Herbs and Supplements to Avoid During Pregnancy and BreastfeedingRelated Terms
• Pregnancy, Safety of Herbs and Supplements in
Some herbs and supplements can be harmful to take by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Always check with a doctor before taking an herb or supplement.
Herbs and Supplements to Avoid
These herbs and supplements are not safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding:
- Ammi visnaga is a flowering plant that may stimulate the uterus.D1
- Berberine is a chemical found in some plants that is taken as a supplement.
- Bitter melon is a tropical, fruit-like gourd.
- Black cohosh is a plant that can be taken as a supplement.
- Cannabis is an herb. It may cause preterm birth.
- Cat's Claw is a vine that can be taken as a supplement or tea. It may cause spontaneous abortion.
- Chamomile is a flower. When taken as a tea it may lead to health problems. It is likely safe to use on the skin.
- Cinnamon is a spice that comes from a tree. It can be toxic in large amounts.D1
- Dong quai is a plant. The root is taken as a supplement or tea and may negatively affect the fetus.
- Fenugreek is an herb that is taken as a supplement. It may cause contractions.A1, A2
- Feverfew is a flower that can be taken as a supplement or made into a tea. It may cause contractions.
- Goldenseal is a plant that contains berberine.
- Licorice is a plant. The root has been used as a flavoring and can be taken as a supplement or tea.B1
- Melatonin is a supplement that has been used to improve sleep. It has not been tested in pregnant women.
- Pennyroyal is a plant that may lead to spontaneous abortion when taken as high doses.
- Red clover is a flower that can be taken as a supplement.C1
- Red yeast rice is traditional Chinese food item that can also be taken as a supplement.
- Sage is an herb that may cause miscarriage in pregnant women when taken in large amounts.D1
- Thyme is an herb that may cause miscarriage in pregnant women when taken in large amounts.D1
- Vitamin B6 is a supplement. It may be safe to take but can interact with anti-nausea medicines.
- Willow bark comes from a tree. It may not be safe to take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.D1
References [ + ]
A1. Ouzir M, El Bairi K, et al. Toxicological properties of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum graecum). Food Chem Toxicol. 2016 Oct;96:145-154.
A2. Samavati R, Ducza E, et al. Herbal laxatives and antiemetics in pregnancy. Reprod Toxicol. 2017 Sep;72:153-158.
B1. Räikkönen K, Seckl JR, et al. Maternal prenatal licorice consumption alters hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis function in children. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2010 Nov;35(10):1587-1593.
C. Red Clover
C1. Nelsen J, Ulbricht C, et al. Red clover (Trifolium pratense) monograph: a clinical decision support tool. J Herb Pharmacother. 2002;2(3):49-72.
D1. Ahmed M, Hwang JH, et al. Safety classification of herbal medicines used among pregnant women in Asian countries: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017 Nov 14;17(1):489.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO NAT Review Board
Eric Hurwitz, DC
Last Updated: 5/26/2020
Back to Top