Insights: Herbal Abortion: A Holistic Approach to Care

Written by Holistic Abortions

For people looking to end an early pregnancy, herbs may be a viable and effective option. How they might get used and if they will need to be combined with other methods is highly individualized. Just as there is no one way to make a chocolate cake, there is no one herbal abortion recipe. And like other procedures (and other cakes), they are more often successful with someone trained and familiar with the practice. Based on evidence collected through a study concluded in 2021 that followed community abortion providers in the United States and Canada we saw that when clients requested to use herbs for or during their abortions, community providers met that need personally or through direct referrals.1 While some did use herbs and supplements as primary actors in initiating an abortion,2 it was more common to see herbs brought in as secondary, adjunct actors in combination with other abortion methods to soften the cervix or affect hormonal levels in attempts to interrupt the pregnancy. Herbs were also effectively used by community providers to manage side effects like pain, nausea, and excessive blood loss. When requested, various plant medicines were integrated for emotional and ceremonial support, making for a more holistic abortion that aligned with cultural identities, and combined allopathic modalities with more traditional practices.3

Effectively using (and researching) herbs as a form of fertility management has potential, and limitations, not least of which requires addressing misinformation and internalized beliefs of medical supremacy. Additionally, the unpredictable impact of climate change on plant growth, vitality, and entire ecosystems means herbal abortion as a widely accessible and reliable method for terminating an early pregnancy will necessitate significant systemic changes to our political, social, and healthcare landscapes.

Everyone should be able to have the abortion that fits their needs. Herbs can exist alongside other methods in ways that center clients’ desires, delivering care and improving the overall abortion experience in clinics and in homes. If your patients ask you about using herbs for or during their abortion, avoid using harmful rhetoric. Herbs can be safe, but like any medication, they need to be taken at the right time and at the right dose. Trusted referral networks between providers and herbalists are essential to meeting this client’s request. There is great potential to innovate more options and better access to holistic abortion care, and to center the needs and identities of clients, when we can respect, trust and honor the varied ways in which people choose to manage their abortions and their healthcare.

RHAP Resources:

Post-Abortion Self-Care Card

Partner Resources:

Holistic Abortions

Do No Harm: Do’s & Don’ts on Herbal Abortion

1. Dutton-Kenny, M., Ojanen-Goldsmith, A., Horner, D., Dwyer, E., & Prager, S. (n.d.). Supported At-Home Abortion: Community-Led Abortion Care in North America.

2. Horner, D. (2022, August 26). Herbal Abortions Can Be Safe and Effective—With Accurate Information. Rewire News Group.

3. ANNABELLE LE JEUNE, A. (2022, August 17). In Hawai’i, Indigenous Abortion Care Traditions Meet Modern Medicine. Rewire News Group.

4. Horner, D., Dutton-Kenny, M., Bergeron, C., Peters, E., & Jokerst, A. (2022, December). Place for Herbal Abortion in Clinical Herbalism. Journal of the American Herbalist Guild, 21(2), 51-63.

Pharma-free: The Reproductive Health Access Project does not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies. We do not promote specific brands of medication or products. The information in the Insights is unbiased, based on science alone.

Sign-up to Receive Insights Monthly!

If you enjoyed this Insights, sign up to have them delivered to your inbox! Insights are released on the fourth Tuesday of every month!