Natural herbs to avoid during pregnancy

by Julie Snyder

herbs and mineralsWise women have recommended herbs and tonics to childbearing women for thousands of years and continue to share their knowledge today.

Other practitioners such as naturopaths, homoeopaths and herbalists recommend and prescribe herbal remedies as well. Herbs may be naturals, but not all are safe for pregnant women and their babies. Which could cause harm?

Experts agree that you should avoid herbs with strong medicinal or potentially toxic effects if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy. Many of the herbs not recommended help start menstruation in non-pregnant women. If you're at a higher risk for miscarriage, higher doses of these herbs may increase the risk.

Your provider might advise you take some of these herbs to treat specific complications of pregnancy, but you should not self-medicate with botanicals that:

• Stimulate uterine contractions
• Stimulate menstrual flow
• Have high levels of volatile oils that irritate or stimulate the uterus
• Are high in alkaloids
• Affect hormonal function
• Act as a harsh herbal laxative
• Act as strong diuretics

Herbs that are unsafe during pregnancy

According to "Herbs for a Healthy Pregnancy: From Conception to Childbirth" by Penelope Ody, the following herbs should be avoided any time during pregnancy or when pregnancy is even a possibility.

Aloe Vera: (Thuja occidentalis) May cause uterine contractions; strong laxative
Arbor vitae: 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) Known to stimulate uterine contractions
Basil oil: Uterine stimulant; use only during labor
Beth root: (Trillium erectum) Uterine stimulant; use only during labor
Black cohosh: (Cimicifuga racemosus) May lead to premature contractions; safe to use during childbirth
Bloodroot: (Sanguinaria canadensis) Uterine stimulant, can cause vomiting
Blue cohosh: (Caulophyllum thalictroides) Uterine stimulant; safe to use during childbirth
Broom: (Cytisus scoparius) Causes uterine contractions; used after birth to prevent blood loss
Bugleweed: (Lycopus virginicus) Interferes with hormone production in the pituitary gland

Clove oil: Uterine stimulant; use only during labor
Comfrey: (Symphytum officinale) Contains toxic chemicals; do not ingest
Cotton root: (Gossypium herbaceum) Uterine stimulant.

Devil's claw: (Harpagophytum procumbens) Uterine stimulant
Dong quai: (Angelica polymorpha var. sinensis) Uterine and menstrual stimulant; ideal after childbirth

False unicorn root: (Chamaelirium luteum) Hormonal stimulant
Feverfew: (Tanacetum parthenium) Uterine stimulant; may cause premature contractions

Golden seal: (Hydrastis canadensis) Uterine stimulant; may cause premature contractions; safe during childbirth
Greater celandine: (Chelidonium majus) Uterine stimulant; may cause premature contractions

Juniper and juniper oil: (Juniperus communis) Uterine stimulant; use only during labor

Lady's mantle: (Alchemilla xanthoclora) Uterine stimulant; use only during labor
Liferoot: (Senecio aureus) Uterine stimulate; contains toxic chemicals

Mistletoe: (Viscum album) Uterine stimulate; contains toxic chemicals
Mugwort: (Artemesia vulgaris) Uterine stimulant; may cause birth defects; also avoid during breastfeeding

American pennyroyal: (Hedeoma pulegioides) Reputed uterine stimulant
European pennyroyal: (Mentha pulegium) Uterine stimulant; may cause birth defects; also avoid during breastfeeding
Peruvian bark: (Cinchona officinalis) Toxic; may cause blindness and coma; used as malaria treatment under professional guidance
Pokeroot: (Phytolacca decandra) May cause birth defects
Pseudoginseng: (Panax notoginseng) May cause birth defects
Pulsatilla: (Anemone pulsatilla) Menstrual stimulant

Rue: (Ruta graveolens) Uterine and menstrual stimulant; may cause premature contractions

Sassafras: (Sassafras albidum) Uterine stimulant; may cause birth defects
Shepherd's purse: (Capsella bursa-pastoris) Uterine stimulant; use only during labor
Southernwood: (Artemisia abrotanum) Uterine stimulant; may cause birth defects; also avoid during breastfeeding
Squill: (Urginea maritima) Uterine stimulant; may cause birth defects

Tansy: (Tanacetum vulgare) Uterine stimulant; may cause birth defects

Wild yam: (Diascorea villosa) Uterine stimulant; safe during labor
Yarrow: (Artemisia absinthum) Uterine stimulant; may cause birth defects; also avoid when breastfeeding

Has your health provider recommended herbal remedies and tonics during pregnancy? Did they list herbs to avoid during pregnancy?

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