It is generally advised that breastfeeding mothers avoid herbal medicines. This is due to the lack of information on whether or not various herbal medicines pass into breast milk, and of scientific safety data. Furthermore, contamination of herbal products with conventional medicines, pesticides or heavy metals cannot be ruled out.
Herbs containing pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) can be hepatotoxic and are therefore potentially harmful to any infants exposed to them via breast milk.
Some sources advise against the use of plants containing anthranoids, which have laxative effects.
Other herbal medicines have hormonal effects which would render them unsuitable for breastfeeding women.
Herbal medicines that contain constituents with sedative properties should be avoided due to the potential adverse effects in the infant.
If a herbal medicine is taken during breastfeeding, it should be with the knowledge of a healthcare professional (e.g. health visitor, GP, pharmacist) and the products should come from a reputable source.
Healthcare professionals should take into consideration why a woman wishes to take a herbal medicine. Undiagnosed illness that remains untreated by conventional methods might result in harm to the individual.
The risk of adverse events in a breastfed infant is higher for premature or very young infants and in those with a concurrent illness.