Herbal use during pregnancy

In the News

In a recent article published on Medscape talking about herbal use during pregnancy,  it said, among other things, that Italian women who regularly used almond oil on their skin for at least three months of her pregnancy were prone to have preterm births.

The study was what’s called “a multicenter retrospective cohort study performed over a 15-month period” and it involved 700 women.

Don’t panic! Even the authors say that this “only raises a hypothesis that requires confirmation in larger trials…”

Some of the herbs discussed:

Chamomile and Liquorice were some of the more commonly used herbs, and when taken throughout pregnancy may increase the possibility of threatened miscarriage and preterm labour.

Also mentioned were: Fennel, Valerian, and Echinacea.

Study results showed that herbal use during pregnancy was associated with preterm birth and low birth weights. However they use terms like “marginally significant” and “not statistically significant”. Birth weight was the only “significant” difference with oral herb use, and almond oil used topically was associated with pre-term births. They also present many possible reasons why rubbing almond oil on the abdomen could cause this, aside from the biochemical actions.

Otherwise, side effects were rather mild and infrequent, consisting of four cases of rash and itching and one case of constipation.

Also, those women who used herbs regularly used less antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs than those who didn’t use herbs.

It is interesting to note that the brief paragraph on drug use during pregnancy was just that… brief. All of one sentence! Yet, 42% took antibiotics and 48% took anti-inflammatory drugs during their pregnancy.

Herbs used in pregnancy
There’s no question that you should be careful about the herbs you do or do not use during pregnancy. Still, I wish I knew then, when I was pregnant with my children, what I know now!

Traditionally, western herbalists have used two main herbs during pregnancy – Nettles and Red Raspberry. The nettles are VERY nutritious, being full of protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, among many other vitamins and minerals. Raspberry, while also nutritious, are helpful for toning the uterus and reducing the length of labour.

There are some differences of opinion on whether Raspberry should be used for the whole pregnancy, for the last two trimesters, or the last trimester only. Which way you want to go is something you and your midwife or herbalist will have to decide.

There are also many herbs that have been used over the centuries to alleviate some of the common complications that can be experienced during pregnancy, such as circulation issues, cramps, nausea, and constipation. Ginger is one example. Generally it’s wise to seek out a qualified practitioner to help you out with the right route to go. However, there is a book, which I strongly recommend, called Naturally Healthy Babies and Children by Aviva Jill Romm.

Herbs to avoid
Generally, herbs to avoid during pregnancy include uterine stimulants and stimulating laxatives.

Herbs to avoid include:
Celery seed, Southern wood, Wormwood, Barberry, Celandine, Myrrh, Male fern, Cotton root, Goldenseal, Juniper, Pennyroyal, Poke Root, Rue, Bladder wrack (because of it’s tendency to accumulate arsenic), Bearberry, Blood Root, Tansy, Thuja, Coltsfoot, Mistletoe, Bugleweed, Dong Quai, Jamaican Dogwood, Oregon Grape root, and Pau D’arco.

Some, are fine in food doses but not good when taken in the higher doses commonly used to get a therapeutic effect.
These include:
Cinnamon, Saffron, Basil, Wild Marjoram, Parsley, Sage, and Thyme.


For more information contact The Herbwalker’s Apothecary.


Accessed November 13, 2012 https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/773341_4

Hum Reprod. 2012;27(11):3161-3167

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