Herbs and Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of rapid physical and emotional changes in the body. Herbs can be very useful in toning and nourishing the system to help allay potential problems and remedy discomforts that pregnant women may experience.

Attention to nutrition can go a long way in preventing possible complications. Mood swings and morning sickness, which are quite common, are connected to low blood sugar. A lack of calcium can result in hypertension, backaches and severe labor pains. Malnutrition during pregnancy can cause constipation, hemorrhoids, anemia, and even pre-eclampsia. It's absolutely vital to get enough vitamins, minerals and protein during pregnancy.

Medicinal Plants (herbs) in their original form contain a host of natural ingredients—alkaloids, bioflavonoids, glycosides, minerals, vitamins, volatile oils, and other natural substances that not only support an herb’s healing benefits but also safeguard against potential toxicity.

Natural herbs can be very beneficial during pregnancy. It is important however you realize that just because something is natural doesn't necessarily mean it is safe. There are some herbs that are harmful to pregnant mothers and their babies.

Herbal remedies are considered natural alternatives to certain drugs, but they can also be dangerous when taken during pregnancy. While a cup of chamomile tea is perfectly safe for a mum-to-be, many herbs contain chemicals that can cross the placenta to your baby, and some can cause premature contractions.

Although herbs are not necessarily needed by all women during pregnancy, certain herbs are recommended by experienced herbalists and have been used safely by women for centuries. It is important that you consult with your doctor or healthcare provider or qualified herbalist prior to using any herbs in pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

Some herbs are safe to use during pregnancy but not all are. That is why it is important you consult with a qualified professional before using herbs during pregnancy.

As with all medications, you should avoid taking any herb during the first trimester and use only minimal amounts for short periods of time thereafter, and then only when needed.

Here is a list of natural herbs to avoid during pregnancy and herbs for pregnancy. Even the herbs for pregnancy should be used moderately.

Herb Reason to avoid
Aloe Vera
(Aloe spp.)
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.
Buckthorn
(Rhamnus cathartica)
Anthraquinone laxative.
Bugleweed
(Lycopus virginicus)
Interferes with hormone production in the pituitary gland, so best avoided.
Cascara Sagrada
(Rhamnus purshiana)
Anthraquinone laxative; uterine stimulant; emmenogogue .
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.
Thuja
(Thuja occidentalis)
Uterine stimulant; emmenogogue; avoid using the essential oil entirely.
Thyme
(Thymus vulgaris)
Uterine stimulant; emmenogogue; avoid using the essential oil entirely.
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.


Herb Reason
Alfalfa
(Medicago sativa)
Rich in calcium, carotene, trace minerals and vitamins E, K .
Black Cohosh
(Cimicifuga racemosa)
Tones uterus; regulates contractions at birth; - only to be used during the third trimester.
Black Haw
(Viburnum prunifolium)
Aids in relieving leg cramps; helps prevent possible miscarriage.
Blue Cohosh
(Caulophyllum thalictroides)
Regulates contractions at birth; - only to be used during the third trimester.
Chamomile
(Matricaria chamomilla)
Calming effect, helps prevent and ease constipation .
Cleavers
(Galium aparine)
Helps lower high blood pressure; diuretic, to reduce water retention.
Cramp Bark
(Viburnum opulus)
Antispasmodic (relieves muscle cramps); helps prevent possible miscarriage.
Dandelion Root & Leaf
(Taraxacum officinales)
Rich mineral source; root tea or tincture relieves constipation; root & leaf tea act as a diuretic, to reduce water retention; helps lower high blood pressure.
False Unicorn Root
(Chamaelirium luteum)
Eases nausea, aids in preventing possible miscarriage.
Fennel Seed
(Foeniculum vulgare)
Eases constipation, helps with the release of excess gas.
Ginger
(Zingibar officinalis)
Eases nausea; - Should be taken in moderation, as high doses may result in miscarriage .
Hawthorn
(Cratageus spp.)
Improves circulation; decreases high blood pressure .
Horsetail
(Equisetum arvense)
Rich mineral and silica content for strong bones; long-term usage will require thiamine (vitamin B2) supplementation.
Lavender
(Lavandula officinalis)
Calming effect; eases nausea.
Lemon Balm
(Melissa officinalis)
Calming effect; eases nausea; carminative.
Nettles
(Urtica dioica)
Rich calcium, iron and nutrient, nutritional powerhouse, containing every vitamin & mineral known to be needed for human growth. It is said to have more chlorophyll than any other herb.
Peppermint
(Mentha piperita)
Carminative, can be taken to relieve heartburn.
Red Raspberry Leaf
(Rubus idaeus)
Tones uterus; improves contractions; eases constipation.
Skullcap
(Scutellaria laterifolia)
Calming effect
Slippery Elm
(Ulmus rubra)
Eases contipation; nourishing .
Wild Yam
(Dioscorea villosa)
Relieves uterine pains.


