Essential Oils To Avoid During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

Heather Dessinger

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Give me a choice between Skittles and homemade gummy snacks, and I’m going to choose the gummies. DIY coconut lime electrolyte drink over Gatorade? Yep, every time. But just because something is natural doesn’t automatically mean it’s necessarily safe during every phase of life and in any amount.

Essential oils can be incredibly helpful for digestive support, soothing muscle aches, and encouraging restful sleep during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but their individual safety profiles need to be considered before use. Certain ones should be used sparingly or completely avoided. Not because they are adulterated or low-quality – although those should definitely be avoided as well – but because they contain constituents that could be harmful.

For example, wintergreen contains a very high concentration of methyl salicylate, which is classified as teratogenic (capable of causing birth defects or possibly ending a pregnancy).

According to Robert Tisserand, author of Essential Oil Safety:

Essential oil constituents in general are likely to cross the placenta efficiently because of their favorable lipophilicity and low molecular weight.”

However, he adds that this “does not indicate a hazard per se which, for any substance, is determined by plasma concentration and toxicity.” (emphasis mine)

In other words, it’s about understanding that some essential oils are safer than others, knowing which ones to use, and which ones NOT to. Below is a list of those that should always be avoided, plus some that should be used sparingly.

For a list of essential oils that should be used sparingly by pregnant or nursing mothers, check out this post on safe essential oils during pregnancy and breastfeeding.


Essential Oils To Avoid During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

According to Essential Oil Safety, the following oils should be completely avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women:

  • Anise, Pimpinella anisum
  • Anise (star), Illicium verum
  • Araucaria, Neocallitropsis pancheri
  • Artemisia vestita, Artemisia vestita
  • Atractylis, Atractyllodes lancea
  • Birch (sweet), Betula lenta
  • Black seed, Nigella sativa
  • Buchu (diosphenol CT), Agathosma betulina ct. diosphenol 
  • Buchu (pulegone CT), Agathosma crenulara ct. pulegone
  • Calamint (lesser), Calamintha nepeta
  • Carrot seed, Daucus carota 
  • Cassia, Cinnamomum cassia
  • Chaste tree, Vitex agnus castus
  • Cinnamon bark, Cinnamomum verum
  • Costus, Saussurea costus
  • Cypress (blue), Callitris intratropica
  • Dill seed (Indian), Anethum sowa
  • Fennel (bitter), Foeniculum vulgare 
  • Fennel (sweet), Foeniculum vulgare 
  • Feverfew, Tanacetum parthenium
  • Frankincense, Boswellia papyrifera
  • Genipi, Artemisia genepi
  • Hibawood, Thujopsis dolobrata
  • Ho leaf (camphor CT), Cinnamomum camphora ct. camphor
  • Hyssop (pinocamphone CT), Hyssopus officinalis ct. pinocamphone
  • Lanyana, Artemisia afra
  • Lavender (Spanish), Lavandula stoechas
  • Mugwort (common, camphor/thujone CT), Artemisia vulgaris ct. camphor/thujone
  • Mugwort (common, chrysanthenyl acetate CT), Artemisia vulgaris ct. chrysanthenyl acetate
  • Mugwort (great), Artemisia arborescens
  • Myrrh, Commiphora myrrah
  • Myrtle (aniseed), Backhousia anisata
  • Oregano, Origanum vulgare
  • Parsley leaf, Petroselinum crispum
  • Parsleyseed, Petroselinum crispum
  • Pennyroyal, Hedeoma pulegioides, Mentha pulegium
  • Rue, Ruta graveolens
  • Sage (Dalmation), Salvia officinalis
  • Sage (Spanish), Salvia lavandulifolia 
  • Savin, Juniperus sabina
  • Tansy, Tanacetum vulgare
  • Thuja, Thuja occidentalis
  • Western red cedar, Thuja plicata
  • Wintergreen, Gaultheria fragrantissim
  • Wormwood (all chemotypes), Artemisia absinthium
  • Wormwood (sea), Artemisia maritime
  • Wormwood (white), Artemisia herba-alba
  • Yarrow (green), Achillea nobilis
  • Zedoary, Curcuma zedoaria

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This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Sheila Kilbane, MD, a board-certified pediatrician, trained in integrative medicine. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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Heather is a holistic health educator, herbalist, DIYer, Lyme and mold warrior. Since founding in 2009, Heather has been taking complicated health research and making it easy to understand. She shares tested natural recipes and herbal remedies with millions of naturally minded mamas around the world. 

Leave a Comment

21 thoughts on “Essential Oils To Avoid During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding”

  1. What about neem? I know it’s not safe during pregnancy but was about limited use while breastfeeding? It’s not anywhere on the list.

  2. Thank you for the lists! Just one question: is it possible to see which oils are ok for breastfeeding moms even though they’re not ok for pregnancy? Differentiate between those categories? I’m breastfeeding but wish to use a few like fennel (actually known for Helping with milk production)..

  3. I know it says to completely avoid these essential oils but does that only refer to topically? I actually use a few of these in my homemade cleaning supplies, presumably if I don’t inhale or ingest them that would still be okay, right? What about diffusing?

  4. Lavender, really? I love your site! This isn’t criticism, but I’d need to read the studies and reasoning behind each oil to really adopt all of this. I feel like I read conflicting information.

  5. Hi! Such a great resource, thank you for putting these printables together! Could you please tell me if it says why you can’t use Fennel in Robert Tisserand’s Essential Oil Safety book (I don’t have it). I would love to be able to use an essential oil to help increase my milk supply and resources all over the internet state to use use Fennel. But I don’t want to use it if not safe…

  6. What about cinnamon leaf? I’ve been trying to find something that specifically mentions cinnamon leaf use while breastfeeding. All I can find is referenced to cinnamon bark being unsafe and in your baby and small children post you say cinnamon leaf is ok for babies, but what about me while I’m breastfeeding still? I just want to diffuse it, not use topically.

  7. Hi there, I am 14 weeks pregnant and I have been using birch oil on my skin the whole time and now I’m really worried. Will my baby have birth defects because of this? Everything on the web says not to use birch but nothing says what the side effects are? ☹️

  8. I know others have asked this above but I don’t see any responses. What specifically does he say about fennel and breastfeeding? Everything I’ve read about fennel says it promotes milk production. Thanks!