

Contains high levels of berberine, known to stimulate uterine contractions.

Basil oil

A uterine stimulant; use only during labour.

Beth root (Trillium erectum)

A uterine stimulant; use only during labour.

Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosus)

May lead to premature contractions; avoid unless under professional guidance. Safe to use during childbirth.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

A uterine stimulant that in quite small doses also causes vomiting.

Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)

A uterine stimulant to avoid unless under professional guidance. Safe to use during childbirth.

Broom (Cytisus scoparius)

Causes uterine contractions so should be avoided during pregnancy; in parts of Europe it is given after the birth to prevent blood loss.

Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus)

Interferes with hormone production in the pituitary gland, so best avoided.

Clove oil

A uterine stimulant used only during labour.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

Contains toxic chemicals that will cross the placenta; do not take internally.

Cotton root (Gossypium herbaceum)

Uterine stimulant traditionally given to encourage contractions during a difficult labour, but rarely used medicinally today.

Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)

Uterine stimulant, oxytocic.

Dong quai (Angelica polymorpha var. sinensis)

Uterine and menstrual stimulant, best avoided during pregnancy; ideal after childbirth.

False unicorn root (Chamaelirium luteum)

A hormonal stimulant to avoid unless under professional guidance.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)

Uterine stimulant; may cause premature contractions.

Golden seal (Hydrastis canadensis)

Uterine stimulant; may lead to premature contractions but safe during childbirth.

Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus)

Uterine stimulant; may cause premature contractions.

Juniper and juniper oil (Juniperus communis)

A uterine stimulant; use only during labour.

Lady's mantle (Alchemilla xanthoclora)

A uterine stimulant; use only in labour.

Liferoot (Senecio aureus)

A uterine stimulant containing toxic chemicals that will cross the placenta.

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

A uterine stimulant containing toxic chemicals that may cross the placenta.

Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris)

A uterine stimulant that may also cause birth defects; avoid unless under professional guidance. Also avoid when breastfeeding.

American pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides)

Reputed uterine stimulant to be avoided during pregnancy.

European pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)

A uterine stimulant that may also cause birth defects; avoid unless under professional guidance. Also avoid when breastfeeding.

Peruvian bark (Cinchona officinalis)

Toxic; excess may cause blindness and coma. Used to treat malaria and given during pregnancy only to malaria sufferers under professional guidance.

Pokeroot (Phytolacca decandra)

May cause birth defects.

Pseudoginseng (Panax notoginseng)

May cause birth defects.

Pulsatilla (Anemone pulsatilla)

Menstrual stimulant best avoided during pregnancy; limited use during lactation.

Rue (Ruta graveolens)

Uterine and menstrual stimulant; may cause premature contractions.

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

A uterine stimulant that may also cause birth defects.

Shepherd's purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

A uterine stimulant; use only during labour.

Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum)

A uterine stimulant that may also cause birth defects; avoid unless under professional guidance. Also avoid when breastfeeding.

Squill (Urginea maritima)

A uterine stimulant that may also cause birth defects.

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)

A uterine stimulant that may also cause birth defects.

Wild yam (Diascorea villosa)

A uterine stimulant to avoid unless under professional guidance; safe during labour.

Wormwood (Artemisia absinthum)

A uterine stimulant that may also cause birth defects; avoid unless under professional guidance. Also avoid when breastfeeding.



Herbs to use only in moderation during pregnancy:

Herb

Reason for caution

Alder buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula)

Strongly purgative, so should not be taken in high doses or for long periods.

Angelica (Angelica archangelica)

A uterine stimulant in high doses, but quite safe as a culinary herb.

Anise and aniseed oil (Pimpinella anisum)

A uterine stimulant in high doses, but quite safe as a culinary herb; avoid using the oil entirely.

Bitter orange (Citrus aurantiam)

A uterine stimulant in high doses, but quite safe as a culinary herb or in moderate use.

Caraway (Carum carvi)

A uterine stimulant in high doses, but quite safe as a culinary herb.

