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Herbs are all the rage these days–especially with the growing trends of homesteading and sustainable living.  Indeed, they offer a variety of uses ranging from flavoring the food we eat to treating ailments.

With herbs being so widely available, and easy to grow, it can be easy to forget that they do not come with an FDA warning.  And due to the notion that if it’s grown in a garden, it must be good for you (not always true), the dangers of some herbs can be missed.

Pregnancy is an especially vulnerable time for the developing embryo as well as the mother, and warrants a review of herbs to avoid when you’re pregnant (and some to continue avoiding during breastfeeding).  Here is a list of just 16 common herbs to avoid in one form or another during pregnancy.  This is not an inclusive list.  Just because an herb is not on this list does not mean it is safe during pregnancy.

Always do your own research regarding herbs before using and/or ingesting them.  (See resources at the end.)

Angelica (Angelica archangelica)

  • Do no use medicinally while pregnant, as angelica can induce miscarriage.

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)

  • Black cohosh can cause reduced progesterone levels in women and thus should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Black cohosh is a uterine stimulant.  As such, it can induce abortion.  This can be confusing, because it may actually be used in the first trimester to decrease uterine spasms and act as an anti-abortive agent.  Lack of research should guide you not to use during lactation, and specifically only under the supervision of a qualified herbalist should you ever use it during pregnancy.  

Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)

  • Do not use medicinally during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Cowslip (Primula veris)

  • Cowslip is known to slow blood clotting when used medicinally, and should therefore not be ingested or used otherwise during pregnancy.

Ginseng (Panax spp.)

  • Do not use during pregnancy.

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

  • Although goldenseal is used by women internally by root decoction to reduce heavy menstrual bleeding, it also has effects on blood pressure, and thus should be avoided during pregnancy and nursing.
  • Goldenseal is also a uterine stimulant, yet another reason not to use it during pregnancy.

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticanna)

  • Over-consumption of horseradish in general can cause GI irritation.  Women who are pregnant should avoid large amounts.
  • In any concentration, used medicinally, horseradish is an abortifacient (a drug that induces abortion).

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

  • Do not use medicinally when pregnant.  Hyssop is an abortifacient.

Lovage (Levisticum officinale)

  • Lovage is occasionally used as a treatment for water retention, and should therefor not be used medicinally during pregnancy to avoid fluid volume complications.

Marjoram, Sweet (Origanum majorana)

  • Leaf infusions of sweet marjoram can be used for painful menstruation, but should be stopped completely during pregnancy.  Do not use medicinally during pregnancy.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

  • Leaf infusions of oregano can be used for painful menstruation, but should be stopped completely during pregnancy.  Do not use medicinally during pregnancy.

Parsley (Petroseliunum crispum)

  • Large doses of parsley are known to irritate the kidneys.  Avoid using parsley medicinally during pregnancy.

Rue (Ruta graveolens)

  • Rue is used to induce spontaneous abortions.
  • It can cause rashes and irritations.  Do not use, consume, or even handle rue during pregnancy.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

  • Sage contains estrogen, and is a uterine stimulant.  It is suggested to be used with extreme caution during pregnancy or lactation.  My personal inclination would be to avoid it altogether during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Thyme (Thymus species & cultivars)

  • Do not use medicinally during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

  • Although yarrow is used as a leaf infusion or tincture internally for regulating menstrual cycle, heavy menstrual bleeding and/or menstrual pain, all medicinal use should stop during pregnancy.
  • Do not use yarrow medicinally during pregnancy.
  • Avoid flower infusion in baths during pregnancy as well.


With so many things that can go wrong all on their own during pregnancy, avoiding these herbs is one thing you can control.  Make sure to research any herbs you are considering using during your pregnancy and lactation periods.  I am in no way an expert, and this list in not all inclusive.

Herbs have a wide range of uses from flavoring foods to treating ailments. But many should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation. Here are a list of common herbs to avoid during pregnancy.



Oster, Maggie;  Ortho’s All About Herbs; Meredith Books, Meredith Publishing Group, 1999.

Skidmore-Roth, Linda;  Mosby’s Handbook of Herbs & Natural Supplements 2nd Edition; Mosby, 2004.


Photo Credits:  Hyssop, Better Hens And Gardens.  Lovage, Timber Creek Farmer.  Sage, One Ash Homestead.  Yarrow, Seeking Joyful Simplicity.  Thank you ladies for sharing your pictures with me!