A cup of tea may soothe you and help you relax, a phenomenon that you can probably appreciate, especially if you’re pregnant. But what’s in that cup of tea?
Some people swear by nettle tea for easing some of those pregnancy-related aches and pains. Could this be a good option for you? Before you pull out your favorite mug, consider the pros and cons of nettle tea.
The stinging nettle is a plant native to North America, Europe, and Asia. People have turned to stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years for its purported ability to treat muscle and joint pain.
Some people grind up the leaves and roots to make tea, while others create creams, powders, and other products containing part of the nettle plant.
It’s also been used for a lot of other purposes, including:
Stinging nettle has also been used to address a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.
But just because it’s generally considered OK or even beneficial to use an herb or plant when you’re not pregnant doesn’t mean that you should use it when you are.
There’s not a lot of reliable evidence confirming the safety of nettle tea during pregnancy. Some experts urge caution.
In fact, a 2015 study notes that while nettle seems to be safe in general, it may affect your menstrual cycle and could contribute to miscarriage. The worry is that it may trigger uterine contractions.
So, you might want to steer clear, just in case. However, you could always talk it over with your obstetrician and get their take, particularly on drinking nettle tea later in pregnancy.
So why do some people drink nettle tea when they’re pregnant? Here are some of the reasons:
- Nettle contains lots of nutrients. Stinging nettle is known to be high in vitamins A, C, K, and some B vitamins, as well as antioxidants and minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. (Although let’s be honest, you’re not going to get much nutrition from a watery cup of tea.)
- It has anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown in randomized controlled trials
to help reduce pain in conditions like arthritis. That might be relevant to you if you’re feeling a little achy during your pregnancy.
- Struggling with hay fever? Nettle may reduce some of your sneezing and sniffling.
Research from 2009suggests that products containing nettle might reduce the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
- Some believe that it may help with lactation, but the evidence seems to be somewhat inconclusive on that front.
The main risk of drinking nettle tea during pregnancy seems to be that it could potentially stimulate your uterus and cause contractions. That might not be such a bad thing in the last week of pregnancy, but it could be problematic in earlier trimesters.
Another possible risk is the possibility that you might develop a rash if you’re making your own tea from a nettle plant. Some people notice redness, bumps, or hives on their skin after touching a nettle plant. That’s because the leaves and stems are covered in tiny little hairs that can “sting” your skin — hence the name “stinging nettle.”
It’s also potentially risky to consume nettle if you’re taking any other medications while you’re pregnant. Nettle may interact with them. It might compound the effect of some medications, which could lead to dangerous side effects.
Are you a DIYer? You can grow nettle plants in your garden, then harvest the leaves for tea. A good rule of thumb is to use 2 cups of water for every cup of nettle leaves, then boil it and let it steep.
If you’re not the type of person to grow your own plants and herbs to make tea at home, you can buy dried leaves and flowers and use those to make tea. Or for the really easy route, pick up some prepackaged nettle tea in your grocery and specialty stores. Just prepare the tea according to the instructions on the package.
While we’re on the subject of drinking tea during pregnancy, you may hear a lot of other recommendations for teas to try.
Teas that are generally considered safe to drink during pregnancy include:
- raspberry leaf tea
- ginger tea
- lemon balm tea
- peppermint tea
While these may be considered safe during pregnancy, remember that moderation is still key.
Teas that you should probably limit or avoid during pregnancy include:
- Caffeinated teas like matcha, black tea, oolong tea, white tea, chai, and green tea, which all contain varying amounts of caffeine. If you can’t stand giving up your favorite caffeinated tea, cutting back can still help. Experts recommend keeping your caffeine consumption to
300 milligrams or less per day.
- Herbal teas that may cause miscarriage or preterm labor, which can include borage, licorice, sage, fennel, vervain, fenugreek, thyme, pennyroyal, motherwort, lovage, black cohosh, and blue cohosh. Larger amounts of frankincense and chamomile may also be risky.
In general, you may want to err on the side of caution due to the limited amount of information that we have about the safety of many herbal teas and products during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a temporary condition, even though it may feel like it lasts forever, especially those last few weeks when your ankles seem permanently swollen. But you still want to be cautious about what you eat and drink. (It’s just for a little while longer, we promise!)
So, if you’re thinking about trying some nettle tea, it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor first. If they give you the green light to drink nettle tea at some point during your pregnancy, you might brew some up.