Some Herbs Should Be Avoided by Nursing Mothers – (11-27-00)

Some Herbs Should Be Avoided by Nursing Mothers

This article mentions funugreek, comfrey and St. John’s wort use in pregnancy. While care should always be used with pregnancy, it does amaze me that authors will suggest avoidance of St John’s wort during nursing, but continuing with pharmaceutical antidepressants is acceptable.

(article) Two popular herbal remedies for nursing mothers — fenugreek and comfrey — can pose a health risk to their infants, according to Dr. Ruth A. Lawrence, who reviewed the use of herbs by breast-feeding mothers at a presentation during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics. While there is no proof of its benefit, Dr. Lawrence said that there “are data about the risks. Specifically it can cause hypoglycemia in the nursing mother and it can raise blood pressure.” She said that in some infants fenugreek has been associated with increased “colic and diarrhea.” While she advises women to avoid fenugreek, comfrey is “much more dangerous and is banned in Canada.” Comfrey is rubbed on the nipples of nursing women to prevent dryness and cracking, she said. “But it does pass to the infant,” she said, and has been associated with hepatic veno-occlusive disease in infants. She recommends that physicians caution nursing mothers who have postpartum depression that self-medicating with St. John’s wort may be risky. She said that although studies have demonstrated some efficacy for St. John’s wort, “those studies were done in men, not women. Also, St. John’s wort does contain a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, but because the FDA does not regulate herbs there is no way to determine how much of the SSRI is passed to the infant.” In concluding, Dr. Lawrence said that nursing mothers should be steered away from most herbs, but “there are some teas that I can recommend for women who want a nice herbal tea. Chicory, peppermint, orange spice and red bush tea are all fine. Rose hips is an especially good tea because it has a very high concentration of vitamin C.”

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.