Common Herbs to Avoid in Pregnancy

Note to the reader:  Please be aware that this topic is not without controversy in the herbal world.   There are well-regarded herbalists, sometimes quite famous, authors of books, etc. who consider only about a half-dozen herbs to be contraindicated in pregnancy.  There are many other well-regarded herbalists, who also write books and have achieved acclaim in the field, who considers dozens and dozens of herbs to be inappropriate for use in pregnancy.

The following list attempts to land somewhere in the middle.  I do not make blanket generalizations about the safety of herbs, nor do I hope to instill undue fear in the hearts of pregnant herbal users.  Please note that some herbs to be avoided are not included in this list.  I have tried to include herbs you are more likely to see suggested in contemporary herbals or found in products at the health food store.  A number or strong and potentially dangerous herbs are mentioned in old herbals from the 19th century or earlier which are not in common use these days.  Such herbs are not included.

If in doubt about an herb, consult a well-respected herbal reference or call a professional herbalist.  Many midwives are also knowledgeable about herbs.  Also, some of the herbs on this list may be safely used in pregnancy under the direction of a practitioner trained in herbal use.

Emmenagogues—Abortifacients—Strong Blood Movers

Cotton Root  (Gosssypium hirsutum)
Dang Quai, Angelica   (Angelica sinensis, Angelica archangelica)small amounts such as that found in Floradix is fine
Pennyroyal  (Mentha pulegium)
Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
Rue (Ruta graveolens)
Tansy  (Tanacetum vulgare)
Yarrow  (Achillea millefolium)

Purgatives—Cathartics—Emetics— Strong Laxatives—Strong Bitters—Strong Cleansing

Alder Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula)
Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
Cascara Sagrada (Rhamnus pursiana)
Celandine, Greater Celandine (Chelidonium  majus)
Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis)
Ipecac (Ipecac ipechachuana)
Lobelia (Lobelia inflata)
Senna (Cassia senna)
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)
Wormwood (Artemisia absintuium)

Plants with high Alkaloid Content or Pyrollizidine Alkaloids

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
Comfrey Root (Internal)  Symphytum officinale
Ephedra spp.

Plants with High Volatile Oil Content
Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis)
Thuja (Thuja occidentalis)

Sustained Use of Herbs that have an Effect on the Endocrine (hormonal) system of the body are best avoided

Damiana (Turnera aphrodisiaca)
Ginseng  (Panax spp.)
Licorice Root  (Glycyrrhiza glabra)  Occassional use in tea for sore throat, stomach upset, perfectly o.k.  avoid sustained—week after week–use
Sarsaparilla (Smilax officinalis)

Miscellaneous

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalus)
Mistletoe (Viscum album)
Calamus (Acorus calamus)

Use the following only if directed by a trained holistic clinician with experience treating women in pregnancy or midwife

Black Cohosh  (Cimcifuga racemosa) may be appropriate when well indicated
Blue Cohosh  (Caulophylum  thalictroides)
Poke Root (Phytolacca americana) small doses only and must be well indicated

Culinary Herbs:  Contraindications?

Many sources suggest that Parsley, Nutmeg and Sage and many other culinary herbs are contraindicated in medicinal doses during pregnancy.  Culinary use of these herbs is perfectly acceptable. All herbs commonly used in cooking are safe to continue using in cooking throughout pregnancy.

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