Cascara sagrada (Rhamnus purshiana)

Strongly purgative, so should not be taken in high doses or for long periods.

Celery seed and oil (Apium graveolens)

A uterine stimulant in high doses, but quite safe as a culinary herb.

Chamomile oil

The oil is a potent uterine stimulant to be avoided, but the dried or fresh herb is safe in moderation.

Chili (Capsicum spp)

Avoid high doses as they may lead to heartburn; can flavor breast milk when breast-feeding. Moderate culinary use is fine.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)

A uterine stimulant in high doses, but quite safe as a culinary herb; avoid the essential oil completely.

Cowslip (Primula veris)

Strongly purgative and a uterine stimulant in high doses.

Elder bark

Strongly purgative, so should not be taken in high doses or for long periods.

Fennel and fennel oil

A uterine stimulant in high doses, but quite safe as a culinary herb; avoid using the oil entirely.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum)

A uterine stimulant in high doses, but quite safe as a culinary herb or during labour.

Garlic (Allium sativa)

Avoid high doses as they may lead to heartburn; can flavor breast milk when breastfeeding. Moderate culinary use is fine.

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica)

Possible uterine stimulant; use in moderation for occasional teas only.

Jasmine oil

A uterine stimulant best reserved for childbirth to ease labour.

Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng)

Clinical reports suggest that high doses in pregnancy can lead to androgynous babies (caused by overstimulation of male sex hormones); use for short periods only.

Lavender (Lavendula argustifolia)

A uterine stimulant in high doses, but quite safe as a culinary herb or for moderate use.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

High doses can exacerbate high blood pressure; safe in moderation.

Lovage (Levisticum officinale)

A uterine stimulant traditionally used in slow and difficult labour; safe as a culinary herb.

Marjoram and marjoram oil (Origanum vulgare)

A uterine stimulant in high doses, but quite safe as a culinary herb; avoid using the oil entirely.

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)

A uterine stimulant in high doses; best limited to the final weeks and during labour.

Myrrh (Commiphora molmol)

A uterine stimulant that may lead to premature contractions; avoid high doses.

Nutmeg and Nutmeg Oil

Inhibits prostaglandin production and contains hallucinogens that may affect the fetus; once erroneously regarded as an abortifacient. Safe in normal culinary use.

Oregano (Origanum X marjoricum; O. onites)

A uterine stimulant in high doses, but quite safe as a culinary herb; avoid using the oil entirely.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Uterine stimulant that may also irritate the fetus in high doses; safe in normal culinary use.

Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata)

A uterine stimulant in high doses; safe for moderate use.

Peppermint oil

A uterine stimulant; avoid the oil entirely, although low doses of the dried herb can be used.

Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus)

A uterine stimulant in high doses; best limited to the final six to eight weeks and during labour.

Rhubarb root (Rheum palmatum)

Strongly purgative, so should not be taken in high doses or for long periods.

Rosemary and rosemary oil

A uterine stimulant in high doses; safe in moderation and normal culinary use. Avoid using the oil entirely.

Saffron (Crocus sativa)

A uterine stimulant in high doses; safe in normal culinary use.

Sage and sage oil

A uterine and hormonal stimulant in high doses, but quite safe as a culinary herb; avoid using the oil entirely.

Senna (Senna alexandrina)

Strongly purgative, so should not be taken in high doses or for long periods.

Tea, black (Camellia sinensis)

Limit to two cups a day, as excess can lead to palpitations and increased heart rate.

Thyme oil (Thymus vulgaris)

Some reports claim that it acts as a uterine stimulant, though the research is disputed; the herb is quite safe in cooking.

Vervain (Verbene officinalis)

A uterine stimulant in high doses; best limited to the final weeks and during labour.

White horehound (Marrubium vulgare)

Reputed uterine stimulant; safe in moderation in cough drops.

Wood betony (Stachys officinalis)

A uterine stimulant in high doses; best limited to the final weeks and during labour.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

A uterine stimulant in high doses; best limited to the final weeks and during labour.

Additional Information

Baby Center: Herb and drug safety chart

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