Herbal tea and pregnancy

Herbal tea and pregnancy

Herbal teas can often provide an additional source of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and iron. However, due to the lack of studies on most herbs, the FDA encourages caution when ingesting herbal teas.

To understand which herbal teas are safe to consume during pregnancy, let’s first look at the different types of teas and how they are made.

Differences Between Non-Herbal and Herbal

There are two different types of teas, non-herbal and herbal. The non-herbal teas can be broken down into 3 categories: black, green, and oolong.

Non-Herbal Tea

  • Black tea is the most common type of non-herbal tea. It includes blends such as English breakfast, Earl Grey, and Orange Pekoe.
  • Green tea has a more delicate taste than black tea. The oolong teas are a combination of green and black tea.
  • Non-herbal teas contain varying amounts of caffeine and antioxidants.
  • Non-herbal teas are made from leaves of tea plants.
  • The longer the oxidation time (fermenting) of the leaf, the higher the caffeine level.
  • The brewing time, size of the leaf and type of tea leaf can also influence how much caffeine is in the tea.
  • Decaf versions of non-herbal teas still contain a bit of caffeine.

Herbal Tea 

  • Made from the roots, berries, flowers, seeds, and leaves of a variety of plants not from actual tea plant leaves.
  • True herbal teas do not contain caffeine. (This does not include any other drinks that are called “tea” but truly are not, such as mate tea).
  • These teas can also be used as medicinal remedies (relating to, or having the properties of medicine).

What teas are safe to consume during pregnancy? 

Non-Herbal Teas

Although non-herbal tea is assumed to have great health benefits due to the antioxidants, it also contains caffeine, which pregnant and breastfeeding women are often encouraged to cut down on or eliminate.

The average cup of non-herbal tea contains about 40-50 milligrams of caffeine. Decaffeinated nonherbal tea does still contain a bit of caffeine; however, the amount is usually only about .4 milligrams.

Caffeine crosses the placenta and reaches your developing baby. The baby cannot metabolize caffeine like an adult can. Also, consuming caffeine while breastfeeding could contribute to infant sleep disorders.

For this reason, there is controversy on how much caffeine is safe, or if it should be avoided altogether. We know that the less caffeine consumed, the better it is for your baby while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Talk with your midwife or doctor about what amount is safe. This will help you make the decision on whether to consume non-herbal teas.

Herbal teas

Herbal teas are naturally caffeine free, so caffeine is not an issue when consuming this type of tea. The concern with consuming herbal teas during pregnancy is the lack of data available on most herbs and their effects on a developing fetus.

There are mixed opinions on the safety of herbal teas, for both pregnant and non-pregnant women.

Most commercial brands of herbal teas are thought to be safe for anyone to consume in reasonable amounts. Herbal tea companies, such as Celestial Seasonings, report that they do not use any herbs that are considered dangerous and choose to use herbs from guidelines that the FDA has published.

The herbal teas that are considered to be unsafe are those that are not made commercially, those made with excessive amounts of herbs (amounts larger than those found in common foods or drinks), and those made with herbs that are known to be toxic.

As with most things, it is always best to talk with your midwife or doctor about any herbal teas that you are interested in drinking.

Sources: 

1. Gruenwald, J., Brendler, T., & Jaenicke, C. (Eds.), PDR for herbal medicines 4th ed. Montvale, NJ: Thomson Healthcare Inc.

2. Raspberry leaf in pregnancy: its safety and efficacy in labor. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2001 Mar-Apr;46(2):51-9. PMID: 11370690 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

3. Belew, C. (1999). Herbs and the childbearing woman: Guidelines for midwives. J Nurse-Midwifery. 44:231-252.

4. Tea Association of the USA

5. www.americanpregnancy.org

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