You can buy herbal remedies as powdered herbs, herbal tinctures, infusions, capsules or tablets. They're available over the counter from health food shops or pharmacies, or through a qualified medical herbalist.
It's safer not to take herbal remedies in your first trimester, unless you've been prescribed them after taking specialist medical advice. Don't take herbal remedies if you are already taking prescribed medicine to control a long-running condition.
It's fine to eat moderate amounts of fresh or dried herbs in your cooking. Most herbal teas are safe if you stick to one or two cups a day. So there's no reason why you shouldn't add oregano to your pasta sauce, or cinnamon to your desserts. The exception is sage, which should only be used in very small amounts in cooking. You shouldn't drink sage tea in pregnancy either. Sage has been linked to miscarriage and high blood pressure.
It's safest to check with your midwife or doctor before taking any remedies in pregnancy or during labour.
SAFE IN MODERATION IN PREGNANCY
Chamomile, German (matricaria chamomilla) May cause irritation and allergic reactions when used as a cream on the skin. Excessive use may cause stimulation of the nervous system and insomnia.
Chilli (capsicum frutescens) May cause diarrhoea if consumed in large amounts.
Echinacea (echinacea purpurea) Small doses are safe in pregnancy but only use for up to seven days.
May cause nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, allergic reactions, breathlessness, heartburn, constipation, mouth ulcers, headache, dizziness, insomnia and disorientation. High doses may reduce fertility in both women and men.
Eucalyptus Safe as a diluted essential oil in small doses, and can be added to steam inhalation to relieve sinuses.
Only use for short periods. Undiluted oil on your skin may cause irritation. Don't ingest the essential oil, as this can cause gastric upset.
Ginger (zingiber officinale) Large amounts may cause blood thinning, so avoid if you have a history of miscarriage or any vaginal bleeding during this pregnancy. Excessive amounts may cause abdominal discomfort, heartburn and skin itching. Don't exceed about three teaspoons of grated root ginger a day.
Stop taking ginger at least two weeks before any planned surgery, including caesarean.
Lavender (lavendula angustifolia) Do not use if you are taking drugs for heart complaints or antacid medication for heartburn.
Peppermint (mentha piperita) May cause heartburn, nausea, vomiting and allergic reactions, including skin irritation, when the oil is used on skin. May be a heart stimulant.
Do not use if you are taking drugs for heart complaints or antacid medication for heartburn.
(Red) Raspberry leaf (rubus idaeus) Do not take before 32 weeks. May cause uterine stimulation, miscarriage or premature labour. If taken in large doses, it may lengthen your labour.
Do not use if you have previously had a caesarean, have placenta praevia, bleeding in late pregnancy, are expecting twins, or if you have anaemia or high blood pressure. Do not use if you are taking iron tablets. See Can raspberry leaf tea bring on labour?.
Senna (senna alexandrina) Long-term, frequent use, or high doses, has been linked to laxative dependence and liver toxicity.
Don't use if you have had a previous miscarriage or threatened premature labour. May cause abdominal pain and cramps, nausea and diarrhoea.
Safe if only used for short periods of time in pregnancy. Do not use when taking drugs which have an effect on the kidneys, including drugs to reduce fluid retention and regulate your heartbeat.
AVOID IN PREGNANCY AND USE WITH CAUTION IN LABOUR
Cotton root (gossypium herbaceum) Stimulates the uterus.
False unicorn root (chamaelirium luteum) Stimulates the uterus in labour, though do not use if you are taking lithium.
Jasmine (jasminum grandiflorum) May cause contractions, miscarriage or premature labour in pregnancy, but may be used in labour.
Lady's mantle (alchemilla xanthoclora) Uterine stimulant. May cause liver toxicity in very large doses.
Squaw vine (mitchella repens) Can cause uterine stimulation, miscarriage or premature labour in pregnancy.
AVOID IN PREGNANCY AND IN LABOUR
Alder buckthorn (rhamnus frangula) Can cause cramp-like discomfort and nausea.
Long-term use causes potassium deficiency, leading to heart problems and muscle weakness.
