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Pregnant and herbs and spices

  1. There is still a lot of uncertainty about eating herbs and spices during pregnancy. Many herbs and spices are harmless, but some varieties contain substances such as estragole, safrole or Methyleugenol, which researchers do not yet know whether they are safe for humans. There is no scientific evidence yet, but it is still recommended for pregnant women to eat these herbs and spices in moderation.

Danger from culinary herbs

  1. Some herbs and spices may contain substances that animal studies have shown to be harmful. These are the aroma substances allylalkoxybenzenes or alkenylbenzenes, which are plant toxins. These include estragole, methyl eugenol and safrole. The degree to which the herbs are dangerous is still very unclear. There are also no known maximum safe dosages, because it is not known in what amounts they can be harmful. Because they are known to be harmful, pregnant women are warned against herbs and spices containing these substances and are advised to use them in moderation.


  1. Estragol is found naturally in the kitchen herbs and spices tarragon, chervil, basil, anise and star anise, fennel, allspice, nutmeg and turpentine. It can mainly be recognized by its aniseed scent.

Harmful effect

  1. Animal studies have shown that estragole extracts are carcinogenic. Malignant liver tumors have been found after administration to mice of different strains. This is caused by the liver's digestion of estragole, after which the substance formed conjugates with sulphate to form a sulfuric acid ester compound that easily binds to DNA. The binding damages the DNA and can cause tumors.

Essential oils

  1. Estragole should not be added in concentrated form to food due to its carcinogenicity. The herbs and spices contain very low concentrations of estragole, but the essential oils extracted from these herbs may contain high levels of estragole. It has been determined how much can be used in food. It is not advisable to use these oils, such as anise oil at home. Pregnant women should also be careful with this, although there is no evidence that the essential oils can cause damage to the unborn child. It is recommended not to use the herbs and spices with estragole in high doses.


  1. Methyleugenol is found naturally in the culinary herbs basil, nutmeg, star anise and tarragon. Like estragole, methyl eugenol is genotoxic and therefore carcinogenic. Therefore, the same restrictions apply to this substance as to estragole.


  1. Safrol occurs naturally in sassafras and nutmeg. The harmful effects of safrole have been known for a long time and the use of sassafras oil has been banned in the United States since 1960.

Herbal preparations

  1. Besides the use of culinary herbs, allylalkoxybenzenes can be found in herbal preparations in the form of pills or oils. In most cases these contain high levels of the harmful substances and it is therefore better not to take them when you are pregnant. Herbal preparations containing Allylalkoxybenzenes are:

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