Herbs are a point of worry and confusion for many expecting mothers, especially as their safety can depend on how you’re using them.
Whether in a tea, essential oil, extract, or simply a few teaspoons stirred into your favorite dish, how safe is rosemary and should you continue to use it while pregnant?
When eaten in small amounts, such as what is typically found in recipes, rosemary is pregnancy-safe. Keep in mind that portion size matters. It is safest to steer clear of large, medicinal amounts of rosemary and rosemary essential oil while you are pregnant.
Smaller amounts of rosemary are safe during pregnancy but the limit of what is safe and what is not can be a bit confusing. I’ll break down the FDA’s recommendations for safety, as well as other places rosemary can be found, including oils and teas.
Can Pregnant Women Eat Rosemary?
Rosemary seems like a fairly benign herb. After all, many comforting dishes, such as rosemary baked chicken and roasted rosemary potatoes, rely on rosemary to provide depth to the seasoning. And when it comes to flavoring your food, that’s totally true.
According to the FDA, rosemary is a safe food ingredient during pregnancy, earning the label of “likely safe” (source: American Pregnancy Association).
The caveat here is the portion and unfortunately, there has not been much research with regards to exactly how much is too much rosemary.
The FDA’s labeling of “likely safe” is specific for when rosemary is eaten in the typical amount found in foods. While that limit can be a little bit vague, you can think of it as the difference between dusting baked chicken with a few tablespoons of chopped rosemary versus popping a concentrated supplement.
The reasoning behind this difference is that in large, medical amounts rosemary is known to stimulate uterine contractions and even menstrual flow. Because of this, the FDA has rated large, medicinal amounts of rosemary as “possibly unsafe” during pregnancy (source: American Pregnancy Association).
Note: We’ll dive into the safety of rosemary in medicinal amounts more below.
The rosemary found in dishes and recipes is typically in one of two forms: fresh rosemary or dried (including crushed/powder, and full leaf). Aside from shelf-life, there is not much of a difference between the two forms.
When eaten in the amount typically used in foods, both fresh and dried versions of rosemary are safe additions to your cooking, even while pregnant.
Can I Drink Rosemary Tea During Pregnancy?
Herbal teas can be a whole separate area of concern for many expecting mothers- and for good reason! Many herbs, including rosemary, are not safe for fetal development when they are consumed in large amounts.
While there hasn’t been much research into the safety of rosemary tea during pregnancy in humans, many do-it-yourself recipes call for only a teaspoon or so of the herb. This small amount is similar to the typical amount used in cooking and is not likely to cause any harm.
On the other hand, many “women’s health” tea blends contain rosemary or rosemary extract. It can be difficult to know exactly how much of the herb is used in these blends, and therefore how much rosemary you are really drinking.
If you do have a favorite tea blend that contains rosemary, check the ingredients label or with the manufacturer to verify how much rosemary is in your beverage.
The best, and safest, course of action is to limit your consumption of rosemary tea to no more than a few cups daily during pregnancy (source: St. Michael’s Healthcare).
Is Rosemary Oil (Leaf Oil) Pregnancy-Safe?
Aside from in the kitchen, another popular place to find rosemary is in essential oils. While essential oils are typically used in aromatherapy or applied to the skin, not ingested, some folks do use them in food preparation.
For the purpose of this article, I will talk about the safety of rosemary essential oil for all uses in general. During pregnancy, the safety of rosemary oils is the same across the board, whether you diffuse the oil or use a few drops in your favorite recipe.
Before we get to rosemary oil safety, it’s important to understand how essential oils are made. These oils can be made with plant stems, rinds, leaves, or even a combination of those pieces.
Similar to other oils, like olive oil, essential oils are made by pressing (or in some cases steaming) the plant until oil is produced. Often needing several pounds of the raw plant to create just a few drops of oil, essential oils are also highly concentrated (source: Johns Hopkins Medicine).
When it comes to essential oils during pregnancy, their concentrated nature makes it easy to go overboard. This is especially true for rosemary essential oil. During pregnancy, it’s best to avoid using rosemary essential oil due to the herb’s effects on uterine contractions (source: Moreland OB-GYN).
Instead of rosemary essential oil, try diffusing bergamot, lavender, neroli, or rosewood essential oils to get a similarly calming scent (source: Moreland OB-GYN). It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out if using essential oil blends, as some of these may contain rosemary oil.
To get rosemary flavor while cooking, without the risk of essential oils, opt for other rosemary-infused ingredients, such as rosemary olive oil or rosemary-infused balsamic vinegar.
Can Rosemary Cause Miscarriage?
As we’ve discussed, large amounts of rosemary have been rated as “possibly unsafe” during pregnancy. The FDA applied this rating to rosemary due to the possibility of the herb stimulating uterine contractions and menstruation, both of which could result in a miscarriage (source: American Pregnancy Association).
Quite a few scientific reviewers have also come to the same conclusion, though rosemary in small amounts is still known to be safe (source: BJOG, International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research).
While there are no recently published reports of women experiencing miscarriage due to rosemary, consuming large amounts of the herb has long been widely advised against and this has likely deterred many women from accidentally overdoing it with rosemary.
Because of the established risk for miscarrge and FDA safety rating, it’s best to stick with enjoying rosemary only in smaller amounts or as it is typically found in foods.
Overall, while there has not been much research into a safe maximum limit for rosemary, we do know that the herb is still safe to enjoy in your foods and even as rosemary tea if consumed in moderation.
The FDA has rated rosemary as “likely safe” when eaten in amounts typically found in foods, but “possibly unsafe” for medical amounts. Because of this difference, it is also best to save rosemary essential oil until your baby has arrived.