When you have a cold, it’s a common enough thing to reach for the echinacea. People all over the world use it to reduce cold- and flu-associated symptoms like coughs, fever, and irritated and sore throats, but is it safe for pregnant women to use?
The few studies that exist suggest that echinacea is safe for pregnant women, and expectant moms have used it without issue for years. However, some experts claim there isn’t enough conclusive clinical evidence to ensure that it’s entirely safe, so it’s best to talk to your doctor beforehand.
In this article, I’ll dive a little more deeply into the subject of echinacea and pregnancy. We’ll examine echinacea generally and in terms of specific echinacea products, such as tea, tablets, and tinctures. Keep reading to find out more and hopefully discover if taking this popular supplement is right for you.
Is Echinacea Safe for Pregnancy?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a wealth of research on the subjects of echinacea and pregnancy, as no reputable researcher is keen to run experiments or tests on pregnant women. However, the few studies that do exist are encouraging (source: The University of Texas at El Paso).
In moderate doses, echinacea is likely safe for pregnant women. Women in countries like Ghana have been using it for decades without noticeable issues, and the single clinical trial on the subject reported no birth defects associated with echinacea use (source: U.S. Department of Agriculture).
The women included in the study (363 total) took echinacea at various times throughout their pregnancies. Not one of them had babies with congenital disabilities (source: European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology).
Unfortunately, one small study of fewer than 500 women isn’t enough to consider “definitive proof” that echinacea is safe.
Additionally, two studies conducted on animals suggested that there might be a link between echinacea use and a higher risk for miscarriage, though as the Mother to Baby fact sheet points out, “It is not clear how the preparations and dose levels used in the animal studies compare with those used in humans” (source: Mother to Baby).
If these results are similar for humans, the results there are less promising.
The bottom line is that it’s always better to discuss your specific case with your doctor, OBGYN, or another healthcare professional before you decide to take any new medicine or supplement while pregnant.
Is Echinacea Tea Safe for Pregnant Women?
If you talk to your doctor about taking echinacea during pregnancy and s/he okays it, there’s still the question of how you should take it. Echinacea comes in everything from tea and tinctures to rubs and oral supplements. That leaves many women wondering which is the safest, most effective way to take it.
As long as your doctor says it’s okay, echinacea tea should be safe for most pregnant women. However, some echinacea teas have other ingredients that may not be safe for pregnant women. So you should only drink echinacea tea after looking closely at the complete ingredients list.
Because herbs aren’t regulated as strictly as actual medications, there’s not as much data available from the FDA about which ones are safe or unsafe for pregnant women. There are, however, certain brands that are better than others.
For example, the American Pregnancy Association reminds readers that Celestial Seasonings only uses herbs that comply with the FDA guidelines on safety (source: American Pregnancy Association).
Can I Take Echinacea Tablets or Drops During Pregnancy?
If you’re going to take echinacea while pregnant, the safest options are to use echinacea tea or an echinacea tincture – i.e., echinacea “drops.” Echinacea tablets may come in too high a dosage, so you should probably avoid them.
The recommended “safe” daily dosage of echinacea is five milliliters (one teaspoon) two times a day. You can easily achieve this with an echinacea tincture (source: Health Foundations).
In fact, it may be easier to ensure you don’t get too much echinacea with a tincture than it is with tea.
Echinacea and Your Pregnancy Trimester
As I’ve already mentioned, the existing body of research concerning echinacea and pregnancy isn’t extensive. However, what little there is shows no increased risks for taking echinacea during any particular trimester.
The first trimester is the most dangerous time in pregnancy as it’s when the risk of miscarriage is highest. Of the 363 women who participated in the above-mentioned study, several took echinacea in their first trimesters. Like all the other women in the study, they experienced no ill effects from doing so.
Other women took the supplement during their second and third trimesters with equally normal pregnancies and births. This would appear to indicate that you can safely take echinacea throughout the entirety of your pregnancy without having to worry about any ill side effects.
However, I must stress once again that these are just recommendations, and I would be remiss if I didn’t urge you to speak to your doctor before you decide to take any additional meds or dietary supplements.
One other important thing to consider is whether or not you’ve ever taken echinacea in the past. If you’ve never introduced it into your system, you can’t be sure how your body will react to it.
The odds are that you aren’t allergic to it, as it’s not something with a high allergic reaction rate. However, if you don’t know for sure, you might not want to try it for the first time while pregnant.
Allergic reactions are sometimes dangerous, and they can be even more so if you’re pregnant, so you may want to pass up the echinacea in favor of something else if you’re not sure how it will react with your system.
I know this article may not have given you the 100% definitive answer that you were hoping to get.
But when it comes to matters of health – particularly the health of pregnant women – it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and the reality is that there just isn’t enough scientific evidence out there to prove for sure that echinacea is totally safe for expectant moms.