Valerian, Lavender and Co Really Safe During Pregnancy?

Investigation: Herbal active ingredients against psychological complaints safe for pregnant women?

Lavender is considered a mood enhancer, with which one can even relieve depression. Many women who suffer from mental health problems during pregnancy also resort to it. But are herbal ingredients really safe for pregnant women in such cases? Researchers now want to investigate this as part of a study.

Many pregnant women suffer from depression

Many pregnant women experience depression, anxiety, or severe stress at times. Some of them, on the other hand, take medicines with antidepressant, anxiolytic or calming properties. However, since these drugs can have negative effects, many pregnant women prefer to use herbal supplements instead. Researchers at the University Clinic in Freiburg now want to work with Zurich and Basel colleagues to investigate whether herbal agents are safe against psychological complaints during pregnancy instead of synthetic drugs.

Herbal ingredients against mental health problems

Scientific studies have shown that, for example, lavender oil works against anxiety disorders.

And valerian not only helps against sleep disorders, but is also a proven helper for stress.

But are so-called phytopharmaceuticals safe for both mother and child? A research consortium from the University Hospital Freiburg, the University Hospital Zurich and the University of Basel wants to investigate this.

Safety of herbal medicines

Studies on immune and placenta cells are intended to investigate, among other things, whether the most commonly used herbal medicinal products and their metabolites are harmful to cells or genes.

"If we described the safety of herbal medicinal products in the study, pregnant women can better take the right active ingredient for them," said PD Dr. Carsten Gründemann, research group leader at the Institute for Infection Prevention and Hospital Hygiene at the University Hospital Freiburg.

The researchers compare the results with classic psychologically active drugs.

Risk assessment of phytopharmaceuticals

The project has several goals: First, women are asked about their use of phytopharmaceuticals. The researchers then investigate how the complex active ingredients of frequently used plants are absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and metabolized by the intestinal flora and liver.

Then possible cell and genetic damage effects, hormonal imbalances and interactions with other drugs are examined.

Finally, the researchers investigate, among other things, the effect on immune and placental cells and whether the substances can cross the placental barrier.

“Taking the intestinal and liver metabolism into account is a completely new approach in the risk assessment of phytopharmaceuticals. The approach and methodology developed in the project could be important for future pharmacology and safety studies in the field of phytomedicine, ”said Dr. Gründemann.

No animal experiments have been carried out

All investigations are carried out in cell cultures using the latest experimental models. Among other things, a placenta perfusion developed at the University Hospital Zurich is used.

The use of animal experiments was deliberately avoided.

The large number of experimental models is supported by the cooperation between the University Hospital Zurich (Obstetrics Clinic, Research Group Perinatal Pharmacology and Biochemistry), the University of Basel (Department of Pharmaceutical Biology) and the University Hospital Freiburg (Institute for Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology, Department for Integrative Medical Research) possible. (ad)

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