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Herbs and Supplements to Avoid During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

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 B 6 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

Fenugreek

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.

B. Licorice

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.

D. Safety

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