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5 Safe Herbs for a More Comfortable Pregnancy and Better Birth

Like those of you who are pregnant, as a mom of 4 kids, I am no stranger to some of those miserable common symptoms that can plague pregnancy. For me it was awful first trimester nausea and then later, occasional insomnia.

As a midwife and medical doctor I have been using herbs in my practice with pregnant women for over 25 years and have found them to be helpful in treating many of the symptoms we have during those nine months of growing our babies including nausea, insomnia, yeast infections, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids. They can even tone your uterus for labor.

I want to introduce you to 5 of my favorite herbs known to be safe for use in pregnancy. At the bottom of this post you can also download an article that I wrote for Mothering Magazine called Herbs for the Mother-to-Be.

Are herbs safe during pregnancy?

Pregnant women commonly experience minor symptoms such as nausea, colds, and insomnia for which natural remedies can actually be gentler and safer than pharmaceuticals – many of which lack proof of safety in pregnancy or are known to be harmful.

While there is limited scientific research on the safe use of most herbs in pregnancy, there is good evidence of safety for several.

Overall, most herbs that are traditionally used to support pregnancy are safe for use in moderation. There have been almost no reports of adverse outcomes in pregnant women, and when they have occurred, it has been from using herbs that are not considered safe in pregnancy, or from products that have been tainted with unsafe herbs or even pharmaceutical additives – which has mostly been a problem with imported products from China and India.

Using herbs during pregnancy

The safest approach is to avoid using herbs during the first trimester of pregnancy unless necessary (for example, ginger for treating morning sickness), to only use those herbs known to be safe in pregnancy, and to consult with an experienced midwife, herbalist, or MD on the safe use of herbs in pregnancy.

There are many herbs whose use in pregnancy is definitely not safe for baby. A basic list of these can be found in the Mothering article.

Beverage teas that are known to be safe in moderate amounts (e.g., red raspberry, spearmint, chamomile, lemon balm, nettles, rose hips), and ingestion of normal amounts of cooking spices are considered safe in pregnancy.

Herbs considered safe in pregnancy

These 5 herbs are known to be safe during pregnancy and can help with a variety of common discomforts and problems while helping prepare your body for a healthy birth.

1. Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) for morning sickness

I think I’d rather go through natural labor without an epidural faster than I’d repeat those horrible weeks of morning sickness I experienced! I remember getting home from a particularly eventful car ride through the mountains during the early part of one of my pregnancies, laying flat on the living room floor, and telling my husband to just let me die now. I am sure I was green.

Ginger is a spicy, aromatic herb with which many of you are familiar for cooking. Did you know it has been shown to be safe and effective in treating morning sickness?

There are several ways to use ginger in pregnancy. Tea and capsules are commonly recommended in books and other sources, but my experience is that drinking warm or even cool tea when you are already sick to your stomach is not fun, and may even make you hurl! Ditto on capsules sitting in your stomach and the water or juice you need to take to chase them. Try these ginger products instead:

  • Ginger candies and crystalized ginger: Reed’s makes great ginger products. I learned to keep a small stash of ginger candies or pieces of crystalized ginger in my handbag at all times. It’s not 100% fool proof — sometimes that nausea can outsmart even ginger — but it really can cut the edge and ease your tummy. It can be nibbled in small amounts throughout the day; large quantities are not needed and in fact, up to 1 gm of what would be equal to the dried powder is the recommended daily dose.
  • Ginger Ale: while drinking soda is not ideal in pregnancy, treating nausea trumps and ginger ale is a great way to get in some ginger. The carbonation also helps many pregnant women with nausea symptoms. You can make your own ginger ale by grating 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger root and squeezing the juice into some carbonated water (plain or lemon flavored), adding some honey, cane sugar, or maple syrup to sweeten it, or you can get a good quality ginger ale with real ginger. Reed’s makes a good one of those, too.

