Herbal Abortifacients

Natural Abortion Through the Use of Herbs is Dangerous

Though touted as natural ways to do-it-yourself, such herbs are powerful drugs with potentially fatal consequences. Unregulated by the FDA, herbal abortifacients can vary in potency and effect. Pennyroyal, Black or Blue Cohosh and other similar herbs are toxic in excess and can easily overtax the liver and kidneys, causing headaches, extreme nausea, bleeding, or even death. Women at particular risk are those with high blood pressure, epilepsy, allergies, diabetes, liver, heart or kidney problems, an IUD or recent PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), and women taking other drugs as these may aggravate existing medical problems or dangerously alter the way the herbs are intended to work. Never take an herbal abortifacient.

According to pharmacist, Karen L. Brauer M.S., R.Ph., “There are many different drugs and herbs a woman can use to abort a baby, if she doesn’t mind the risk of poisioning herself. There is no one to blame or sue if a home abortion goes bad. Doses and potency of herbs are variable. Bleeding out in an unsupervised setting is a common problem with do-it-yourself abortions. A slow chemical abortion can be even more traumatic emotionally than a surgical procedure.”

Pennyroyal for Abortion

Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) has been used as an herbal abortifacient. The level where a miscarriage can be expected to be induced is about at the same level that other effects, including liver damage, convulsions, coma, death, can occur in the mother. At lower doses, birth defects might be a likely outcome. The tea has too little of the active ingredient to be likely to induce abortion, although there is a strong caution concerning liver damage or effects on pregnancy and fetal development even with the tea.

While pennyroyal tea may safely stimulate mild increase in menstrual flow, the effects of the oil are very different. When employed to induce abortion the effects of pennyroyal oil are extremely dangerous and can be lethal. In one case, despite immediate emergency hospital treatment, an expectant mother died within hours of consuming just two tablespoonfuls of pennyroyal oil in an attempt to initiate self-abortion. Other cases have resulted in coma and convulsions after consuming much smaller amounts of this extremely toxic oil.

Doctors and herbalists say they are “concerned” about the “increased interest” in the herb called pennyroyal as a “natural” abortion method. Pennyroyal’s reputation as an abortifacient makes it a “more appealing alternative to an operation at a clinic.” Bastyr University botanical medicine chair Lise Alschuler: “Pennyroyal oil has a long folk history as an abortifacient. It isn’t really. In most cases, it fails to induce abortion. What women are doing in these cases is creating such high toxicity that their own body is unable to sustain the pregnancy. … If pennyroyal oil is to work as an abortifacient, it’s going to work because it’s poisoning the mother.”

According the the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Eastside Hospital obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Sandra Sultan treated a woman who said she drank pennyroyal tea “three times a day for a week to end a six-week pregnancy.” Sultan: “Within hours after I first saw her, she was bleeding from every orifice. I’ve never seen anything like it.” The woman then went into kidney and liver failure and was in a coma for weeks. Sultan says she is now recovering, “but may still need treatment for potential neurological damage from bleeding in the brain.” Sultan says the woman still required a surgical abortion. Those who sell herbs say “education … is key to using natural remedies.”

Herbalist Eric Pollard said pennyroyal oil is a “highly toxic oil, used mostly as a pesticide.” It can kill “if less than a teaspoon is ingested.” Pollard: “When we sell the pennyroyal oil, we make it very clear that this is not for internal use.” FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition spokesperson Judy Folke said the agency has listed pennyroyal as a “flavoring.” Folke said the FDA can take action about pennyroyal “only if the agency can prove that the herbal product can cause harm when taken as recommended, which is difficult to do.”

Blue Cohosh for Abortion

Native Americans are believed to have used blue cohosh flowers (Caulophyllum thalictroides) to induce labor and menstruation. Large amounts of blue cohosh can cause nausea, headaches, and high blood pressure. Blue cohosh should only be used under medical supervision and in limited amounts. It is unsafe in pregnancy, except with skilled professional guidance.

Herbal Abortion can Kill

Certain pre-existing conditions can be make an herbal abortion even more dangerous. If you have high blood pressure, epilepsy, diabetes, or problems with your liver, heart, or kidney, these herbs may cause those conditions to become more severe. If you are using hormonal contraceptives or any other drugs, these herbs can counteract with those medications. An herbal abortion can be even more hazardous if you have an IUD, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or fibroids. Women who want to end a pregnancy are advised to visit a pregnancy resouce center to explore safer options.

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