Aloe vera (aloe barbadensis) May cause birth defects, miscarriage and have a laxative effect. However skin creams and gels which contain aloe vera are safe to use on your skin.
Angelica (angelica archangelica) May cause uterine contractions and sun sensitivity.
Anise/aniseed (pimpinella anisum) May cause skin irritation.
Arbor vitae (thuja occidentalis) Can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, asthma, seizures, miscarriage or premature labour.
Autumn crocus (colchicum autumnale) Can affect cell division and lead to birth defects.
Beth root (trillium erectum) A uterine stimulant and stomach irritant. May cause miscarriage or premature labour.
Bitter orange (citrus aurantium) Can cause heart irregularities and stroke.
Black cohosh (cimicifuga racemosa) Hormonal and uterine stimulant effects may cause premature labour.
Bloodroot (sanguinaria anadensis) Can cause nausea, low blood pressure, skin irritation and lethargy. In high doses can lead to coma.
Blue cohosh (caulophyllum thalictroides) May cause premature labour and developmental abnormalities, heart problems and strokes in your baby.
Caraway (carum carvi) May cause uterine contractions, miscarriage or premature labour.
Cascara (rhamnus purshiana) Long-term use can cause fluid loss and potassium deficiency.
Celery seed (apium graveolens) May cause uterine contractions, miscarriage or premature labour in medicinal amounts.
Chamomile, roman (anthemis nobilis) May cause uterine contractions, miscarriage or premature labour. May cause allergic reactions
Cinnamon (cinnamomum cassia) Large amounts can lead to liver toxicity.
Clary sage (salvia sclarea) Strong uterine stimulant. May cause miscarriage or premature labour if used before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Large doses in labour may potentially cause fetal distress from very strong contractions.
Clove (sanguinaria anadensis) May cause blood clotting problems and liver complications.
Comfrey (symphytum officinale) May cause abnormalities in your baby. Toxic to the liver and may be carcinogenic (cancer causing).
Cowslip (primula veris) Can cause you to have allergic skin reactions and tummy upset.
Devil's claw (harpagophytum procumbens) May cause miscarriage, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, headache, abdominal pain, allergic skin irritation and changes in blood.
Dong quai (angelica sinensis) May cause miscarriage, preterm labour, diarrhoea, and sensitivity to sunlight. May be carcinogenic in large doses.
Elderberry (sambucus nigra) May cause nausea, vomiting, or severe diarrhoea if elderberries are not well cooked before eating. Eating unripe fruit or fruit juice made from unripe berries may cause weakness, dizziness, numbness.
Fennel (foeniculum vulgare) May cause allergic reactions, uterine contractions, miscarriage or premature labour.
Fenugreek (trigonella foenum-graecum) Large amounts may cause uterine contractions, miscarriage or premature labour.
Feverfew (tanacetum parthenium) Uterine stimulant, may cause premature labour. May cause nausea, diarrhoea or constipation, headache, abdominal pain and bloating.
Garlic (allium sativa) Medicinal amounts may cause tummy upsets, potentially causing uterine contractions, miscarriage or premature labour.
Ginseng, Asian (panax ginseng) May cause developmental abnormalities in your baby.
Ginseng, Siberian (eleutherococcus senticosus) May cause drowsiness, anxiety, irritability, breast tenderness and uterine bleeding in large doses. Can cause palpitations, fast heartbeat and high blood pressure. Long-term use may cause sciatica and muscle spasms.
Golden ragwort (senecio aureus) May affect your baby's development and be toxic to your liver. Uterine stimulant which may cause miscarriage or premature labour.
Goldenseal (hydrastis anadensis) Uterine stimulant which may cause miscarriage or premature labour and severe jaundice and possible brain damage in your baby.
Gotu kola (centella asiatica) Not enough is known about its effect in pregnancy to support its use. May cause liver toxicity.
Greater celandine (chelidonium majus) May be toxic to the liver and may cause hepatitis.
Horsetail (equisetum arvense) Can lead to deficiency of vitamin B1.