Note: persistent or repeated vomiting in pregnancy can be a medical problem. Consult your midwife or doctor if you experience anything beyond typical morning sickness symptoms.

2. Red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) for an easier labor

This herb is a mineral rich tonic, traditionally used to support a healthy pregnancy and tone the uterus to help a woman prepare for birth. Some studies have shown that it can help to expedite labor and reduce complications and interventions associated with birth.

Since it doesn’t have the most pleasant taste when taken as a tea by itself, I generally recommend mixing it with some spearmint and rose hips for a delicious tea that can be taken daily, 1-2 cups throughout the second and third trimesters. The recommended dose is from 1.5 – 5 gm daily in tea.

Pregnancy Tea

2 tbsp red raspberry leaf

2 tsp spearmint leaf

2 tsp rose hips

Mix together and place into a reusable tea bag. Steep in 8 oz of boiling water for 20 minutes, strain and drink 1-2 cups daily.

3. Echinacea (Echinacea spp) for colds

Pregnant women get colds just like everyone else, and because natural hormonal changes in pregnancy already make your nose feel stuffy and a big belly can make it feel harder to breathe, colds and coughs can be extra miserable.

Echinacea has been shown to reduce the length of colds and also prevent them from recurring. It can be used either during a cold or to prevent them. It does not actually help with cold symptoms, but our friend ginger does! Ginger can reduce chills, coughing, and aching muscles when taken as a hot tea using 1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger per cup of boiling water, 1-3 cups daily.

Echinacea is best used in the form of a tincture, which does contain a small amount of alcohol, but this tiny amount is not considered dangerous when taken in the recommended dose of up to 5 mL of the tincture (about 1 measured teaspoon) up to twice daily. Capsules can also be used according to recommended package dosing for individual products, if you are uncomfortable with using a product containing alcohol during pregnancy.

4. Cranberry (Vaccinium Macrocarpon) for UTI prevention

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common during pregnancy. Medically they are treated with antibiotics the first time, and if a second infection occurs, the medical recommendation is to place pregnant women on antibiotics for the entire pregnancy to prevent further infections.

While cranberry should not be used to substitute for appropriate medical care, it has been shown in numerous studies to prevent UTIs. If you have a history of them, or have had one already during pregnancy, talk with your midwife or doctor about trying cranberry for prevention. While antibiotics are sometimes necessary, newer research is showing that exposure to antibiotics during pregnancy can have long-term consequences on our babies, including development of asthma and inflammatory bowel disease.

Cranberry can be used in the form of cranberry juice (even Ocean Spray has been shown to work, but I recommend less sugary types from the natural foods store or fresh juice made at home in a juicer using ½ cup of fresh frozen cranberries and 2 apples) or cranberry capsules dosed as recommended on the product.

Note: Untreated UTIs in pregnancy can cause serious problems; if you suspect you have one, consult your midwife or doctor.

5. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) for better sleep

Pregnancy is often a time of disturbed sleep whether from vivid dreams, new concerns over becoming a mom, or the discomfort of your growing belly making it hard to find just the right position. One of my favorite herbs for gently and safely promoting relaxation and sleep is chamomile. It is soothing for your tummy and tastes delicious, too.

Chamomile can be taken up to several cupfuls daily if you are stressed, and taken before bed for sleep. I generally recommend 1-2 cups in the evening, but do not drink tea within an hour of going to sleep or you’ll surely be up to pee (though this happens in pregnancy anyway!). To make chamomile tea steep 1 large or 2 small tea bags in 8 oz of boiling water for up to 10 minutes, or better yet, purchase organic chamomile blossoms from a company like Mountain Rose Herbs online and brew yourself a small teapot full using 1 tablespoon of the herb per 8 oz of water.


Herbs can provide substantial relief for common complaints and concerns that arise during pregnancy and childbirth. Nonetheless, like any medicines, they should be used with caution. Many herbs that have not been evaluated may nonetheless offer simple, safe, gentle, and effective solutions for common problems of pregnancy, ranging from anemia to yeast infections.

