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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

A
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.