Many plants, particularly herbs, are well known for their medicinal properties and have been used to heal a number of health problems throughout history; however, there are also many deadly plants in the plant kingdom which are not only toxic but are of particular danger to pregnant women.
These deadly plants are capable of inducing an early labor, aborting a fetus or causing other pregnancy related complications. The list of herbs and oils to avoid during pregnancy is extensive; the web site Healthy.Net states that there are reputed to be 565 plant species from 125 plant families which should be avoided in pregnancy.
The Chemical Components of Dangerous Herbs and Oils for Pregnant Women
Plants are made up of a complex structure of many chemical components; the exact chemical components of dangerous herbs and oils to avoid during pregnancy varies, but some similarities between plants can be drawn and some particular dangerous components identified. If unfamiliar with the plant, check with an expert as to the exact chemical components and the potential effects in pregnancy.
For example, it is the presence of the chemical component pulegone in penny royal (Mentha pulegium) which makes this plant an abortifacient. In addition, the chemical component thujone, found in plants such as mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), is a uterine stimulant which may induce early labor or abort a fetus.
Herbal Medicine, Essential Oil or Homeopathic Use of Dangerous Plants
How a plant is used and which part of a plant is used will determine its effects; for example, a lot of plants used in herbal medicine and/or in essential oil form may differ in format to plants used in homeopathic medicine. Some plants which are dangerous to use as a herb, may be safe to use as an essential oil and vice versa; subsequently, plants used in homeopathic medicine may be safer to use than as an essential oil or herb and vice versa.
Abortifacient Herbs and Oils
There are many herbs and oils which are capable of inducing an abortion; herbs and oils which are abortifacient include:
- common sage (Salvia officinalis)
- jaborandi (Pilocarpus jaborandi)
- mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
- penny royal (Mentha pulegium)
- rue (Ruta graveolens)
- sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
- tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
- thuja (Thuja occidentalis)
- wormwood (Artemisia absinthium).
Herbs and Oils Which are Uterine Stimulants
There are a number of herbs and oils which are uterine stimulants, capable of inducing labor; only use these herbs and oils to stimulate uterine contractions when the pregnancy is at full term. In addition, take medical advice as to the suitability of any herb and oil for this purpose before attempting to use. Some uterine stimulants may cause birth defects or other complications. Herbs and oils which are uterine stimulants include:
- arbor vitae (Thuja occidentalis)
- basil (Ocimum basilicum)
- beth root (Trillium erectum)
- broom (Cytisus scoparius)
- clove (Syzgium aromaticum)
- devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
- juniper (Juniperus communis)
- lady’s mantle (Alchemilla xanthoclora)
- shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris).
Herbs and Oils Not Recommended for Pregnancy
There are many herbs and oils which should be avoided in pregnancy, due to their ability to cause pregnancy related complications and put at risk both mother and child. Some of these herbs and oils are more dangerous than others; herbs and oils not recommended for use in pregnancy include (but are not exhaustive):
- aniseed (Pimpinella anisum)
- basil (Ocimum basilicum)
- cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
- coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
- fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
- hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
- juniper berry (Juniperus communis)
- nutmeg (Myristica fragans)
- parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
- peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
- thyme red (Thymus vulgaris).
Using Herbs and Oils in Pregnancy
It is advisable to consult a medical professional before using any herbs and oils during pregnancy; herbs and oils are complex in their chemical make-up and without extensive study or professional experience it is often difficult to determine which herbs and oils are not too dangerous to use. However, some herbs and oils can be used during pregnancy, if used correctly.