This sheet is about exposure to Echinacea preparations in pregnancy and while breastfeeding. This information should not take the place of medical care and advice from your healthcare providers.
What is echinacea?
Echinacea is an herb that comes from the roots, stem, leaves, and flower of the plant Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower). Dried roots of Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida are also used. The type of active ingredients among different products can vary widely. The active ingredients and strength of the active ingredients depends on the type of echinacea plant used, the part of the plant used, and how it is made.
Echinacea comes in many forms, such as teas, extracts, capsules, tablets, tinctures, and preparations that go on the skin (topical). Some dietary supplements can contain echinacea.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate herbal products and supplements in the same way they regulate medications. Many herbs and herbal products have not been studied, or well-studied, for use in human pregnancy. Herbal products may contain harmful substances (called contaminants) such as metals, pesticides, chemicals, microorganisms, or other ingredients not listed on the label. These contaminants may have their own negative effects on a pregnancy. The use of herbal products is generally not recommended during pregnancy unless under the direction and care of your healthcare provider to treat a medical condition. For more information on herbal products in general, please see our fact sheet at: https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/herbal-products-pregnancy/.
Tinctures can contain the extract of plant (such as echinacea) dissolved in alcohol. These preparations could have a significant amount of alcohol. Alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding. More information about alcohol can be found in our fact sheet here https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/alcohol-pregnancy/.
I take echinacea. Can it make it harder for me to get pregnant?
Studies have not been done to see if taking echinacea could make it harder to get pregnant.
Does taking echinacea increase the chance for miscarriage?
Miscarriage is common and can occur in any pregnancy for many different reasons. Animal studies suggest that echinacea products might increase the chance of miscarriage. However, it is not clear how the chinacea preparations and dose levels used in the animal studies compare to what would be used by humans. One small study in humans found no increased chance for miscarriage in those who took echinacea when compared to those who did not.
Does taking echinacea increase the chance of birth defects?
Every pregnancy starts out with a 3-5% chance of having a birth defect. This is called the background risk. Small studies looking at exposure to echinacea during pregnancy have not reported an increased chance for birth defects above the background risk.
Does taking echinacea in pregnancy increase the chance of other pregnancy-related problems?
In a study comparing over 350 pregnancies exposed to echinacea and over 68,000 unexposed pregnancies, no increased chance for preterm delivery (birth before week 37), low birth weight (weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces [2500 grams] at birth), or small for gestational age infants was reported.
Does taking echinacea in pregnancy affect future behavior or learning for the child?
Studies have not been done to see if echinacea can cause behavior or learning issues for the child.
Some echinacea preparations have been found to be contaminated by heavy metals like lead. High blood lead levels during pregnancy can harm fetal development. More information on lead can be found in our factsheet here https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/lead-pregnancy/.
Breastfeeding while taking echinacea:
Information on the use of echinacea in breastfeeding is limited. One study found some components of echinacea in breast milk after a person who was breastfeeding took echinacea tablets. It is not known if or how these components would affect a nursing child. If you suspect the baby has any symptoms (stomach upset, diarrhea, constipation, skin rash, or allergic reactions), contact the child’s healthcare provider. Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about all of your breastfeeding questions.
If a male takes echinacea could it affect his fertility (ability to get partner pregnant) or increase the chance of birth defects?
Studies have not been done in humans to see if taking echinacea could affect male fertility or increase the chance of birth defects above background risk. In general, exposures that fathers or sperm donors have are unlikely to increase the risks to a pregnancy. For more information, please see the MotherToBaby fact sheet Paternal Exposures at https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/paternal-exposures-pregnancy/.
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OTIS/MotherToBaby encourages inclusive and person-centered language. While our name still contains a reference to mothers, we are updating our resources with more inclusive terms. Use of the term mother or maternal refers to a person who is pregnant. Use of the term father or paternal refers to a person who contributes sperm.