Herbs for the mom-to-be: Sound advice for using medicinal plants to treat common pregnancy ailments
Mothering January • February 2008


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  1. Je lis ces articles et je sens beaucoup de douceur derrière ces propos.

  2. Dr. David McNiff says:

    This is a list of foods. There are so many herbs and supplements which are applicable for pregnant and nursing mothers. Big Pharma has essentially paralyzed the health industry with fear. There are many qualified practitioners who are very comfortable and successful with real herbal combinations and formulae, many of which have been around for over 1800 years. It’s time to not harbour so much fear, seek a qualified practitioner, and realize things such as pregnancy are not an illness to suffer through.

  3. Jessica-Alice Hopkins says:

    You failed to point out the taking Raspberry Leaf tea in the first trimester is dangerous!

    • There is no evidence that RRL is dangerous during the first trimester. It is not an abortifacient and is not toxic. It is very unlikely to cause contractions. However, I do generally recommend no herbs during the first trimester unless medically needed.

    • Raspberry leaf tea saved my baby when I was at risk of miscarriage my first trimester. Had a blood clot on my placenta that the tea helped to obsorb into my body without harming baby after massive bleeding.

  4. You left out lavender, it is also safe. Good article though.

  5. I think I will go for ginger because I normally have morning sickness

  6. Thanks – this is a great post! I drank a pregnancy tea with RRL for one of my pregnancies. I think it was SO helpful during and after. Unfortunately, I experienced preterm labor last pregnancy. Is it contraindicated for people who have experienced preterm labor?

  7. Kristina Gatewood says:

    Jessica Alice, you failed to read her article then. She said she doesn’t generally recommend herbs in the first trimester. Read thoroughly before you make such comments. :)

  8. I was under the impression that the Nourishment Tea from your pregnancy book is safe throughout all of pregnancy, but now that I am reading this post I am second-guessing… Did I read the book incorrectly?

    • yes it is safe though i have removed the comfrey from the tea as data emerged on it not being safe since the original book came out. that said, i’ve not received one single report of a problem in over 20 years! no worries if you’ve had to old version — just remove the comfrey.

      • Thank you for responding. I was mostly concerned that maybe the tea was not safe for the first trimester after I read this post… I have the 2003 edition of your book, and it is by far my most loved and used pregnancy book! I am looking forward to reading the upcoming edition as well.

  9. Thank you sooooo much for this wonderful, informative article!!! It’s been extremely helpful to me!

  10. Hi there,
    A few comments:
    Echinacea tincture does come in a non-alcohol, glycerin-based form from the company Herb Pharm (easy to find in many health food stores).
    In your Mothering article you listed coffee under herbs to avoid. I have been allowing small amounts of coffee because it is usually stated that under 150mg caffeine/day is fine. Is there a reason I should be avoiding it altogether? I am now 19 weeks pregnant (my first at 43!) and would be grateful if you could let me know. A little bit has helped with fatigue.
    Thanks so much,

    • Coffee is not optimal in pregnancy — 150 mg is the max safe dose — but that doesn’t mean everything under that is ok. It’s not entirely harmful, but the caffeine does reach the baby, and it also affects your stess hormones, blood sugar, and can affect appetite. I’m sure you’ve not caused any harm so no worries- but it’s not on my list of yeah, sure, no problem. Best with your pregnancy and baby! :)

  11. Can anyone tell me whether Rooibos organic earl gray is safe during pregnancy, I am 5 months pregnant and I love tea.

    • i don’t know of any problems with rooibos, but black and green tea should be kept to a limit. congrats on baby!

  12. Melissa says:

    I’ve had recurrent miscarriages and nothing has come up in the testing indicating why, but I’m told my testosterone level is slightly high. I’m looking into natural ways to reduce that, in case it’s contributing to the problem, but as you can imagine I’m very nervous about anything I ingest. In my case, would you recommend spearmint tea? Would you suggest discontinuing for the first trimester? (All my losses have been in the first trimester, although one was at 12 weeks.)

