Days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and allowed states to ban abortion, some TikTok users have started featuring herbal teas they claim can induce abortion.
A TikTok that suggests mugwort tea can lead to miscarriage has nearly a million views. TikToks claiming mugwort and pennyroyal can induce abortion received thousands of views and remained on the site on July 6.
Many video creators tell viewers not to take the herbs (a method to avoid being shot by TikTok), while advising people in the comments on how to take them.
Although these herbs have a history of use in ancient cultures, herbalists and doctors advise against using them to induce abortion or miscarriage. Mugwort and pennyworth both contain ingredients known to be toxic in high doses, and women attempting abortions with the herbs have died.
“You don’t have to try things at home that you’ve learned on TikTok, because really a lot of those things aren’t tried and true,” Dr. Maria Sophocles, an OB/GYN based in New Jersey.
Experts advise against using mugwort and pennyroyal to induce abortion
Sophocles said she would never recommend using herbal supplements to induce abortion. She said not only is the supplement industry unregulated, which means people can’t be sure the pill they’re getting has the ingredients listed on the label, but doctors can also have difficulty treating patients who take too much of an unregulated herb because there is no agreed-upon treatment. protocols.
The Herb Society of America, a nonprofit organization that advocates horticulture, told Insider that it also does not recommend using herbs for medical or health purposes.
Dr. Eden Fromberg is board certified in Obstetrician/Gynecologist Medicine and Integrative Holistic Medicine. Her practice combines medical testing and treatment with personalized nutrition and alternative therapies.
Fromberg said she understands people may seek out herbal options out of desperation, but consuming these herbs in large amounts can be dangerous and ineffective.
“I’m a holistic gynecologist and I take these things very seriously,” Fromberg said. “Usually if people ask me, oh, what herbs can I take to induce miscarriage, I often don’t share that information because I think it’s often misused.”
The History of Herbs and Supplements in Reproductive Health
Mugwort and pennyroyal, although used in traditional medicine, are lethal in high doses.
Mugwort is another name for “artemisa”, a subshrub native to parts of Europe and the United States that has been around for 3,000 years.
The leaves contain thujone, the same chemical compound found in wormwood. Thujone is toxic in high doses and can cause complications during pregnancy, according to the Herb Society of America.
Fromberg said mugwort in low doses isn’t harmful and is sometimes found in foods like mochi and soba noodles. Some people use mugwort lotion to reduce itchy scars, but research doesn’t show the herb can ease these symptoms, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
But Fromberg said an overdose of the herb “could become toxic.” A 2020 review of thujone research said the compound can cause neurotoxicity or nervous system disruption.
Pennyroyal is an herb native to parts of Europe and Asia and has been used in traditional Iranian medicine to treat gastrointestinal disorders.
It’s a member of the mint family that’s highly toxic in its essential oil form, Fromberg said. The essential oil form contains pulegone, a chemical compound that can be toxic to the liver and nervous system in high doses, according to the American Botanical Council.
No research has shown that pennyroyal essential oil can cause fetal death, according to a review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
According to Kaiser Permanente, the majority of acute poisonings and deaths from pennyroyal have occurred in cases of women attempting an abortion using the oil. In the 1990s, the father of a 24-year-old sued a weed seller when his daughter died after taking a high dose of pennyroyal, which left her convulsing, vomiting, bleeding uncontrollably and ultimately his death.
Instead of taking herbal supplements, a gynecologist says to stick with misoprostol
Sophocles said that while herbal supplements can have dangerous side effects, the main drug used for medical abortions, misoprostol, is safe and effective.
Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract and pushes the embryo or fetus out of the body.
“You don’t have to be desperate,” Sophocles said. “You don’t have to make scary herbal options that we know can be dangerous.”
The doctor added that there are abortion funds that can pay pregnant women for out-of-state care. Sophocles’ clinic, Women’s Healthcare of Princeton, provides people with free IUDs and other resources to help in crisis situations.
“I will always, always come to anyone’s aid,” she said. “We will do whatever we need to do to help women.”