Many people automatically assume that ‘natural’ means healthy as well as ‘safe’. However, in reality many ‘natural’ ingredients and some plants can be potent – such as the beautiful but adeptly named deadly nightshade and foxglove. Certain herbs and natural medicines may also have properties which may need to be limited or avoided, especially during pregnancy.
When I started researching the best herbal teas during pregnancy, I naively thought it would be a fairly simple journey. Unfortunately that wasn’t exactly the case.
The safety of herbal teas during pregnancy
Herbal teas can be a bit of a minefield during pregnancy, to say the least!
You might be forgiven for thinking that as herbal teas are made from natural herbs and plants, they are likely to be safe to consume during pregnancy. However, this is not quite accurate and, in fact, throughout history herbs have been used for their medicinal properties and ‘pharmocological activity’ in the body. Certain herbs have been known to be used as contraceptives, and to stimulate the uterus walls, making them a potential concern for women who are pregnant.
It’s important to note that negative effects resulting from herb intakes are incredibly rare. Single reports of harmful effects are usually seen only when these herbs have been taken in large concentrated doses and over long periods of time.
Recommendations for herbal teas during pregnancy
However, due to lack of much in the way of evidence or data around herbs and their uses during pregnancy the NHS and the Food Standards Agency in the UK recommend having no more than around 4 cups of herbal tea a day during pregnancy. It’s also a good idea to vary the types of herbal tea you have each day, so you’re not getting a large dose of one type of herb throughout your pregnancy.
This maximum intake is set just a precaution and, ultimately, any herbs that are consumed in moderate amounts during pregnancy are unlikely to have an impact on you or your developing baby. Additionally we know that the herbs that are commonly used in everyday cooking are unlikely to be harmful in the quantities usually contained within our foods.
For further information on herbal medicines and herbal tea consumptions during pregnancy see this NHS link which was updated in March 2017.
Ultimately the most sensible advice for people who want to drink herbal teas during pregnancy is:
- Stick to no more than 4 cups of herbal tea a day
- Opt for a variety of different teas so you’re not having too much of any one kind
- Avoid medicinal or therapeutic doses of herbs and always check with your health professional before taking any
Herbal teas to limit during pregnancy
However there is evidence from limited research and a comprehensive study from The Tea Advisory Panel (TAP) – written by Dr Chris Etheridge and Dr Carrie Ruxton – that these herbal teas, specifically, should be consumed in moderation:
- Fennel Seed
- Yerba Mate
What about Raspberry Leaf Tea during pregnancy?
With raspberry leaf tea the evidence seems to be very mixed – some health visitors and midwives recommend it during the last trimester to help stimulate contractions and as a way of reducing labour time. However, there is little evidence that this tea actually has these effects and because it is known to stimulate the uterus, it’s often not advised to have during pregnancy at all, but especially not in the first trimester. Make sure you talk with your health care professional before using and check this NHS document on herbal medicines during pregnancy for more information.
Ultimately drinking herbal teas during pregnancy is very unlikely to cause harm, but as a precaution it makes sense to limit your intake to no more than 4 cups of herbal tea a day and vary the type that you’re having! Avoid herbal medicines during pregnancy too.
Next week’s blog post will talk all the best herbal tea options to consume during pregnancy as well as other fluid options to make sure you’re constantly keeping hydrated. See here for Herbal Teas During Pregnancy – Part 2.
In the meantime, if you haven’t seen it yet, check out my Vlog on Caffeine recommendations for pregnant women.
Disclaimer: The Tea Advisory Panel have kindly helped me with writing this article and checking the facts and stats but I have received NO endorsements or payment of any kind for this post and was not asked to write it for them.