Safety of Popular Herbal Supplements in Lactating Women

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The increasing popularity and use of dietary supplements has required health care professionals to become more knowledgeable of their properties, interactions, and adverse effects. The objectives of this review were to evaluate the safety of popular dietary supplements in breastfeeding mothers and the effects on the infants. Nine of the most popular herbal dietary supplements were identified based on the 2011 US market report of the top 10 selling botanicals and the most frequently received inquiries by the Ruth A. Lawrence Lactation Study Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Relevant publications were identified through June 2014 using PubMed and EMBASE; tertiary references, including the Drugs and Lactation Database and Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database, were also reviewed. These herbals include black cohosh, cranberry, echinacea, evening primrose, garlic, ginseng, melatonin, milk thistle, and St John’s wort. Studies varied greatly with regard to study design, herbal intervention, and outcome measures. Findings suggested that dietary/herbal supplements have not been evaluated in high-quality clinical trials, and there is limited evidence supporting safety of use, particularly among lactating women. Therefore, it is essential for physicians to provide counseling for nursing mothers seeking information on dietary supplements, highlighting reliable safety profiles, inquiring about the potential benefits the patient is seeking, and assessing the patient’s perception of this supplement during breastfeeding. More research and clinical trials are required in this area to guide the recommendations and expand our current knowledge of these products.



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