    • Hi Melissa
      Sorry to hear that you’ve struggled with miscarriage. I will be offering many blogs on my website in the months to come about preventing miscarriage. I don’t think spearmint would help or hurt…Much more to come! Please stay tuned. Best wishes, Aviva

  13. Thanks for this great post on herbs during pregnancy. I am finding crystallized ginger and Reed’s candies to be very helpful for morning sickness but can only find the 1 gm/ day dried ginger root recommendation. Do you have any sense of how much crystallized ginger is equivalent to one 250 mg capsule? Thank you.

  14. Tanx a million Aviva. U’r truely great.

  15. I am currently 16 weeks pregnant with my second child. I am having terrible insomnia. I have an herbal formula containing Passionflower, Valerian and Hops. It is the only thing that has remotely helped so far. I am concerned however that I see Hops on the avoid list. Also, I am getting conflicting information about the other two herbs as well. Many websites or books say no, but my midwife said all three are safe.

    I am also wondering about the use of thereputic grade essential oils topically or internally. If they are pure are they ok?
    Please help! Thank you!

  16. thanks for the post..i am on my first trimestr of first pregnancy…nowadays suffering from strong tendency of vomitting..cant eat food well..happy to hear that ginger is good to overcome that..thanks a ton

  17. Are there any teas that are good for a sore throat? How about spearmint or chamomile tea with honey? Are those safe? Thank you so much for all the information in this article. I learned something new!

    • Yes, there are some great teas for sore throat. Licorice and peppermint is classic, as is a sage gargle. Salt water gargles are safe for everyone! Do more often than you’d expect – 1/4 tsp salt to 1/4 cup warm water. Gargle every 2 hrs. And there are some wonderful throat sprays from some great herbal companies. Check out the one by Urban Moonshine on their website! ~ AR

  18. Hi Aviva,
    Thank you for all of this wonderful information! I am only in my 6th week of pregnancy but am experiencing severe insomnia…usually I would take a blend of skullcap and valerian root but i doubt these are safe. Hopefully the chamomile helps!

  19. I’m 10 weeks and I have morning sickness everyday I can’t take it no more. I have ginger tea in front of me right now, and I don’t know if I should drink it. I’m scared. I didn’t really read the article I just kind of scrolled threw it. What should I do? Drink it?

    • I know it’s my first trimester but I can’t help it no more. My morning sickness is really bad. I just want to cry.

      • Hi Vicky. If your sickness is really bad so y can’t keep anything down,maybe y should seek a medical advice. Tea will not harm baby, but continues sickness, when y actually become hehydrated, will. Speak to yr nurse and make sure they do urine test. Good luck.

  20. I am pregnant for the first time, almost at the end of 12 weeks. At my last midwife appointment, my urine test showed protein levels of +1 and I am concerned. Glucose was normal. My bp was normal at 108/68 so I think it may be a bladder infection or uti, rather than sign of preeclampsia. I have had a lot of nausea but no vomiting during the first trimester. I was happy to come across your article as everything else I have read regarding echinacea during pregnancy is inconclusive. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations? I am taking cranberry concentrate, liquid acidophilus and echinacea. I am having trouble distinguishing normal pregnancy symptoms from infection or sickness. Thank you!

    • Hi Miriam
      There is very little value to checking urine for protein in the first trimester, and in fact, it is a bit outdated to check it routinely. At 12 weeks it is highly unlikely to be preeclampsia or any sort of problem. A urine culture should show an infection if you have one. If you don’t have a UTI you don’t need to take all of those supplements! I’d revisit with your midwife — and if she’s not able to give you the info you need, midwife shopping is totally appropriate — or see a family doc or OB for another opinion. Hope that helps! Aviva

  21. Hi there,
    A little off topic maybe, but I need to know….
    Do you have any information or experience with artichoke extract (5:1) during pregnancy?
    I took one capsule on two separate occasions and, while it had the positive result I was hoping for I am worried about taking more as I can’t seem to find any information other that the disclaimer that there is no information!
    Anything you can tell me would be super appreciated.
    Thanks in advance!

