What’s safe & what’s not
So kids are back in school, everyone’s coughing and sneezing on each other ( not just the kids!), and the flu seems to be everywhere! What’s a pregnant woman to do? It’s hard to know what’s safe to take to either boost your immune system naturally or to fight off an illness that’s already there.
Unfortunately there’s not a lot of evidence based research done in America on the effectiveness and safety of herbal use. Instead there is a safety rating method that is used to determine what’s safe and what’s not.
Here is an example of how the safety rating method is used:
Using a couple stalks of rosemary to cook and flavor your chicken breast is not going to pose a risk to your healthy pregnancy, however if you were to use rosemary in medicinal amounts, it could be dangerous. The same goes for other common herbs like garlic, ginger, sage, and turmeric. All of these herbs could possible pose dangers in your pregnancy when used in large medicinal dosages, however is completely in average food consumption.1
Herbs to avoid during pregnancy
The following herbs are considered Likely UnSafe or Unsafe during pregnancy : 2
- Saw Palmetto – when used orally, has hormonal activity
- Goldenseal – when used orally, may cross the placenta
- Dong Quai – when used orally, due to uterine stimulant and relaxant effects
- Ephedra – when used orally
- Yohimbe – when used orally
- Pay D’ Arco– when used orally in large doses; medicinal
- Passion Flower – when used orally
- Black Cohosh – when used orally in pregnant women who are not at term
- Blue Cohosh – when used orally; uterine stimulant and can induce labor
- Roman Chamomile – when used orally in medicinal amounts
- Pennyroyal – when used orally or topically
This is a list of herbs that are regularly recommended by care providers:
So this is VERY important: NEVER SELF DOSE OR DIAGNOSE WITH ANY MEDICATION, INCLUDING HERBS.
Every woman is different, therefore every pregnancy is different, with its own specific needs. The best and safest way to use herbs is to talk about them with your midwife, holistic physician, herbalist, naturopathic, or homeopathic practitioner. If you are not under the care of one of these you can easily find one on the web. A regular physician is not likely to understand herbs because it is not part of western medicinal studies.
Also, educate yourself not only for your safety but to also ensure the best outcome for you and your baby. Be your own advocate! You should research not just the kind of herb, but also what part of herb is safe ( Stem, root, leaf, ect.) and the best and most effective way it can be used. This can be in a tea or tonic, or maybe capsule.
Safe herbs for pregnancy
The following herbs are rated Likely Safe or Possibly Safe for use during pregnancy:3
- Garlic- This supplement is great for fighting off infection.
- Ginger root – This is a useful herb to use if you have bad nausea and vomiting. It is most commonly used in tea or capsule.
- Oats & Oat Straw – This is a great herb that is rich in calcium and magnesium. It helps relieve anxiety, restlessness, and irritated skin. It can be found in bath mixtures, or topical ointments.
- Peppermint Leaf – This is a great way to reduce all those early pregnancy symptoms we sure could do without. It’s helpful in relieving nausea and flatulence.
- Raspberry Leaf – This herb is rich in iron. It’s many different reasons for use are to help tone the uterus, to increase milk production, help curb nausea, and to ease labor pains. Some studies have even reported that using this herb can reduce complications, leading to a reduction of intervention use during birth.4 You can find red raspberry leaf in many pregnancy teas may see pregnancy teas that are made from red raspberry leaf to help promote uterine health during pregnancy.
- Slippery Elm Bark – This is a very powerful herb and should be mixed in foods or smoothies. You should use this to help relieve nausea, vomiting, heartburn, reflux, and vaginal irritation not associated with a yeast infection.
Listed below are some herbs that have been classified as having insufficient reliable information available, however they are commonly recommended by care providers for pregnant women. As stated before, always be your own advocate and do extensive research.
- Chamomile (German) –This herb is used in so many ways from tea, oils, capsules, ect. It has high counts of calcium and magnesium and is commonly used to help aid sleeplessness. It also can be used to ease joint inflammation.
- Dandelion – This herb is used in many forms like Chamomile. It is rich in Vitamin A, calcium, and iron. The root and leaf of dandelion can help with a mild case of anemia and suits well when needing to nourish the liver.
- Evening Primrose – Can be used to maintain moodiness or other hormonal issues. Evening Primrose contains natural prostaglandins and this helps in softening and ripening the cervix.
- To find an alternative medicine doctor for your family click here.
- For a guide to herbal descriptions and their different uses click
Here is a list of books that can be ordered through your favorite bookstore:
- The Natural Pregnancy Book, by Aviva Jill Romm, Ina May Gaskin
- Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy, by Penelopy Ody
- The Naturally Healthy Pregnancy, by Shonda Parker
1, 2, Natural Medicines Database http://www.naturaldatabase.com/
3 Women’s Health Series: Herbs of Special Interest to Women. J Am Pharm Assoc 40(2):234-242, 2000.
4 Raspberry leaf in pregnancy: its safety and efficacy in labor. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2001 Mar-Apr;46(2):51-9. PMID: 11370690
Much work is cited from books, speaking with midwives and internet research.