Safety First: Herbal Medicine and Breastfeeding

For many women, especially while breastfeeding, herbal medicine may pose as a good alternative to conventional therapies. Despite the prevalence of the use of herbs during postpartum and lactation, there is very little published evidence with regards to their safety and efficacy. Just because some things are “more natural,” does not mean that these products are devoid of potential side effects or interactions with other medications. In fact, without the appropriate information, there can be a significant safety risk for both mom and baby.

In our technological age, it can be difficult to discern what information to believe and what herbs have thorough research to support their recommendations for use. The following list of herbal medicines during lactation has been developed after careful grading of quality of evidence supporting the use or disuse of these herbs. The information has been drawn from all available studies in this area.

Herbal Medicine Safety Scale:

SAFE

CAUTION

UNSAFE

UNKNOWN

Cranberry

Echinacea

Borage

Evening Primrose Oil

Fenugreek

Flax

Garlic

Korean Ginseng

Senna

Tumeric

Aconite

Alfalfa

Aloe

Black Cohosh

Blazing Star

Blue Cohosh

Chastetree

Coffee

Deadly nightshade

Fennel

Foxglove

Gentian

Green tea

Juniper

Kava

Lemon balm

Licorice

Nettle

Parsley

Passionflower

Red clover

St. John’s Wort

Yarrow

Barberry

Calamus

Ephedra

Goldenseal

Oregon grape

Pennyroyal

Ashwaghanda

Astragalus

Calendula

Cranberry

Damiana

Dandelion

Dong quai

 False Unicorn

Feverfew

      Ginger

       Ginkgo

Guggul

  Hawthorn

Horsechestnut

Milk Thistle

Peppermint

Raspberry

Siberian Ginseng

Squaw Vine

Valerian

Wild Yam

(Herbal Medicines in Pregnancy & Lactation: an evidence-based approach, 2006.)

Note: It is important to have your health care provider or pharmacist check for any possible interactions between medications and natural health products prior to using them.

References:

Mills, E., Duguoa, JJ., Perri, D., Koren, G.  Herbal Medicine in Pregnancy and Lactation: an evidence-based approach. 2006.

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Kristi Prince
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Dr. Kristi Prince, ND is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, who empowers her patients through health education, equipping them with the tools to make long-term sustainable changes. Kristi believes in supporting ‘healthy mothers for healthy families’ by providing holistic, individualized treatment plans. Dr. Kristi Prince is passionate about working with new mothers and women at all stages in life, in order to help them achieve their goals for optimal health and wellbeing.
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