Juniper berry (juniperus communis) Toxic to kidneys, may cause miscarriage, fertility problems and implantation of fertilised egg into uterine lining.
Lady's slipper (cypripedium parviflorum) May cause hallucinations. Not enough evidence for its safety.
Licorice (glycyrrhiza glabra) Can cause uterine stimulation, miscarriage or premature labour. Increases blood pressure.
Lovage (levisticum officinale) May cause uterine stimulation, miscarriage or premature labour.
Marjoram (origanum vulgare) Large amounts may cause uterine contractions, miscarriage or premature labour.
Mistletoe (viscum album) Uterine stimulant which may cause miscarriage, premature labour and increased blood pressure.
Motherwort (leonurus cardiaca) Can cause uterine stimulation, miscarriage or premature labour.
Mugwort (artemesia vulgaris) May cause miscarriage, premature labour, abnormalities in your baby and allergic reactions. Mugwort sticks which are burnt in moxibustion to turn breech babies are, however, safe to use in pregnancy.
Myrrh (commiphora molmol) May cause uterine stimulation, miscarriage or premature labour.
Oregano (origanum marjoricum) May cause uterine stimulation, miscarriage or premature labour.
Parsley (petroselinum crispum) A uterine stimulant that may cause birth defects.
Nutmeg (myristica fragrans) May cause miscarriage or premature labour if used in pregnancy. May cause hallucinations and may react with pain-relieving drugs such as pethidine in labour.
Passion flower (passiflora incarnata) May cause uterine stimulation, miscarriage or premature labour.
Pennyroyal (mentha pulegium) Toxic to the liver and kidneys. May cause dizziness, bloody vomiting, delirium, fits, raised blood pressure and blood clotting disorders, as well as uterine stimulation, miscarriage and premature labour.
Peruvian bark (cinchona officinalis) May cause bleeding disorders and allergic reactions, headache, nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting and visual disturbance.
Pokeroot (phytolacca decandra) May cause uterine stimulation, miscarriage or premature labour. May cause blood thinning and other alterations in the blood.
Pulsatilla (anemone pulsatilla) May cause uterine stimulation, miscarriage or premature labour, as well as abnormalities in your baby.
Rhubarb (rheum officinale) May have a laxative effect, causing diarrhoea, nausea, gastric bleeding. Prolonged use causes potassium deficiency, leading to muscle weakness and lowered bone density.
Rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis) May have uterine contracting effects if consumed in large amounts. The essential oil increases blood pressure and may potentially trigger seizures if you have epilepsy.
Rue (ruta graveolens) Can cause uterine stimulation, miscarriage or premature labour, as well as liver or kidney failure.
Saffron (crocus sativa) Can cause uterine stimulation if taken in large, medicinal amounts.
Sage (salvia officinale) May trigger menstrual bleeding and cause miscarriage. May reduce your milk supply due to its effect on hormones.
Sassafras (sassafras albidum) Contains safrole which may be carcinogenic and toxic to the liver. May also cause miscarriage.
Shepherd's purse (capsella bursa-pastoris) May cause uterine stimulation, miscarriage, premature labour or thyroid problems.St John's wort See St John's wort in pregnancy. May cause skin sensitivity, nausea and vomiting, disturbed sleep, constipation and anxiety attacks.
Tansy (tanacetum vulgare) Can cause uterine stimulation, miscarriage or premature labour. Long-term use may cause vomiting, fits, kidney and liver damage, breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness and irregular heartbeat.
Thyme (thymus vulgaris) Allergic reactions may occur with prolonged use.
Verbena (verbene officinalis) May cause tummy upsets and allergic reactions.
White horehound (marrubium vulgare) May have uterine stimulating effects, possibly causing miscarriage and premature labour. May cause diarrhoea and skin irritation.
Wild yam (dioscorea villosa) Known to have effects on hormones. Not enough is known about its effects to support use in pregnancy.
Wood betony (stachys officinalis) Reduces blood pressure and may cause diarrhoea.
Wormwood (artemisia absinthum) May cause uterine contractions miscarriage, premature labour, fits and kidney failure.