Herbal supplements: Which should be avoided during pregnancy?

Are there specific herbal remedies that I should avoid during pregnancy?

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

The following information comes from the American College of Nurse Midwives monograph, "Herbology throughout the reproductive cycle".

There are many wonderful healing plants, which should be avoided during pregnancy for a variety of reasons. Some irritate the placenta, some can cause mutation of the developing fetus and others stimulate muscular contractions of the uterus. It is best to consult a qualified herbalist before using any herbs other than for nutritional support during pregnancy.

There are approximately 560 plants which have the ability to cause miscarriage or defects during pregnancy. Only about 50 of these plants are commonly used in the U.S. today. These can be broken down into groups of plants by their actions:

Alkaloid Containing Plants: (May constrict blood vessels, cause increase in blood pressure.)
Coffee
Tea
Barberry
Ephedra
Golden Seal
Mandrake
Tobacco
Sanguinaria

Bitters: (May cause fetal defects and/or miscarriage.)
Barberry
Cascara Sagrada
Celandine
Feverfew
Gentian
Golden Seal
Mugwort
Rue
Tansy
Wormwood

Diuretics: (Encourage water loss)
Buchu
Horsetail
Juniper Berries
Uva-Ursi (large doses)

Emmenagogues: (Induces loss of uterine lining -- may cause miscarriage.)
Angelica spp.
Basil, oregano, marjoram (Okay in "normal" amounts, used as spices)
Black Cohosh (last six weeks okay)
Blue Cohosh (last six weeks okay)
Ginger (okay in "normal" amounts)
Hyssop
Motherwort (OK in small doses)
Mugwort
Myrrh
Nasturtium
Osha
Parsley
Squaw Vine (small amounts okay)
Pennyroyal
Rue
Sage
Shepard's Purse
Tansy
Wormwood

Laxatives:
Aloes
Castor Bean
Barberry
Buckthorn
Cascara Sagrada
Coffee
Senna

Steroid Precursors:
Dong Quai
Ginseng
Licorice
Sarsaparilla

Oxytocic:
Blue Cohosh
Golden Seal
Black Cohosh
Mistletoe
Blue Flag
Uva-Ursi
Cotton Root Bark

Others:
Male Fern
Poke root

Some of these herbs may be safe when used by skilled practitioner in appropriate doses and some may be used in late pregnancy to help prepare for birth. Make sure you know what you're doing before using any supplements during pregnancy!

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