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 flavour 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
(Mentha piperita)
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
(Rosmarinus officinalis)
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
(Salvia officinalis)
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.


Herb Herb
Angelica root
(archangelica, atropurpurea, sinensis, sylvestris)
Qing Fen
(calomelas)
Ba Dou
(croton tiglium seed)
Qu Mai
(dianthi leaf)
Bai Fu Zi
(Typhonii rhizome)
Queen Anne’s Lace
(daucus carota)
Bai Mao Gen
(imperatae cylindricae)
Rue
(ruta graveolens)
Ban Mao
(mylabris)
Rutin
Chan Su
(bufonis secretion)
Saffron stigmas
(crocus sativus)
Che Qian Zi
(plantago asiatica)
San Leng
(sparganii rhizome)
Chong Lou
(Paridis rhizome)
Shang Lu
(phytolaccae root)
Chuan Niu Xi
(cyathulae officinalis)
She Gan
(belamcandae rhizome)
Da Ji
(cirsii japonica, euphorbiae)
She Xiang
(moschus secretion)
Di Bie Chong
(eupolyphaga)
Shui Zhi
(hirudo)
E Wei
Smartweed leaves
(polygonum hydopiper)
E Zhu
(curcumae root)
Stoneseed root
(lithospermum)
Fan Xie Ye
(senna leaf)
Tansy Ragwort
(tanacetum vulgare)
Fu Zi
(aconite carmichaeli root)
Tao Ren
(persicae seed peach)
Gan Sui
(euphorbiae kansui)
Thistles
(cardus, cnicus, cirsium genus’)
Guan Zhong
(dryopteris crassirhizomae)
Tian Hua Fen
(trichosanthis)
Hai Long
Wei Ling Xian
(clematidis root)
Hai Ma
(hippocampus)
Wild Carrot seed
(daucus carota)
Hong Hua
(carthami tinctorii)
Wu gong
(scolopendra)
Huai Hua
(sophorae japonicae immaturus)
Wu Tou
(aconite root)
Liu Huang
(sulphur)
Xi Xin
(asari herb)
Ma Chi Xian
(portulacae)
Xiong Huang
(realgar)
Ma Qian Zi
(strychni seed)
Xuan Ming Fen
(mirabilitum)
Mang Xiao
(mirabilitum)
Yan Hu Suo
(corydalis rhizome)
Meng Chong
Yi Mu Cao
(leonuri motherwort)
Mu Dan Pi
(moutan)
Yu Li Hua
(pruni flower)
Niu Huang
(bovis calculus)
Yuan Hua
(daphnes genkwa)
Jack-in-the-pulpit root
(arisaema)
Zao Jiao
(gleditsiae)
Pennyroyal
(hedeoma puegioides)
Zhang Nao
(camphora)
Qian Niu Zi
(pharbitidis seed)





