Herbal remedies have been used for centuries to treat huge variety of ailments and for health promotion purposes. But when you become pregnant, it is essential to know which herbs are safe and which herbs to avoid because whatever we ingest (food-born illness, for example) is shared by the growing baby and that includes herbs.
While most of us think of herbs as remedies for various health concerns, and even to help your fertility, once you become pregnant, if you’re still on an herb regimen, it’s crucial you consult with your doctor immediately. Studies have found that some herbs may cause miscarriage, premature contractions and birth, and fetal harm.
While you should discuss all herb and supplement usage with your provider. there are a few herbs that are definite no’s.
Here are five herbs to avoid during pregnancy.
1. Saw palmetto
Saw palmetto comes from a small palm tree, native to the eastern U.S., has been used for chronic pelvic pain, bladder disorders, decreased sex drive, hair loss, hormone imbalances, and prostate cancer. The ripe fruit of saw palmetto is used in several forms, including ground and dried fruit or whole berries. It is available as liquid extracts, tablets, capsules, and as an infusion or a tea.
When used orally, saw palmetto contributes to hormonal activity and during pregnancy, a disruption of hormonal balance could result in pregnancy complications.
Ephedra is an evergreen shrub-like plant native to central Asia and Mongolia. It also grows in the southwestern U.S. In China, people have used ephedra for centuries to alleviate colds, fever, flu, headaches, asthma, nasal congestion and wheezing.
Outside of short-term weight loss, ephedra’s effectiveness is weak, and one known side effect is increased blood sugar levels. During pregnancy, this could lead to gestational diabetes. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
There are nine species of Echinacea, all of which are native to North America. Echinacea is used as a dietary supplement for the common cold and other infections with hopes to boost your immune system to more effectively fight the infection or symptoms associated with the infection. Many studies have been done on echinacea and the common cold. The most common side effects of echinacea are digestive tract symptoms, such as nausea or stomach pain.
In addition, in very small amounts, echinacea purpura was noted to have ill effects on the sperm and egg—primarily a reduced ability of sperm to penetrate egg.
4. Black cohosh
Black cohosh is a plant native to North America. Currently, people use black cohosh as a dietary supplement for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. While research and data are extremely limited, black cohosh has also been used to alleviate menstrual cramps and to induce labor. But research suggests that black cohosh may be dangerous for unborn babies. As a result, it is suggested to avoid.
Furthermore, black cohosh should not be confused with blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), which has different effects and is not generally recognized as safe. Black cohosh has sometimes been used with blue cohosh to stimulate labor, but this use was linked to severe adverse effects in at least one newborn.
5. St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort has been used for centuries to treat mental disorders and nerve pain. Most recently, it is used as a remedy for depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. In addition to echinacea purpura, St. John’s wort at very fractional doses has also been have ill effects on the sperm and egg, and potential genetic mutations which could compromise the health of a pregnancy.
To be clear, the FDA urges pregnant women not to take any herbal products without talking to their health care provider first. Women are also urged to consult a trained and experienced herbalist (or other professional who is trained to work with herbs) if they want to take herbs during their pregnancy.