There are a few points that are important for consideration of the use of herbs in pregnancy:
1. Herbs should only be recommended by a competent and qualified provider caring for the pregnant woman, and one who is comfortable with and knowledgeable about the efficacy and risk assessment of herbs in pregnancy. IL is well worth becoming familiar with Blumcnthal (2003), Rotblatt (2002), and ConsumerLab.com.
2. Herbs are extracts of plants or plant roots, and they contain numerous compounds. Different forms of the herbal preparations will have different compounds in the herbal preparations, as well as differing concentrations. How the herb is prepared is very important to the effect and safety of the pregnant woman and fetus. Herbal preparations come in the following forms:
■ teas or infusions (infusions are hot-water extracts of dried herbs)
■ dried extracts
■ tinctures (tinctures are alcohol extracts of dried herbs).
The most commonly used herbs in pregnancy are teas or infusions (which are similar to teas). These usually have the lowest concentrations and contain the least amount of the compounds. Capsules and dried extracts are less commonly used; examples include ginger and echinacea. Tinctures should be avoided in pregnancy because of their higher concentrations as well as the use of alcohol as a carrier.
3. The effects and safety of herbs will depend on the trimester. One of the most important concepts is that herbs - just like pharmaceuticals - should be used with caution in the first trimester. In general, there is no pharmaceutical or herb that is absolutely safe in the first trimester, based upon our current knowledge. It is important to be aware that the rapid cellular development in organogenesis can be altered by any compound, and that some herbs may increase uterine tone, increasing the risk of pregnancy loss.
4. The pregnant woman has an altered physiological state. Drugs and herbs may therefore behave differently in the pregnant woman's body compared to in a non-pregnant woman.
(Sec Low Dog 2005, Blumenthal 2005.)
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