What are herbal teas?
Herbal teas are made from plants other than the tea plant. The tea is made from different parts of the plant, such as:
To make the tea, you pour hot water over the plant parts. The water and tea is left to brew for a few minutes, before being strained and served.
Unlike black or green tea, herbal teas don’t contain caffeine. Caffeine can cause irritability, nervousness and sleeplessness. Herbal teas can be bought in pharmacies, supermarkets and health food stores.
Herbal teas are a form of herbal medicine.
What benefits may herbal teas have?
Many people choose to drink herbal tea when pregnant or breastfeeding. This can be to help with pregnancy symptoms.
Some herbal teas claim to:
- soothe an upset tummy
- calm you down if you have anxiety
- prepare your uterus for labour
- help you sleep
- help with complications like pre-eclampsia.
Are herbal teas safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
There are mixed views on the safety of herbal teas during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Herbal teas can affect your baby by:
- crossing the placenta in pregnancy
- transferring into your milk while breastfeeding
Like other complementary medicines, herbal teas are often not studied scientifically. The studies that are done are often not of good quality.
Even though herbal teas are made from natural ingredients, this doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe. The amounts of natural ingredients they contain can vary. Herbal teas may also contain ingredients that aren’t listed on the label.
These ingredients may pass on to your baby, or they may interfere with other medicines you are taking.
Most commercial brands of herbal teas are thought to be safe for anyone to consume in reasonable amounts. The herbal teas that are considered unsafe are those that are:
- not made commercially
- made with lots of herbs (amounts larger than those found in common foods or drinks)
- made with herbs that are known to be toxic
Some herbal medicines may contain contaminants such as:
- heavy metals
- conventional medicines
These may be harmful to you and your baby.
Can I drink herbal tea while pregnant or breastfeeding?
It's always a good idea to check with your doctor or pharmacist before you take any herbs while you're pregnant or breastfeeding. This is especially true if you are also taking prescription medicine.
Different herbal teas are made from different ingredients. Drinking different types of herbal tea will limit the amount of each herb that your baby is exposed to.
Limit yourself to 1 or 2 cups of herbal tea a day. Don't drink the same herbal tea continually throughout your pregnancy.
If you're breastfeeding, keep an eye on your baby for any unusual side effects. If you notice anything that worries you, talk to your doctor or maternal child health nurse.
Which herbal teas can I drink while pregnant and breastfeeding?
There isn’t a lot of research about which herbal teas are safe to drink while you're pregnant or breastfeeding.
Herbal teas that are made from herbs you would use in cooking, in similar amounts, are generally safe. However, in large amounts some of these herbs can prove a risk in pregnancy.
Large amounts of some herbs may:
- affect your baby
- start contractions and increase your chance of preterm labour
Never make your own herbal tea from plants you've collected.
Herbal teas that are likely to be safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Ginger tea: can help ease nausea. It should be safe to drink in moderation while you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Lemon balm: is commonly used to ease anxiety, irritability and insomnia. However, no study could be found to support its safety in pregnancy.
Peppermint tea: is one of the most used herbal medicines in pregnancy. It can be helpful in easing nausea and flatulence (wind). Studies have shown it doesn’t harm you or your baby. You should avoid very large amounts of peppermint tea. Don’t drink it in your first trimester because it can promote menstruation (your period).
Red raspberry leaf tea: some women drink raspberry leaf tea during their last trimester to help them prepare for labour and birth. However, this hasn’t been shown to be helpful in any studies. It’s likely that this tea is safe in pregnancy and when breastfeeding.
Herbal teas to be careful with during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Green tea: Green tea isn't a herbal tea. It contains caffeine, so you should limit how much you drink during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Herbal teas to avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding
There are reports that some herbal teas should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding as they may not be safe for you or your baby. Ask your doctor or midwife about herbal teas that should be avoided.
Parsley tea: avoid parsley tea during pregnancy. If you drink large amounts, it may increase your chance of miscarriage and affect how your baby develops.
Sage tea: avoid sage in concentrated forms, such as in teas, during pregnancy. It’s been linked to miscarriage and high blood pressure. It’s OK to still use sage in small amounts in your cooking.
Teas where there is insufficient information about safety
Chamomile tea: A cup of chamomile tea before bed may relax you. However, there is a suggestion it could stimulate your uterus or lead to circulation problems in your baby. Higher rates of preterm labour and miscarriage have also been reported. It’s best to avoid drinking chamomile tea in large quantities.
Dandelion tea: There isn’t enough information on dandelion tea to know whether it’s safe in pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Rose hip tea: There isn’t enough information on rose hip tea to know whether it’s safe in pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Resources and support
For information on prescription, over the counter and herbal medicines, call 1300 MEDICINE on (1300 633 424).
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: April 2023