What herbs are safe during pregnancy?

pregnant woman drinking herbal tea

Although natural, not all herbs are safe during pregnancy. Whilst many mums-to-be turn to natural products to provide essential nutrients and relief for common pregnancy discomforts, it’s important to keep in mind that there is limited research available on this subject, so you should always consult a doctor if you’re worried about what herbs are safe during pregnancy and how much you are allowed to consumer each day.

However, eaten in small quantities, many herbs can benefit you in pregnancy without endangering your health.

Here are just a few of the ways herbs can benefit you:

  • Alleviate morning sickness (such as coriander and thyme)
  • Help fight off a common cold
  • Help with labour and delivery pain (like mint and rosemary)
  • Overcome mild postpartum depression
  • Relieve digestive problems such as bloating and gas

Here are five of the best herbs that are safe during pregnancy

1. Red Raspberry Leaf

red raspberry leaf The red raspberry leaf is packed with minerals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and iron and also contains a healthy dose of vitamins B and vitamin C. It can strengthen your uterine walls, alleviate labour pains, reduce time in labour and there is evidence that women taking red raspberry leaf have less birthing interventions. This handy little herb can also improve blood circulation and manage blood pressure. What’s more pregnant women suffering from anaemia are also encouraged to take red raspberry leaf. Usually taken in specialised pregnancy tea, this herb is best for women in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters, although some women in trimester 1 find one cup of red raspberry leaf tea a day helps with morning sickness.

2. Lavender

lavenderNot only does lavender smell divine, but this clever herb can help reduce stress and allow you to relax.  Particularly important during this pandemic, it can help you overcome headaches and muscle pain brought on by anxiety too. Often drunk in tea, lavender can make a yummy addition to any homemade biscuit or cake. Why not try this delicious blackberry and lavender cake recipe from sally’s baking addiction. Another top-tip for making the most of this versatile herb is pop it onto a tissue at night and breath it in before you go to sleep – it’ll help no end, believe us!

3. Chamomile

Chamomile Chamomile is calming, it eases stress and reduces swollen joints. It can regulate blood pressure, help your muscles relax - taking strain off your back, as well as alleviate headaches, induce sleep, soothe bloating and intestinal cramps. Best taken in tea, medical advice is to limit consumption as there’s not enough evidence to say what over consumption of this herb will do to your health.  Why not try eating the leaves in salad.  Just mix them into chopped lettuce with olive oil, salt and a squeeze of lemon.  Or chopped chamomile added to yoghurt and garlic makes a delicious dip for crudités.

4. Nettle leaf

nettle leafNettle leaf (also known as stinging nettles) is a herb often found in pregnancy teas and regularly recommended by midwives as a relatively unknown source of vitamins and minerals such as iron, vitamins A, C and K, and potassium. Always make sure you use the dried leaves not the root (look for teas that clearly state nettle leaf on the ingredients list) ), and don't drink too much, especially in the first trimester, because of its stimulating effect on the uterus. However, the tea is safe for pregnancy throughout the second and third trimesters, you can even make your own by adding an ounce of dried nettle leaf to a quart of boiling water.

5. Ginger

gingerGinger is a superfood best known for relieving morning sickness but there are many more, lesser known benefits, to this herb. It contains Vitamin C which will help support the formation of your baby's immune system and folic acid, which helps prevent birth defects. It can spike up your blood circulation, which boosts the blood supply to your foetus, and also helps you absorb essential nutrients. This clever herb can also boost your immune system and speed up recovery of minor infections, as well as relieve pregnancy related indigestion, gas, and bloating. There’s medical evidence that eating ginger during pregnancy can regulate your blood sugar levels too, which will leave you feeling more energised. A word of warning on this miracle herb – too much ginger can lead to vaginal bleeding and miscarriage so make sure you eat ginger in moderation and don’t consume dried ginger root as it’s hard to regulate the amount you eat. While there’s no standardised dose for nausea relief in pregnancy, research suggests that up to 1 gram (1,000 mg) of ginger a day is safe. This equates to 4 cups of ginger tea or about three teaspoons of grated fresh root ginger a day.  Try adding fresh minced ginger to everyday foods, like roast potatoes or steamed vegetables. Shredded ginger can make a great addition to soups too – why not check out this fab carrot and ginger soup recipe from BBC Goodfood.

A word of caution

Some information will list a herb as safe to consume during pregnancy whilst others might list it as unsafe. It’s always worth understanding the type of use the safety rating is for.  For example rosemary is considered “Likey Safe” in pregnancy when used orally in amounts typically used in food, but “Possibly Unsafe” when used in medicinal amounts, as it may be too concentrated and too much rosemary may have uterine and menstrual flow stimulant effects. This is why it’s always advisable to consult your healthcare professional or a trained herbalist before using a natural medicine or herb during pregnancy.

Here’s a few of the herbs best avoided while pregnant

Saw Palmetto: this can disrupt hormonal activity.
Goldenseal: this may cross the placenta.
Dong Quai: this stimulates the uterus and has a relaxant effect.
Ephedra: this can raise blood sugar levels which might lead to gestational diabetes.
Saw Palmetto: this can disrupt hormone balance.
Black Cohosh: this may induce labour.
Cotton Root: this stimulates the womb.
Ladies Mantle: this stimulates the womb and in large doses may cause liver toxicity.

Natural remedies have been used in pregnancy for years.  As you have seen from our pick of five herbs which are safe to eat in pregnancy, many can help with some of those pregnancy health niggles, without the need for herbal medicines or over the counter drugs. There are many other herbs which are safe to eat during pregnancy, but all need to be consumed in moderation. It’s always best to speak to your healthcare provider if you are worried that you are consuming too much of any particular herb.