Which herbs are unsafe during breastfeeding? (part 2)

Written by Dr. Georgia Tetlow, MD and edited by Clare Abercrombie, BS Comfrey and borage are contraindicated for nursing mothers because these herbs contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids, substances that have the potential to cause liver damage and have been shown to cross into breast milk. The list below contains herbs generally recognized by botanical experts as being unsafe during lactation. This list should not be considered exhaustive, as many herbs have yet to be adequately studied; many botanical medicine experts, as well as I, err on the side of caution and are very careful in the use of plants during lactation.

Herbs to be avoided while breastfeeding

This list has been comprised from numerous authoritative sources, however, it may not be complete and practitioners should always err on the side of caution.

  • Aloe vera latex (not juice) (Aloe spp.)
  • Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa)
  • Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus)
  • Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)
  • Borage (Borago officinalis)
  • Buckthorn fruit (Rhamnus cathartica)
  • Bugleweed leaf (Lycopus spp)
  • Cinchona bark (Cinchona spp)
  • Cola seeds (Cola nitida)*
  • Coltsfoot leaf (Tussilago farfara)
  • Comfrey leaf/root (Symphytum officinale)
  • Ephedra (Ephedra spp.)
  • Guarana (Paullinia cupana)*
  • Jasmine flowers (Jasminum pubescens)
  • Kava (Piper methysticum)
  • Madder root (Rubia tinctorum)
  • Ma Huang (Ephedra sinica)
  • Pulsatilla (Anemone pulsatilla)
  • Queen of the Meadow root/herb (Eupatorium purpureum)
  • Senecio (Senecio aureus)
  • Wormwood herb (Artemesia absinthium)

*Guarana and cola are included on this list principally because of caffeine content, though small amounts would be no more likely to cause agitation in the baby than similar amounts of caffeine found in coffee or tea.

Disclaimer: All information contained in this article is intended for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended nor suited to be a replacement or substitute for professional medical treatment or for professional medical advice relative to a specific medical question or condition.  If you need specific medical advice, please contact your primary care physician or our office for appointment.  If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.