BETH ROOT (Trillium erectum)
Also known as Birth Root because of its traditional use as an herb that prepares the womb for pregnancy and aids the process of labor. Native Americans, who first taught the white settlers how to use this herb, employed it immediately before, during and after birth, thus easing labor and reducing pain and loss of blood. It is also used for menopausal complaints, such as palpitations or excessive blood flow. It contains a precursor for the female sex-hormones, which the body will either absorb and utilize or allow to pass straight through the system depending on whether or not it is needed to help balance the hormonal system - a good example of how herbs can have a self regulating effect on the body. Simultaneous internal (as a tea) and external applications (as a poultice of the fresh root) of this herb can be used to treat inflammations of the nipples and mammary glands without reducing the flow of milk. Some tribes have used internal and external applications of Beth root to deal with inflammations of the mammary glands and nipples.

ECHINACEA (Echinacea purpurea [L.] Moench, and E. angustifolia D.C., Asteraceae)
This herb is useful if there is a premature rupture of the membranes. 15 drops of the tincture is used 3 times daily to help prevent infection.

BLACK COHOSH (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Black Cohosh has a balancing effect on the sex hormones and tones the female reproductive system. The root can be used to ease cramping and menstrual pains as well as easing labor pains and speeding up the birth process. Many midwives use this herb in combination with BLUE COHOSH for a stalled labor. 10 - 20 drops of the tincture is given hourly to promote regular, coordinated contractions. In cases of difficult labor the midwife will know when and how to make use of this herb if necessary - do not attempt self-treatment.

SHEPHERD'S PURSE (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
Another of the favorite herbs for childbirth - this is an effective remedy for hemorrhage. It stops profuse bleeding and promotes uterine contractions. Many midwives give a tincture of the fresh plant to women postpartum to control heavy bleeding. (It should not be given during labor, as it can cause blood clots.)

MOTHERWORT(Leonurus cardiaca)
A tincture of this herb is often given to women who are feeling anxious and tense with the crampy part of early labor. It's also a useful remedy to use postpartum to help calm nerves, especially if the woman is feeling "shocky".

OAK BARK (Quercus robur)
Taken as a tea help to astringe the dilated womb and return it to its normal size and shape.

GOATS RUE (Galega officinales)
Sometimes the mother does not produce enough milk to feed her baby. In such a situation A tea of Goats Rue, with it's stimulating effect on lactation can can be used. Certain seeds rich in essential oils, such as Caraway (Carum carvi), Dill (Anethum graveolens) and Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) are also indicated.

MARIGOLD OIL OR OINTMENT
Most nursing mums will sooner or later complain about sore nipples especially once the infant starts teething. A soothing application of Marigold oil or ointment may be all that is needed to remedy the situation.

BLACK HAW(Viburnum prunifolium)
Closely related to Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus), this herb can be used as an antispasmodic for painful menstruation or false labor pains and as an astringent for excessive bleeding after birth. In the event of a threatened miscarriage it can be combined with Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus) and False Unicorn Root (Chamaelirium luteum). Some tribes used it to relax and tone the musculature of the womb if the fetus was badly positioned so they could adjust its position manually.

BLESSED THISTLE (Cnicus Benedictus)
Generally speaking, thistles tend to be useful for liver complaints. Blessed Thistle is no exception though it is less powerful than Milk Thistle as a cleansing herb, it has great anti-depressant effects and generally tones the system. It is also helpful as a stomach tonic and can be used to reduce colic and wind. Its astringent property helps to stop internal bleeding after birth or in case of excessive menstruation.

CHASTEBERRY (Vitex agnus castus)
This herb also balances the female hormone system. The seeds of this tree are excellent for toning the uterus and normalizing hormonal imbalance especially when coming off the pill or during menopause.

LADY'S MANTLE (Alchemilla vulgaris)
One of the 'Old World' favorites for toning the female reproductive system. It has been used to reduce pain associated with menstruation and excessive bleeding as well as for delayed or suppressed periods. Menopausal problems can also be treated with this herb.