Several medicinal herbs have been used historically to "purify" the bloodstream and to flush pollutants from the body. In modern naturopathy, integrative practitioners widely recommend these detox herbal teas, but there is little notable scientific evidence supporting their use. In general, it is best to avoid herbal teas while nursing, since few studies have evaluated these products' safety for breastfeeding mothers. Consult a physician, licensed herbalist or lactation consultant before using any detox herbal tea while nursing.
Detox herbal teas work in a variety of manners to eliminate toxins and waste from the body. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, herbal diuretics, such as red clover, dandelion and burdock, have been used historically to "purify" the bloodstream. These herbs increase the activity of the kidneys, leading to increased urination and the elimination of excess fluid from the body. Another herbal detox tea, senna, acts as a powerful laxative. The National Institutes of Health regard senna as a "likely effective" and "likely safe" product, noting that its active compounds are approved by the FDA as a treatment for constipation.
Herbal detox teas can provide several benefits to nursing mothers, although it is unclear if these benefits can outweigh the risks. Senna can relieve both chronic and acute episodes of constipation, while herbal diuretics, such as dandelion, burdock and red clover, can help to prevent edema (swelling caused by water retention). Because dandelion is also a natural source of potassium, it can prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, which are common side effects associated with diuretic detox teas.
Side Effects for the Mother
Detox herbal teas can cause several side effects for nursing mothers. Senna's most common side effects include cramping, diarrhea and abdominal pain, according to MedlinePlus. Burdock can cause dehydration because of its fluid-flushing effects, so it is important to drink extra fluids to compensate for this medicinal property. As a member of the ragweed family, dandelion may cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals.
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Side Effects for the Baby
Most medicinal teas do not cross into breast milk in quantities significant enough to cause side effects for a nursing child. According to MedlinePlus, trace amounts of senna's active compounds enter breast milk, but they do not appear to alter a nursing baby's bowel habits. Dandelion and burdock have not been studied for nursing moms, so the University of Maryland Medical Center advises women to avoid it during lactation. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, red clover contains hormone-altering compounds known as isoflavones. These may interfere with breast milk production, causing growth problems in the baby.
If you choose to use any detox herbal tea while nursing, be aware that it can lead to potentially serious consequences. Nursing mothers are more susceptible to dehydration because of the fluid needs associated with lactation. If you use detox herbal teas, you are more likely to experience this potentially serious adverse reaction. Furthermore, these teas can interact with medications and dietary supplements, leading to an increased risk of serious side effects. Always talk to your doctor before using any form of botanical medicine.
Juniper Russo, an eclectic autodidact, has been writing professionally since 2008. Her work has appeared in several online and print-based publications, including Animal Wellness. Russo regularly publishes health-related content and advocates an evidence-based, naturopathic approach to health care.