How to Safely Use Herbal Teas During Pregnancy

We’ve probably all tried an herbal supplement or two to lose weight. Perhaps you’ve brewed a cup of herbal tea to calm your nerves, or sprinkled some diced chives on your baked potatoes. Herbs: no big deal, right? Not quite.

Herbs are also potent medicinal agents and caution should be used when using them during pregnancy. There are herbs to help pregnancy woes like morning sickness and herbs that you should never take during pregnancy. Knowing which herbs to use can improve comfort and your overall health during pregnancy.

Naturally Speaking…

People have been using herbs forever. For the most part, they are safe and effective when used correctly. Some things to keep in mind as we look into herbal safety during pregnancy are:

  • Anything labeled “natural” isn’t synonymous with harmless or safe. Many botanical medicines contain potent pharmacological substances.
    Many herbal elements are able to pass through the placenta and affect your developing baby.
  • Herbs can be influenced by physiological and metabolic changes during pregnancy and affect the body differently than in a non-pregnant body.
  • Herbal medicine is unregulated in the U.S., so anyone can give advice on its uses and dosages. Seek the advice of a qualified herbalist from the American Herbalist Guild, a licensed naturopathic physician, and of course, your doctor or midwife.

When NOT to Use Herbs

If these symptoms or signs occur, your first call should be to your doctor, not your herbalist:

  • Persistent vaginal bleeding
  • Severe pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Persistent, severe mid-back pain
  • Swelling of the hands and face
  • Severe headaches, blurry vision
  • Pain in the upper right quadrant that is usually under the ribs on the right side
  • Rupture of membranes prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy
  • Initial outbreak of herpes blisters during the first trimester
  • Regular uterine contractions prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy
  • Not feeling any fetal movement

Just Say No to Mistletoe

Specific categories of herbs are known to be contraindicated during pregnancy. For instance, mistletoe has been used effectively to treat headaches and dizziness in people with high blood pressure, but a pregnant woman would avoid it because it causes uterine contractions.

There are literally thousands of herbs to avoid during pregnancy. Below is a short list of more common herbs you may have already used when you weren’t pregnant, or ones you’ve just seen at your health food store. Always check with a qualified herbalist or naturopathic doctor before you use any herb topically or internally:

  • Black Cohosh
  • Dong Quai
  • Ephedra
  • Ginseng
  • Aloe
  • Licorice
  • Rhubarb
  • Sarsaparilla
  • Yarrow
  • Castor Oil

Herbs Considered Safe in Pregnancy

Teas in moderate amounts, usually a couple of cups a day, are known to be safe. Cooking herbs used to enhance the flavor of food are considered safe too. The safest approach is to avoid using herbs during the first trimester unless necessary:

Ginger: Steep 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger root in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes and sip. If tea doesn’t suit you, try hard ginger candies or pieces of crystalized ginger. It may not always totally relieve nausea but it usually takes the edge off. Soda pop isn’t the healthiest beverage in town but when you’re desperate to ease morning sickness, ginger ale’s bubbly goodness can really help.

Red Raspberry Leaves: Right after ginger, red raspberry is a beloved herb for pregnancy. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals, including high iron content. It is said to tone the uterus to help prepare for birth. 1-2 cups daily throughout the second and third trimester. It’s not the tastiest leaf on its own, so you may want to toss in a couple of teaspoons of spearmint and rose hips to make it more enjoyable.

Chamomile Tea: The tea that has it all. It promotes relaxation, which will help with sleep and settling nerves. It quells nausea, relieves heartburn, helps prevent constipation and urinary tract infections, and relieves headaches, just to name a few. Feel free to sip this during the day and have a cup before bed.

Nettle Leaf: Recommended by midwives and herbalists, it’s an herb that’s chock full of vitamins and minerals, including iron. Just make sure you use the dried leaves, not the root. It’s best to wait to drink this during the starting of the second trimester. 

Lemon Balm: A delightful tea that calms the spirit, reduces tension, and promotes good digestion. It can be added to chamomile or other teas for an uplifting flavor.

What are some of your favorite (and SAFE) herbal teas to drink while pregnant? Share with us!

Tags : pregnancy   health   

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