During pregnancy, everything the expectant mother eats reaches her baby. It's especially important to maintain a healthy diet during this time. Since pregnant women are encouraged to limit caffeine during this time, herbal teas seem like an appropriate substitute. There is not much research on the herbs used to make herbal teas, however, and there are mixed opinions on their safety.
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About Herbal Tea
Unlike black, green and oolong tea, herbal tea is not made from tea leaves. It is made from the roots, berries, seeds and flowers of different plants. Herbal teas are caffeine-free and are often used in alternative medicine because of their health properties.
You will find many different brands of herbal tea on the shelves of a typical grocery store. According to the American Pregnancy Association, most of these teas are safe to consume in reasonable amounts (two cups per day). Most manufacturers use herbs that the FDA considers safe when producing their teas.
Pregnant women should exercise caution when drinking herbal teas that are not made commercially. They may contain excessive amounts of herbs or herbs that are considered toxic. It is also not advisable to make your own herbal tea because you might use more than the recommended amount of an herb. A tea that is too strong could cause harm to the unborn baby.
Some manufacturers produce "pregnancy teas" made primarily from red raspberry leaf. These are also herbal teas and are generally considered safe, but there are no clinical studies to support the benefits claimed by the manufacturers. Some doctors and midwives do recommend these teas to help prevent complications such as preeclampsia and preterm labour. They are typically high in iron and can help decrease nausea and increase milk production. However, you should not drink large amounts of any tea, including pregnancy tea or peppermint tea, which is used to control nausea.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers commercial teas that include the following herbs to be safe during pregnancy: ginger, lime blossom, peppermint, roasted barley, rose hips and thyme. Even though these herbs are considered generally safe, pregnant woman should not drink teas containing them without checking with a heathcare professional because they might react with medications.
Herbs to Avoid
Some herbs can contain substances that are potentially harmful to you or your unborn baby. Coca contains small amounts of cocaine and lobelia contains nicotine. Other herbs may cause the uterus to contract, possibly causing miscarriage or premature labour. These herbs include black or blue cohosh, dong quai, ephedra, feverfew, pennyroyal and thuja.
As of 2009, the FDA has not required labelling on herbal teas that would indicate which ones pregnant woman should avoid. It is important to consult your doctor or midwife before drinking herbal teas during your pregnancy.
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