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Chamomile Tea May Not Be Safe During Pregnancy

For the same reason aspirin should be avoided in pregnancy, chamomile has such powerful anti-inflammatory properties that regular consumption may result in a serious fetal heart problem, premature constriction of the fetal ductus arteriosus, which allows the fetus to “breathe” in the womb.

June 26, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to T.Voekler via Wikimedia Commons.

Transcript

Chamomile is one of the oldest widely used medicinal plants in the world. A recent review suggests there scientific evidence supporting its use against inflammation, cancer, the common cold, heart disease, diarrhea, eczema, ulcers, hemorrhoids, mouth ulcers, osteoporosis, insomnia, anxiety, diabetes, sore throat, vaginitis, wounds, and the kitchen sink. “Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with liver or kidney disease has not been established, although there have not been any credible reports of toxicity caused by this common beverage tea.” Well now there is.
See, chamomile is a powerful anti-inflamamtory agent, and that’s the problem. There's a reason pregnant women are not supposed to take anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin. “Premature constriction of the fetal ductus arteriosus following the maternal consumption of camomile herbal tea.”
The researchers ”observed two cases of premature ductis arteriosus constriction associated with maternal consumption of chamomile tea, which can be associated with serious fetal complications. The good news, if it’s caught early and the herbal tea is stopped the condition can be reversed. In the second case, though, they had to do an emergency Cesarean.
 “We would advocate caution,” the researchers conclude, “in regular consumption of camomile tea during pregnancy”

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena

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Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

For more on chamomile tea, see Red Tea, Honeybush, & Chamomile and The Healthiest Herbal Tea. For other cautionary pregnancy tales, see What About the Caffeine?, Is Licorice Good For You?, Iron During Pregnancy, Maternal Mercury Levels, Pregnant Vegans at Risk for Iodine Deficiency, American Vegans Placing Babies at Risk, and Chicken Consumption and the Feminization of Male Genitalia. Another common herbal tea that may have a potential downside is yerba maté (Update on Yerba Maté). The best beverage during pregnancy is water. If you haven't yet, please check out the hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand topics and let me know if you have any questions!

For more context, check out my associated blog posts:   The Most Anti-Inflammatory Mushroom Treating PMS with Saffron, and and Hibiscus Tea: The Best Beverage?

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For more on chamomile tea, see Red Tea, Honeybush, & Chamomile and The Healthiest Herbal Tea. For other cautionary pregnancy tales, see What About the Caffeine?, Is Licorice Good For You?, Iron During Pregnancy, Maternal Mercury Levels, Pregnant Vegans at Risk for Iodine Deficiency, American Vegans Placing Babies at Risk, and Chicken Consumption and the Feminization of Male Genitalia. Another common herbal tea that may have a potential downside is yerba maté. The best beverage during pregnancy is water. If you haven’t yet, please check out the hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand topics and let me know if you have any questions!

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      WOW!!!!!!
      That is crazy!!  I would never have known.  I am Board Certified in Echocardiography and have been doing it for over 20 years and I never heard of this before.
      Extremely interesting!
      I wonder if the same would be true for all antioxidant tea–Hibiscus Tea?

      This issue is close to the heart ;-)  
       
      Thank you!!!

      • Revcatblake

         Chamomile Tea has no caffeine. It’s the caffeine that is the problem.Camelia sinensis has caffeine and is black tea or green tea. Chamomile is a vital, calming, soothing tea, safe at all times. The article is incorrect.

        • http://jolkapolkaskitchen.blogspot.com/ WholeFoodChomper

          Where is your evidence to back up these claims re the safety of chamomile tea during pregnancy?

  • carfree

    I remember as a kid we used to drink sassafras tea occasionally. I believe it was also the flavoring for candy cigarettes. Now you can’t get sassafras root anywhere. Anyone know why?  I assume they found something bad enough to ban it, but what?

    • Thea

       carfree:  Your question intrigued me.  I found an entry for sassafras root in Wikipedia.  Assuming the information is correct, your question is answered.  Check it out.

      • carfree

        Thanks, Thea,

        Looks like the candy cigarettes may have been just as bad as the real ones!

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

       I was intrigued as well by your question. Went to wikipedia plus pub med. Indeed there are alkaloids in sassafras that led to its banning due to carcinogenic and liver damage. Some products have become available if they receive the proper treatment. I would avoid as there are better alternatives and I don’t recommend consuming products that have had toxins removed as no process is 100%.

  • eicosatetraenoic

    ERROR REPORT: Chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla) is NOT the herb referred to in the letter to the editor by Sridharan (in sources above and referred to in the video). The plant that caused pregnancy problems is well-known to be contraindicated in pregnancy. In the article it is identified as “camomile tea (Camellia sinensis) root extract.” Camellia sinensis is not only the plant that furnishes leaves for green and black tea, but they used the ROOT extract of camellia sinensis. The authors of the letter are incorrect in calling this plant “camomile.”

