Q: Is it safe to drink herbal tea during pregnancy?
A: When it comes to drinking herbal tea during pregnancy, it's best to be cautious. While many types of herbal tea may be safe, herbs are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so there's no way of knowing exactly which herbs -- or how much of those herbs -- may be sitting in your steeping tea bag. Some herbs can have medicinal properties that can be dangerous for you and your baby, especially in high doses.
Your best bet is to stick to teas from well-known brands and read the label to check for warnings for pregnant women (also, just because a product is labeled "pregnancy tea" doesn't mean it's automatically safe). You should also avoid any teas that claim to have specific medicinal benefits, since those are often more highly concentrated than teas with herbs used just for flavor.
But as a general rule, the following types of teas can be enjoyed in moderation (about a cup a day):
• Peppermint or mint leaf: Great for alleviating morning sickness, heartburn, and gas.
• Ginger: Used for easing morning sickness, especially if you're throwing up.
• Chamomile: Helps soothe you to sleep and aids in digestion. Recently, however, chamomile has come under fire for possibly causing contractions, so it's a good idea to discuss any concerns you have with your doctor. Most doctors say sipping a cup of chamomile tea is safe, but you should avoid the herb in its more potent medicinal form, especially if you're allergic to ragweed, since chamomile can trigger a similar reaction.
Here are some herbs that you should not consume while you're expecting. These include, but aren't limited to:
• Blue cohosh, licorice, ginseng, goldenseal, and feverfew: These can cause contractions or bleeding.
• St. John's Wort: Used to boost moods and treat depression, this herb may have an impact on a baby's developing nervous system (although this has not been well-studied).
• Dandelion: Sometimes used to ease swelling, this herb is also rich in vitamin A, which has been linked to birth defects in large amounts.
• Juniper berry: This can irritate a sensitive stomach.
• Alfalfa: This contains vitamin K, which can lead to dangerous blood clots in pregnant women.
Since recommendations for what's safe change all the time, check out a reputable Web site like that of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to find out information on the safety of specific herbs. If you're concerned about whether or not your favorite herbal tea is still safe now that you're pregnant, you should also let your doctor know and get his or her approval before you sip.