Women have been using herbs to try to induce labor for centuries. Herbal teas, herbal remedies, and herbal mixtures have been tested and tried. In most cases, it’s best for labor to start on its own. But it’s understandable that women who go past their due dates may want to hurry things along.

Black cohosh is one herb you may have read about for inducing labor. But is safe? Here’s what you should know.

Is it safe to use black cohosh to induce labor?

Pregnant women should use black cohosh with caution during pregnancy, according to a review of studies published in the Canadian Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. More studies are needed to determine if it’s safe for use.

Some experts believe that the herb can be downright dangerous, especially when used in combination with other herbal labor aids like blue cohosh.

Always talk to your doctor before trying any herbal supplements during pregnancy.

What is black cohosh?

Some midwives in the United States use black cohosh as a way to relax the uterus and stimulate contractions.

According to the National Institutes of Health, black cohosh is a member of the buttercup family. The formal name of black cohosh is Actaea racemosa. It's also known as:

  • black snakeroot
  • bugbane
  • bugwort
  • rattleroot
  • rattletop
  • rattleweed
  • macrotys

The plant is native to North America and known for being an insect repellant.

Black cohosh is used for controlling menopausal symptoms. For this reason, it does seem to influence the female hormone system.

Are any herbs safe to induce labor?

The short answer here is no. There are no herbs that are safe for a woman to use on her own at home to induce labor.

Remember, there’s a big difference between an herb that may be effective in inducing labor and an herb that’s safe to induce labor. An herb like black cohosh might work in putting you into labor, but it just isn't safe enough to be used at home.

What other practices are safe to induce labor?

To encourage labor to start naturally at home, you can talk to your doctor about stripping your membranes in their office as you approach your due date. It’s a procedure that’s been shown to have more promising and safer results than herbal remedies. You could also try having sex and doing plenty of walking to encourage labor to start on its own. While both techniques may not produce instant results, in most instances, they won’t hurt.

Should you try to induce labor?

Even if you're feeling desperate to induce labor on your own, try to remember that in most cases, your baby will come when they’re ready. As an OB nurse, I've seen many cases where a doctor does an induction for nonmedical reasons. Trust your body and try to avoid inductions unless there’s a medical reason to induce.

Next steps

You should always talk to your doctor before taking any medications, even if they’re labeled as natural. Natural and herbal medications can still have powerful side effects. In some cases, they can even be dangerous. When it comes to inducing labor, you have to remember that any medications you take affect not just you, but your baby-to-be, too.

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