10 Herbs To Avoid During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is stressful enough. Between the infinite amounts of reading to diet changes to trying to keep the pregnancy pains astray, it’s a lot to take in. And when the pregnancy pains hit, anyone tries to find the best home remedies around. But be careful, because quite a few herbs can cause damaging or even fatal effects on pregnant women and their unborn children. Here are 10 herbs to avoid during pregnancy:


Wormwood (Artemisia annua) is an herb native to Europe, but the aromatic herb can be found all over the world. It has been used for traditional medicinal uses, but was banned from the United States until 2007 for its hallucinogenic properties. While it has been helpful for many people, it is incredibly unsafe for pregnant women to consume. The National Library of Medicine[1] conducted a study that proved the harmful effects in pregnant rats, such as miscarriage, due to the large amount of an ingredient called thujone. It’s best to avoid it during pregnancy and anything topical as well. Wormwood is typically used for IBS, indigestion, and heartburn in the form of a mixed tea.

herbs to avoid during pregnancy

Blue cohosh

Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) is a plant found in the Midwest to Eastern parts of the United States and Canada. While beautiful, it is highly unsafe for pregnant women and children alike. For pregnant women, [2]it has been shown to cause birth defects, highly toxic to the mother, and can induce uterine contractions. For children, if they eat the berries, it’s incredibly poisonous. The plant is typically used to aid in women’s health problems, made in tea.



Jimsonweed[3] (Datura stramonium) is a plant in the nightshade family, whose leaves are commonly used to treat illness such as the flu or a cough. It’s also regularly used as a hallucinogenic for recreational purposes, since the components in it affect chemical messengers in the brain and the nerves. Due to its hallucinogenic properties, it’s incredibly unsafe for the mother to ingest or child to consume from breastfeeding afterwards.


Boldo (Peumus boldus) is a unique plant typically found in the Andes Mountains, specifically Chile, and has had a long history of medicinal purposes for gallstones. Despite being used as a folk remedy, it isn’t exactly[4] backed by traditional scientific research. However, due to a toxic compound in the plant, ascaridole, it’s considered dangerous to fetuses. Ascaridole is a toxic component known to cause heaps of negative health issues, so the amount in Boldo makes it unsafe.


Comfrey (Symphytum) is a dark rooted, flowering plant mainly found in moist grasslands throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States. For centuries, it’s been used for inflammatory problems and scrapes. Despite its long history, some researchers found it contains carcinogens and has been linked to possibly causing liver damage. This has led to the plant being banned from multiple countries[5] and being used as a topical cream, due to it absorbing into the skin. As for pregnant women, it’s no different, and can cause severe liver damage to even death. They contain up to 35 different species, so be aware of the possibilities.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort[6] (Hypericum perforatum) is a shrug native to Europe that is popularly used in tablets, teas, and topical care for mental illness treatments. Fun fact: it gets the name because it typically blooms around the birthday of biblical figure John the Baptist.Despite typically being used for treating depression and anxiety, it isn’t the best for couples trying to get pregnant or for pregnant women. In very fractional doses, it can bring ill effects on the sperm and egg, and potential genetic mutations that compromise the pregnancy.

Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens[7]) is a palm native to the southern parts of the United States and creates fruit from it. Oddly enough, it’s mainly used for reproductive issues for both men and women. It can aid in issues such as urinary infections, enlarged prostate glands, and chronic pelvic pains in tablet form primarily. Although, for pregnant women, it’s highly unsafe. Due to it aiding reproductive organs and issues, it acts as a hormone and can complicate the pregnancy. A study[8] concluded that giving hormones to pregnant women can cause malformations, for example.

close up of the red seed of A goldenseal plant, Hydrastis canadensis also known as yellow puccoon


Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) is a plant native to the southeastern region of Canada and the eastern United States. It is mainly commercially[9] made as a supplement for skin disorders, fevers, and even as a mouthwash for sore gums. Oddly enough, not much is known about the real benefits Goldenseal possesses. Although, due to a chemical compound within the plant, it’s been shown to possibly cause brain damage in newborns and make breast milk toxic if consumed.


Yohimbe (Pausinystalia johimbe) is an alkaloid derived primarily from the bark of two African trees and the bark contains a chemical called “yohimbine” that is commonly used for medical purposes. It also contains “hydrochloride,” a dangerous compound that makes it banned in some countries to use medically or recreationally. Studies[10] claim it can be used as an aphrodisiac to some and a hallucinogenic. Due to all of this, it is advised that pregnant women stay away because if they consume, it might affect the uterus or poison the unborn child.



Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) is a flowering plant typically found in Europe, North America, and the Middle East. It’s technically in the mint family, so it’s been used for folk remedies for centuries. However, many believe[11] it’s a toxic, outdated oil remedy. Despite the safety concerns, it’s still used for a variety of medicines used to treat colds, pneumonia, and liver problems. The oil has been found[12] to cause rapid onset of acute hepatic necrosis, or severe damage to the liver, in pregnant women. It’s even known as the “Herbal Aboriton Tea,” from a study by CUNY[13].

It’s important to read up on possible interactions with any herbs and pregnancy. Now, while this isn’t the entire list of potentially dangerous herbs to pregnant women, it’s a great start.

[1] AS;, H. (n.d.). Effects of Artemisia monosperma ethanolic leaves extract on implantation, mid-term abortion and parturition of pregnant rats. Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20083188/

[2] Dugoua JJ;Perri D;Seely D;Mills E;Koren G;. (n.d.). Safety and efficacy of blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) during pregnancy and lactation. Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18204101/

[3] St. John’s wort. (2017, October 13). Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-st-johns-wort/art-20362212

[4] Health Topics A-Z. (n.d.). Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://www.peacehealth.org/medical-topics/id/hn-2051007

[5] Comfrey: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. (n.d.). Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-295/comfrey

[6] St. John’s Wort and Depression: In Depth. (n.d.). Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/st-johns-wort-and-depression-in-depth

[7] Saw palmetto. (n.d.). Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://www.mottchildren.org/health-library/d04415a1

[8] Hemminki, E., Gissler, M., & Toukomaa, H. (1999, June). Exposure to female hormone drugs during pregnancy: Effect on malformations and cancer. Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2363045/

[9] Goldenseal. (n.d.). Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/goldenseal

[10] Yohimbe: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. (n.d.). Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-759/yohimbe

[11] Pennyroyal Oil. (2019, August 01). Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://www.poison.org/articles/2016-mar/pennyroyal-oil

[12] AC;, B. (n.d.). Liver toxicity related to herbs and dietary supplements: Online table of case reports. Part 2 of 5 series. Retrieved October 04, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27402097/

[13] Lewis, M. (2016). Drink Me and Abort Your Baby: The Herbal Abortion Tea. NY: CUNY Academics Work.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top