  22. aizamaeoso says:

    hi im in my 4th mo and im coughing but not that serious i drink oregano leaves ( coction) is it safe for my baby maam pls answer me im drinking calamansi juice too

    • Oregano tea is not typically recommended as safe in pregnancy; it’s probably ok for a few days as long as you’re not in the first trimester. Simple honey is a safe option, and soothing lozenges like slippery elm are also safe. If you can get it, please see my pregnancy book for further ideas.

  23. Are goji berries safe to eat while pregnant?

  24. Have you seen the herbs in vegan shakeology? Do you know if those are safe? Like Ashwaganda, etc.

  25. Hi is elderberry safe during pregnancy?

    • Elderberry syrup can be used for a week or so safely in pregnancy, though I generally avoid most herbs in first trimester unless necessary, and be careful about the sugar content is the elderberry is made with honey. Best, aviva

  26. Last year when i was 18 weeks pregnant and my water broke, at 21 weeks i lost my child. Can you please advise me of what type of herbs are suitable for me.

    • Hi Virgina
      I am so sorry that you’ve have such a tough experience. The herb I use for mommas who have had such a loss is motherwort extract. It is very helpful for rebalancing hormones and restoring uterine tone, while easing the heart and emotions. I wish you the best. Aviva

  27. preparing the herbs I intend on using during my home birth. artical and comments are very informative. thank you!

  28. Hello Aviva,
    Im 5 weeks pregnant and Im concerned that I may miscarry again like I did 3 years ago. I have been drinking herbal teas such as chamomile, peppermint, ginger and lemon, rosehip and forest berry tea. I just found out yesterday that most of these herbal tea is not recommended during 1st trimester. Is there any herb tea you can recommend to prevent miscarriage? I’m really worried that I will miscarry again. Can you please assist me?

    • Hi Christie,
      So sorry you have to have this worry. Ginger, chamomile, rosehips, and mint are fine in first trimester — you don’t have to worry about the herbs you’ve been taking at all! Most miscarriages do not repeat. It’s usually a one time sad event. But the worry the next pregnancy can be awful. As for herbs that prevent miscarriage, it really depends on the causes — low progesterone, a methylfolate issue, nutritional, a chromosomal issue, other hormonal issues. I’d recommend looking on line for the issue of Plant Healers Magazine where I write an article on miscarriage for herbalists in practice. And I’ll do a blog on this but it probably won’t be soon enough. Hope all goes well and you can put this behind you. Sending you the best wishes.

  29. I know you were asked last year about the shakeology shakes and you weren’t familiar with it. I was wandering if you or anybody on here knew if it is safe during pregnancy. I am 19 weeks and I have been told it is safe but only by a few people I work with who drink it. Also, is kava kava safe for relaxation?

  30. Hi! I was wondering your thoughts on this hot cocktail to relieve son bronchial irritation. 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, ground ginger, cloves and honey. I’m 5 1/2 months pregnant and a cup of this helped me get some decent sleep.

    • Ginger is considered perfectly safe up to 1 gm in pregnancy. Honey is best for cough; otherwise I generally recommend herbs like marshmallow and slippery elm for bronchial irritation, whereas those other herbs are more antimicrobial. I don’s usually recommend cloves internally in pregnancy for prolonged use though I am sure a few doses did not harm. Best, Aviva

  31. I am 15 weeks. I got a cold recently and started drinking some herbal tea I had because I didn’t thing anything of it. But now looking it up im worried…

    its mint medley tea
    and the ingredients say

    peppermint leaves
    spearmint leaves
    rose hips
    lemon peel


    …. is this safe ?????????

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