Herbs and Breastfeeding

I’m glad that herbal remedies were a topic of discussion at the 2000 annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Chicago. This is an important part of healthcare that deserves serious consideration. Not all news on herbs is good news.

Dr. Ruth Lawrence presented evidence at the conference that two popular herbal remedies for nursing mothers–fenugreek and comfrey–can pose a health risk to their infants.

Many mothers take fenugreek to increase their milk supply (though it has never been shown to be effective). It has been shown, however, to occasionally cause hypoglycemia in the nursing mother and it can raise blood pressure. It has also been associated with increased colic and diarrhea in babies. Comfrey, banned in Canada, isn’t just uncomfortable, but dangerous. It is rubbed on the nipples of nursing women to prevent dryness and cracking.

When used in this way, comfrey has been associated with serious liver disease and blood clots in the infants.

Published on: November 14, 2000
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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