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Pregnant and breastfeeding women, be careful when drinking fennel tea

Often recommended to pregnant and breastfeeding women to stimulate breastfeeding, fennel herbal tea is in the crosshairs of the European Medicines Agency, which suspects it has “carcinogenic effects”.

It’s a bit of a “grandmother’s recipe”, handed down from generation to generation by women, often also recommended by the medical profession, starting with the obstetrics: fennel herbal teas, which should stimulate lactation when breastfeeding the baby or he’s planning to have it done that way. Sometimes it is also recommended for newborns, when they are subject to colic or have transit difficulties.

But this hot drink, made from fennel seeds, would not be safe for your health if consumed “excessively”.

A possible carcinogenic risk

The alarm comes from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). In a press release dated 31 January 2024, the health authority, and more specifically its Herbal Medicines Committee (HMPC), report “several studies” carried out on rodents and human liver cells in vitro which “showed the carcinogenic and genotoxic effects of estragole”. Estragole is an aromatic organic compound found in various plants, including fennel. It is also suspected of being genotoxic, meaning that it alters DNA.

To avoid any risk, the European Medicines Agency therefore recommends that adults do not take too much “the value of 0.05 milligrams of estragole per person per day”.

It is also particularly aimed at pregnant and breastfeeding women, who run the risk of consuming fennel herbal tea “has not been established”. Also, as well, “in the absence of sufficient data, use during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not recommended”.


Contacted by BFMTV.com, Sylvie Michel, professor and member of the National Academy of Pharmacy, explains it “For pregnant women, this can pass to the fetus. Immature children have more difficulty metabolizing some substances. The EMA therefore aims to protect against the risk of cancer.”

Also for this reason the EMA strongly advises against the use of fennel herbal tea by children under four years of age.

Inform about the risks without scaring

While it is therefore advisable to consume fennel herbal tea with caution, one should not be too alarmist either, Eliette Bruneau, president of the national association of liberal midwives in France, told BFMTV.com.

“We must not scare all these women who have consumed fennel, we must warn of the risks but without scaring. In vitro studies have been conducted, in vivo studies are now necessary, this alarm should give rise to further studies. »

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Source: Madmoizelle

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