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Medicinal herbs have been used to support pregnancy and lactation for thousands of years. From making nutritive tonics to supporting common pregnancy complaints like nausea, herbs have been there for new and expecting moms. However, little is known scientifically about the safety of using herbs during pregnancy.

Most of what is currently known about botanical use during pregnancy is based on a significant body of traditional use, empirical, and observational evidence, and a few pharmacologic and animal studies. Although most herbs have a high safety profile with little evidence of harm, the American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook, is the ultimate resource for identifying the safety of using herbs.

It lists a wide variety of herbs in the Class 1 category and are generally considered safe during pregnancy and lactation when consumed in appropriate amounts. Herbs in this category include ginger, red raspberry leaf, echinacea, astragalus, reishi, and turmeric. Though many herbs are considered safe, the handbook often lists that no studies on the safety during pregnancy or lactation were identified.

In general, the safest approach to using herbs during pregnancy is to avoid most of them during the first trimester unless you can work directly with a knowledgeable healthcare provider, midwife, or clinical herbalist. Herb use during the first trimester is generally reserved for medically indicated complications where herbs are a safer option than pharmaceutical medications (e.g. nausea, excessive vomiting, cold and flu). When taking herbs throughout the rest of pregnancy take low amounts, choose gentle and nutritive herbs, and avoid any plants that would stimulate the uterus. During breastfeeding, anything ingested by the nursing parent can be passed along to a newborn. So similar standards apply when taking herbs during lactation.

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Recommended Herbs For Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

To be extra cautious, all of our herbal formulas should be avoided during your first trimester of pregnancy. We also recommend consulting with your primary healthcare provider before taking herbs during any stage of pregnancy and during breastfeeding. During these times, we also recommend decreasing the recommended daily intake to ½ tsp of any single herb or formula.

Moringa

Moringa is referred to as the “Miracle Tree” and is considered one the healthiest foods on the planet. Moringa is regarded as one of the top ten sustainable plants that can help feed the world over the next century. Moringa has been traditionally used to support the diet during pregnancy and lactation as it is rich in essential minerals, including iron and calcium. The iron content per milligram is up to 14 times higher than what’s found in one serving of beef. It also has a long history of use in breast milk production postpartum. Recent research on the nutritious leaves have shown its value for the health of the fetus during development as well as the health of the parent.

Chlorella

Chlorella is a nutrient-dense algae that contains a wide array of essential vitamins, minerals, and protein that are essential for a healthy pregnancy. In particular, it contains vitamin D and B12 which are essential vitamins often absent in plants. In addition to its incredible nutrient content, the freshwater seaweed assists our detoxification pathways by helping to remove heavy metals and toxins. Modern society comes with its fair share of heavy metal exposure which can lead to an array of health risks! Research has shown its possible benefits during pregnancy for decreasing dioxins (toxic chemical compounds from environmental pollutants) in the body.

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This herbal formula was crafted to provide benefits for both the digestive and musculoskeletal systems. The primary ingredient in the formula is turmeric rhizome which has been utilized in Ayurvedic medicine for over 4,000 years to support overall energy in the body and move stagnation. Curcumin—the main active ingredient in turmeric—has been well researched for its ability to support immune system modulation and help the body respond to inflammation. The formula also contains ginger which is known to decrease feelings of nausea and bloating. A small amount of the formula contains astragalus root which is packed with prebiotic fiber to support the lower GI tract and aid in feeding beneficial gut bacteria. We would not recommend astragalus in high amounts during pregnancy but as a minor ingredient in the formula, there is a safer amount of the herb in a ½ tsp serving.

Shatavari

Shatavari root is a traditional Ayurvedic nutritive tonic used to help promote hormonal wellbeing, aid in milk production postpartum, and serve as a general adaptogen for supporting the body’s stress response. Postpartum, the nourishing root can help support immunity which is often weakened shortly after childbirth. A double-blind study revealed that the intake of shatavari could help establish early lactation for new breastfeeding parents through increasing prolactin levels.

Conclusion

Herbs can be a great way to support your overall health and wellbeing during pregnancy. Everyone’s body and pregnancy are unique so no herbal health plan is a one size fits all solution but the herbs above can offer meaningful support for promoting overall wellness during this precious time.

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Written by Casie G.

Clinical Herbalist