Herbal teas, with their many health benefits, are the drink of choice for many women, but pregnant women should be wary when drinking some herbal teas. While some herbs are considered safe and even beneficial for pregnant women to drink, the effects of other herbs on developing embryos is simply not known.
Most teas are made from the leaves of tea plants. Herbal teas, however, are made from the seeds, flowers, stems, roots and foliage of herb plants — ginger tea, for example, is made from the ground root of the ginger plant. For this reason, all-natural herbal teas do not contain caffeine. The lack of caffeine makes herbal teas seem like an attractive, healthy choice for pregnant women who are urged to limit their caffeine intake. But this is not always the case.
There is a distinct lack of data on the effects of herbs — including herbs used to make herbal teas — on the developing fetus. For this reason, the FDA recommends that pregnant women be wary when drinking herbal teas. While most commercial herbal teas are probably safe if consumed in moderate amounts, those that are made from large amounts of certain herbs may not be considered safe to drink.
Herbal teas made with ginseng are likely unsafe for pregnant women to drink, according to a study published in “Human Reproduction” on Sept. 25th, 2003. This study, conducted by researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, found that ginseng caused birth defects in the developing embryos of rats. The Natural Medicines Database, as reported by the American Pregnancy Association, rates nettle tea as “likely unsafe” for pregnant women to consume, and rates teas made with alfalfa and yellow dock as “possibly unsafe” for consumption by pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Teas made from peppermint, ginger and lemon balm are likely safe for pregnant women to consume and are known to reduce the symptoms of morning sickness and nausea. Red raspberry leaf tea is also likely safe to drink and works to tone the uterus, enhance milk production and ease the pain of labor. Ginger, which has long been traditionally used to combat morning sickness, is rated by the Natural Medicines Database as “possibly safe” for pregnant women to consume.
If you’re a pregnant tea lover looking for the health benefits of tea, consider drinking non-herbal teas. Black and green teas are high in antioxidants. Choose a decaffeinated brand, but note that even decaffeinated teas still contain a small amount of caffeine, so drink them in moderation. The March of Dimes recommends that pregnant women consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day.