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      Please see my response to Master Herbalist below. The adverse effects do indeed appear to have been caused by chamomile.

  • Master Herbalist

    I have been studying phytomedicine for over 35 years. This video quotes a letter to the editor which has erroneous information about chamomile tea. Your video is confusing camellia sinensis with chamomile. Although they sound similar, they are definitely different plants. Chamomile is a gentle, white flower with gentle leaves. Chamomile tea is safe. It is even used for babies who have colic. Camellia, on the other hand, is a caffeinated tea leaf. Black tea, green tea are made from camellia sinensis.  I have never heard of using a root extract of camellia. Only the leaves are used for tea. Anyone who created
    or used the root extract is getting too strong of a dose of
    caffeinated black tea with other root alkaloids. No wonder it was so
    harsh and damaging. Be assured that chamomile is a wonderful and safe tea.
     Dr. Gregor, thank you for your videos. We watch them daily. They are educational and entertaining. However, perhaps you would do well to remain within the food and medicine field until you have a mastery of phtyomedicine. You are doing a disservice to great knowledge and to the public when you present erroneous information such as this. For accurate information on chamomile, refer to King’s Dispensatory, by Felter-Lloyd or Herbal Medicine by Rudolph Weiss, MD. Many people watch your movies and rely on your research. I, for one, am beginning to have my doubts. Please research more carefully before blasting away a great, safe product of nature like chamomile tea. Thank you.

    • Michael Greger M.D.

       I’m so glad you’ve found my work useful! The authors of the letter did indeed get the latin name wrong. Chamomile is Matricaria chamomilla (though I think in Europe it’s Chamomilla chamomilla), which is what the women reported drinking. I agree with you chamomile is wonderful, but apparently a bit too anti-inflammatory to be used during pregnancy.

    • Den

      where did you recieve education as a phtyomedicine  master?

  • eicosatetraenoic

    Please post a retraction to this video. Chamomile is safe. I heard back from the author of the letter that you referred to in the video. He clearly states that the herb that caused problems in pregnancy was camellia sinensis, not chamomile. There are many confusing common names, or nicknames, to herbs. It is best to use the botanical name to verify the herb used, rather than a misspelled common name. I quote,
    “Regarding the article about camomile tea during pregnancy (Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol 2009; 34: 358–360)-
    We were referring to Camellia Sinesis. The studies were performed with
    the infusion of the leaves. This is the commonest preparation
    commercially available in the UK (Twinings).
    Kind regards
    Shankar Sridharan
    Dr Shankar Sridharan
    Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist”

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      Thank you for sharing your correspondence eicosatetraenoic,
       but you failed to disclose what you actually asked. You didn’t ask him
      about the herb that caused problems in pregnancy, you asked about the
      pharmacological studies on Camellia sinensis (the ones Dr. Sridharan
      mentioned were performed on rats). The studies on humans he cites was
      done on actual chamomile (Wang Y, Tang H, Nicholson JK, Hylands PJ, Sampson J, Holmes E. A metabonomic strategy for the detection of the
      metabolic effects of Chamomile tea (Matricaria recutita L.) ingestion. J Agric Food Chem 2005; 53: 191–196). The question is what were the affected women in the case series were drinking, and Dr. Sridharan wrote that they reported to be drinking chamomile.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Thank you for sharing your correspondence eicosatetraenoic,
    but you failed to disclose what you actually asked. You didn’t ask him
    about the herb that caused problems in pregnancy, you asked about the
    pharmacological studies on Camellia sinensis (the ones Dr. Sridharan
    mentioned were performed on rats). The studies on humans he cites was
    done on actual chamomile (Wang Y, Tang H, Nicholson JK, Hylands PJ, Sampson J,
    Holmes E. A metabonomic strategy for the detection of the
    metabolic effects of Chamomile tea (Matricaria recutita L.) ingestion. J Agric Food Chem 2005; 53: 191–196). The question is what were the affected women in the case series were drinking, and Dr. Sridharan wrote that they reported to be drinking chamomile. 

  • LaceyNichole

    How would an anti-inflammatory cause premature constriction of the fetal ductus arteriosus? My daughter has a serious heart defect that almost caused her to need a shunt after birth to replace the fetal ductus arteriosus and I drank chamomile tea, while not every day, on a regular basis during my pregnancy and she ended up not needing the shunt even though they told us she would. I realize this is anecdotal and not scientific but still it seems both counter intuitive and makes no sense with my own experience.