Herbs Safe for Pregnancy
Pregnancy safe herbs are easy to find. If you're pregnant, this may be the first time you've tasted the herbal waters as you look for ways to improve your nourishment or find a warm alternative to your morning cuppa. Learning more about how to safely select and use herbs in pregnancy and throughout the childbearing and parenting years was a strong drive for me completing The Science & Art of Herbalism course through Sage Mountain.
Are Herbs Safe for Pregnancy?
That's a general question for such a broad range of herbal choices. So, the general answer is, yes, most whole herbs are safe for pregnancy. We are not discussing essential oils here. Herbs are food - they're not pharmaceuticals. That is, they are a whole plant - and we're not talking about essential oils, here. We're not talking about extracted constituents from an otherwise safe herb for pregnancy. We are talking about the whole herb, and like food, whole herbs are designed to provide the body with nourishment so the body can work optimally. The more you move away from whole herbs, the more you have to think about in terms of type, dosage, and quantity. Consider Peppermint, for instance. One drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to over 30 cups of peppermint tea. This is drastically different, and excessive use of peppermint oil can cause miscarriage and reduce milk supply. Let's stick to whole herbs when we can (even outside of pregnancy).
What are Herbs Safe for Pregnancy?
Generally, you're looking for tonic whole herbs, as in toning to the body. This doesn't mean toning like muscle-contracting, it means toning as in providing the body with optimal nutrients so it can function as intended. In addition to toning, using herbs that have a long history of herbal use will be a great place to start. These tonic herbs are typically drank as a tea or infusion steeped for at least 5 minutes, and up to overnight, drank 1-3 times a day.
Tonic herbs that are considered generally safe for pregnancy include:
- Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus)
- Strawberry Leaf (Fragaria vesca)
- Nettles (Urtica dioca)
- Oat Straw (Avena sativa)
- Hawthorn Leaf & Berries (Crataegus spp.)
What are Herbs Safe for Pregnancy Specific Conditions?
While tonic herbs are herbs that can be used generally through all trimesters to nourish the body, there are some pregnancy-specific conditions that herbs can be used to treat, and these are intended to be used topically or as a tea drank 1-3 times daily as needed.
- Peppermint Leaf (Mentha piperita)
- Ginger Root (Zingiber officinale)
Anxiety & Sleep
- Oat Straw Tincture in Milky Stage (Avena sativa semen)
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
- Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
Stretch Marks & Topical Skin Health
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
- St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
- Comfrey (topical only) (Symphytum officinale)
When are Herbs Safe to Use During Pregnancy?
When to use herbs during pregnancy is really dependent upon your personal health. Most herbs have far less side effects than commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals; however, we can still choose what we put in and on our body with knowledge and a few things to keep in mind.
- Tonic herbs are generally safe during all trimesters
- The second trimester is typically the safest for using stronger herbs as there is an increase of risk of miscarriage in the first trimester and an increase of preterm labor in the third trimester
- Avoid oxytocic and anthelmintic herbs unless under the direction of your care provider
- Be cautious of most emmenagogue herbs, especially during the first trimester
- Be cautious of introducing new herbs if you have a history of miscarriage or pre-term labor
- Be cautious of strong laxative herbs (yes, this includes castor oil)
- Be cautious of herbs with high volatile oils (i.e. essential oils), particularly avoid internal use of essential oils. In moderation, these herbs in whole form are generally considered safe during pregnancy when they do not fall under other caution categories
- Be cautious of bitters and avoid strong bitters
- Be cautious of your personal allergies to plants
- Use 3 quality sources for reference (not google and not "this is good for this" lists and not random people in mom groups or blogs) and make an educated decision based on your current situation. American Botanical Council, The Herbal Academy, and Chestnut School of Herbs have some great online resources. The Medical Herbalism book as well as the Earthwise herbal volumes are great book references. Herbalists including Rosemary Gladstar, Matthew Wood, 7song are great resources, and Robert Tisserand is excellent for Essential Oil safety.
Let thy Food be thy Medicine
There are so many herbs safe for pregnancy. This list is just the tip of the teapot when it comes to all the herbs you have for nourishment, calming, and pregnancy-specific conditions. The bottom line is, start learning and finding your quality resources and choose foods, and herbs, that are generally nourishing throughout the day so that you are being provided with optimal nutrients more than just a few cups at a time. If you are looking for personal guidance choosing herbs during the childbearing years, get in touch.
Other Resources for Herbs Safe for Pregnancy:
- Herbs for the Childbearing Year - Susun Weed
- Herbal Healing for Women - Rosemary Gladstar
- Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine - David Hoffmann, FNIMH, AHG