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This list of herbs isn’t exhaustive and features some of the most common herbs we use in Western Herbalism. In a lot of cases, there are no actual studies that indicate whether a plant is actually safe to ingest while pregnant and its safety profile is based on the potential hazard for harm.  It is necessary to research thoroughly any herbs you intend to use while pregnant and always err on the side of caution. This document covers the internal use of herbs, the topical use of these herbs such as calendula is considered safe to use during pregnancy. 

Alkaloids/Bioactive 

This category of herbs should be avoided as they chemically complex and contain powerful constituents such as alkaloids that could be harmful to a developing baby.

  • Barberry Berberis vulgaris
  • Bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis
  • Blue Flag Iris versicolor
  • Boneset Eupatorium perfoliatum
  • Borage Borago officinalis
  • Calamus Acorus calamus
  • California Poppy Eschscholzia californica 
  • Celery Seed Apium graveolens 
  • Cinnamon Cinnamomum verum, C. aromaticum, C. cassia (Large doses)
  • Comfrey Symphytum spp.
  • Damiana Turnera diffusa
  • Elecampane Inula helenium 
  • Eucalyptus Eucalyptus spp.
  • Frankincense Boswellia serrata
  • Goldenrod Solidago spp.
  • Goldenseal Hydrastis canadensis
  • Gotu Kola Centella asiatica
  • Horehound Marrubium vulgare
  • Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis 
  • Juniper Berries Juniperus spp.
  • Kava Kava Piper methysticum 
  • Lobelia Lobelia inflata
  • Ma-huang Ephedra sinica
  • Mimosa Albizia julibrissin
  • Oregon Grape Root Mahonia spp.
  • Osha Ligusticum spp.
  • Pleurisy Root Asclepias tuberosa
  • Spikenard Aralia racemosa

Emmenagogues/Uterine Stimulants 

Herbs that fall under these categories can stimulate the uterus and encourage menstruation and therefore quite obviously should be avoided during pregnancy. Some of the herbs listed in this category are also some of our favourite culinary herbs and while sprinkling these herbs on your meals shouldn’t be a concern, large or medicinal doses should be avoided. 

  • Angelica Angelica Archangelica (All Angelica spp.)
  • Ashwagandha Withinana somnifera 
  • Basil Ocimum basilicum (Medicinal dose)
  • Beebalm Monarda didyma (all Monarda sp)
  • Bethroot Trillium erectum (All Trillium sp.)
  • Black Cohosh Actaea racemosa
  • Blue Cohosh Caulophyllum thalictroides
  • Buchu Agathosma betulina
  • Calendula Calendula officinalis
  • Cedar Thuja occidentalis
  • Cotton Root Gossypium herbaceum
  • Feverfew Tanacetum parthenium
  • Marjoram Origanum majorana (Medicinal dose)
  • Motherwort Leonurus cardiaca
  • Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris
  • Myrrh Commiphora myrrha
  • Nutmeg Commiphora myrrha (Medicinal dose)
  • Parsley Petroselinum crispum (Medicinal dose)
  • Pennyroyal Mentha pulegium
  • Sage Salvia officinalis (Medicinal dose)
  • Southernwood Artemisia abrotanum
  • Thyme Thymus spp. (Medicinal dose)
  • Tulsi Ocimum tenuiflorum
  • Vervain Verbena officinalis, V. hastata
  • Wormwood Artemisia absinthium
  • Yarrow Achillea millefolium

Laxatives

Laxatives are not recommended during pregnancy as they increase contractions of the intestines, also known as peristalsis, which in turn can cause the uterus to contract. However constipation can definitely be an issue during pregnancy; bulking laxatives such as oatmeal and flaxseed and would be better alternatives as well as eating a balanced diet which includes plenty of fiber and increasing water intake and exercise. 

  • Aloe Aloe vera
  • Senna Senna alexandrina
  • Cascara Sagrada/Buckthorn Rhamnus purshiana (All Rhamnus sp.)

Hormonal 

These herbs can cause hormonal changes in the body and are therefore avoided so as not to disrupt the delicate balance of hormones that the body creates to sustain pregnancy. 

  • Agave Agave americana
  • Fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum
  • Ginseng Panax spp.
  • Hops Humulus lupulus
  • Lady’s Mantle Alchemilla spp.
  • Licorice Glycyrrhiza glabra
  • Peony Paeonia spp.
  • Sarsaparilla Smilax officinalis 

Toxic 

These herbs contain compounds that are deemed harmful to both the mother and her unborn baby. Although classed as toxic these herbs are sometimes given under close supervision as low dose botanicals but quite obviously should be avoided during pregnancy.

  • Arnica Arnica spp.
  • Black Walnut Juglans nigra
  • Devil’s Claw Harpagophytum procumbens
  • Foxglove Digitalis spp.
  • Lily of the Valley Convallaria majalis
  • Male Fern Dryopteris felix-mas
  • Mistletoe Viscum album 
  • Peruvian Bark Chinchona spp. 
  • Pokeroot Phytolacca spp.
  • Rue Ruta graveolens 
  • Tansy Tanacetum vulgare

* Note that some herbs will fall into more than one of the herbal actions listed however for ease of reference they are only listed in one category.

Written By:

Becky

Becky Starling is a Community Herbalist and College Coordinator with Wild Rose. A prolific organic gardener and reiki practitioner, Becky creates herbal remedies and inspires and educates folks about plants and their many uses. She is the founder of Cedar Hill Herbs where she creates herbal tea blends and remedies from homegrown and ethically wildcrafted plants.

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