Objective: A literature survey investigating the use of herbs to treat morning sickness, with particular reference to what is known about their safety.
Design: All major English language medical, nursing and scientific databases as well as 300 World Wide Web sites, Internet newsgroups, books and magazines were searched for information about the use and safety of herbs in pregnancy.
Findings: A search of medical databases failed to locate any articles which specifically reported investigations of the safety of herbs used during pregnancy. Of 300 non-medical sources studied 75 cited the use of herbs in pregnancy. The most commonly cited herbs for morning sickness were ginger, chamomile, peppermint and raspberry leaf (55, 37, 44 and 63% cited respectively). There was no consensus in the popular literature about whether or not each of these herbs was safe for use in pregnancy. Seven sources (6%) cited chamomile and peppermint as unsafe, while 16 (12%) cited the use of ginger and 11 (15%) the use of raspberry leaf as unsafe during pregnancy.
Conclusions: Herbal remedies are often seen as safe, 'drug-free' treatments for morning sickness. However, the contradictory information and dearth of original research related to their safety indicates that these compounds should be used with caution.