An Herbalist's thoughts on botanically-induced abortion
An ATH reader recently inquired about “herbal remedies that may help induce a miscarriage” because “I want to take care of womb space and have this experience not be so unnatural as it would be at the clinic.”
This is a sensitive and controversial topic that, as an herbalist, has been brought to my attention three times in as many months by potential clients. As such, recently I have spent considerable time pondering this topic. What follows is my personal position.
First, and most important, because something is considered "natural" does not automatically mean that it is "safe". I reached out to my herbal peers for wisdom, and their general consensus is that using herbs to induce a miscarriage/abortion is particularly dangerous and requires proper training and experience by the practitioner.
While most of us learn about herbs that were traditionally used by indigenous or slave populations to terminate unwanted pregnancy, a method of safely doing so is not generally taught in modern curricula. A quick check for "herbal abortion" in my treasured, trusted resources (See References) came up dry in terms of direction on how to safely induce an abortion. There was only discussion on how to use herbs to prevent a threatened miscarriage or support the body and mind post-abortion.
When asked if I could assist herbally with an abortion, I knew from a training standpoint that I was not qualified. But the question opened up a greater, ethical question of whether I would be comfortable assisting even if I could. In the general sense, I am strongly pro-choice as I just cannot fathom having someone make a deeply personal, heartbreaking decision for someone else.
As a woman, I also get my own choice. Personally, I would not choose abortion. But the question of whether I would help facilitate abortion in another has never come up until now. To answer that question I searched deep into my heart and spoke with fellow herbalists. Ultimately, I determined that I would not, on personal belief, assist with this process. Every woman and herbalist are free to make the decision that is best for them; this is where I stand.
Having said that, it’s important to mention another point that came up in my peer conversations. In recent months, the legality of abortion is being threatened in some areas of the United States. Historically, women turned to herbalists and other alternative practitioners when the medical system had failed them. In the case where a botanical option facilitated by a trained herbalist was the ONLY option, perhaps that would change the landscape in terms of who would be willing to assist.
Not long ago the idea of abortion being illegal in the United States would have been farfetched. In today’s uncertain, turbulent times, it seems that anything could happen. But for now, the best, safest means of having an abortion is to consult with your doctor or abortion clinic for properly trained, safe assistance.
In closing, I offer up a few herbs that may be beneficial post-abortion:
1. Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
2. Red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus)
Female hormone balancers:
1. Black cohosh (Actaea racemose)
2. Chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus-castus)
Nervines (calming in stressful times)
1. Milky oats (Avena sativa) – see my blog post on this ‘hug in a cup’
2. Scullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
3. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) – another prior blog post
Finally, for overall women’s health, chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a nurturing herb that calms the mind, digestion, reproductive organs, skin (topically).
McQuade Crawford, A. (1997), Herbal Remedies for Women, Three Rivers Press.
Romm, A. (2010), Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health, Churchill Livingstone.
Trickey, R. (2003), Women, Hormones, and the Menstrual Cycle (Herbal and Medical Solutions from Adolescence to Menopause), Second Edition, Allen and Unwin.
Donna Koczaja, M.S., RH(AHG) graduated from Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly Tai Sophia Institute) with a Master of Science in Therapeutic Herbalism and a Post-Master's Certificate in Clinical Herbalism. She earned Registered Herbalist status from the American Herbalists’ Guild in 2018. Originally educated as a mechanical engineer, she combines the rigor of her original scientific training with the traditional healing art of herbal medicine to partner with her clients to uncover the root cause of their underlying health issues. Also a Master Gardener since 2008, her primary interest is in inspiring others to improve their health and sense of wellbeing through the joys of gardening and the power of natural medicine.
Donna currently practices at the MUIH Natural Care Center in Laurel, Maryland and also does virtual consultations.Read more about her, what she does, and why she does it at www.greenhavenherbalist.com, or contact her directly here.