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Is it safe to drink herbal tea during pregnancy?

February 2020

Some teas prepared with medicinal plants, such as aloe vera, ivy (Hedera helix) and guaco (Mikania glomerata), for example, are not recommended during pregnancy, because they can harm your baby's development.

So, in order to avoid risking harming your own and your baby's life, you should only take medicines and teas recommended by your obstetrician, because in many cases, besides the characteristic toxicity of the plant, herbs that grow on the roadside and those harvested on a farm may be contaminated by car pollution or pesticides.

List of some herbals that can harm pregnancy

Other plants and herbs that can be considered toxic and can lead to a miscarriage are:

Catuaba (Erythroxylum catuaba)

Garden angelica

Birthwort

Arnica

Artemísia (Artemisia absinthium)

Alexandrian senna

Chinese senna

Wormseed (Dysphania ambrosioides)

Cinnamon

Job's tears

Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)

Copaíba (Copaifera langsdorffii)

White angel trumpet or angel’s tears 

Fringed pink (Dianthus superbus)

Erva grossa (Elephantopus scaber)

Greater celandine

Honeyweed (Leonurus sibiricus)

Chinaberry tree (Melia azedarach )

Peppermint

Nutmeg

Chanca piedra (Phyllanthus niruri)

Peony 

Jaborandi (Pilocarpus jaborandi)

Broadleaf plantain (Plantago major)

Water-pepper (Polygonon acre)

Pursulane (Portulaca olerácea)

Peach tree

Pomegranate

Jequiriti (Abrus precatorius)

Starburr (Acanthospermum australe)

Guaçatonga (Casearia sylvestris)

Madagascar perwinkle (Catharanthus roseus)

Boldo

Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)

Basil

Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia seguine)

Horsetail (Equisetum)

Agoniada (Himatanthus lancifolius)

 Common rue (Ruta sp.)

 Sage

Common comfrey (Symphutum officinale)

Saião (Kalanchoe brasiliensis)

Bitter melon (Momordica charantia)

Jarrinha (Aristolochia triangularis)

Physic nut (Jatropha curcas)

Cotton plant

Buchinha (Luffa operculata)

Cascara buckthorn (Rhamus pursiana)

Rhubarb

Common smilax (Smilax áspera)

Jurubeba (Solanum paniculatum)

 

There are greater chances of complications when a woman regularly consumes these plants during pregnancy or when she ingests large quantities of these teas at one time, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy. Although the risks lessen over time, there is still a risk of them harming your pregnancy in the second and third trimester of gestation.

What can happen if you consume these herbs

If you are pregnant and consume one or some of these medicinal plants, they may increase uterine contractions, which can cause intense abdominal pain, leading to blood loss by the vagina and consequently the loss of the fetus. However, in some women, miscarriage does not happen, but the toxicity of the herbs reaches the baby and may cause serious changes, compromising their motor and brain development.

Sometimes toxicity leads to a contraction so strong that it promotes the expulsion of the fetus, but this may be an incomplete miscarriage and the remains of the fetus and placenta remain trapped inside the uterus and if this happens it can lead to an infection, which may even lead to the mother's death. The signs that may indicate infection after a miscarriage can include severe abdominal pain, fever and chills, so if that is your case, you should go to the ER quickly so that the infection can be contained and treated.

The toxicity of these plants that are considered unfit for use during pregnancy can also cause severe kidney complications, and sometimes a kidney transplant may be necessary.

Is tea completely forbidden during pregnancy?

You should only drink teas during pregnancy if your doctor advised you to, because most of the plants and herbs used to make tea are actually not recommended during pregnancy, as they may induce contractions and, consequently, a miscarriage. However, there are some teas that may be consumed by pregnant women if the doctor recommends them, such as chamomile tea, lavender, lemon balm and fennel, for example, as they have a calming and relaxing effect, which can also help in milk production.

Although you can drink these teas during pregnancy, as they do not pose any risks to your health and your baby's, it is important that you do not drink tea excessively and that the doctor is made aware of the fact.

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References

  • MINISTÉRIO DA SAÚDE. Plantas medicinais para uso na gravidez, parto e durante a amamentação. 20. Available on: <https://www.saude.sc.gov.br/index.php/documentos/atencao-basica/rede-cegonha/eventos-2/oficina-de-fortalecimendo-do-pre-natal/modulo-ii/9309-4-plantas-na-gestacao-qualisus-rede-cegonha/file>. Access in 28 Sep 2020
  • EUROPEAN MEDICINES AGENCY . Assessment report on Salvia officinalis L., folium and Salvia officinalis L., aetheroleum. Available on: <https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/herbal-report/final-assessment-report-salvia-officinalis-l-folium-salvia-officinalis-l-aetheroleum-revision-1_en.pdf>. Access in 28 Sep 2020
  • EUROPA MEDICINES AGENCY. Assessment report on Symphytum officinale L., radix . Available on: <https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/herbal-report/draft-assessment-report-symphytum-officinale-l-radix_en.pdf>. Access in 28 Sep 2020
  • Araújo et al. Use of Medicinal Plants with Teratogenic and Abortive Effects by Pregnant Women in a City in Northeastern Brazil. RBGO Gynecology and Obstetrics. 3. 38; 127-131, 2016
  • VILJOEN, Estelle et al.. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting. Nutrition Journal. 13-20, 2014
  • EXAMINE.COM. Caffeine. Available on: <https://examine.com/supplements/caffeine/>. Access in 10 May 2019
  • TIRAN, Denise. Ginger to reduce nausea and vomiting during pregnancy: Evidence of effectiveness is not the same as proof of safety. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 22-25, 2012
  • MILLS, Edward et al.. Herbal Medicines in Pregnancy & Lactation: An Evidence-Based Approach. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis, 2006.
  • MEDEIROS, Ana Paula Oliveira. O uso de plantas medicinais por mulheres durante o período gestacional com fins abortivos. Monografia (Graduação em Farmácia), 2016. Faculdade de Farmácia, da Universidade de Rio Verde - UniRV.
  • TELESSAÚDE SANTA CATARINA. Plantas Medicinais na Gestação. Available on: <https://repositorio.ufsc.br/bitstream/handle/123456789/170067/Slides%20-%20Plantas%20Medicinais%20na%20gesta%C3%A7%C3%A3o.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y>. Access in 04 Apr 2019
  • GORRIL, Letícia Englerth et al.. Risco das plantas medicinais na gestação uma revisão dos dados de acesso livre em língua portuguesa. Arq. Ciênc. Saúde UNIPAR. vol.20. 67-72, 2016
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