| What is it?
We use the leaves of Raspberry in herbal medicine. It is a true ‘mother herb’, growing in a way that has a central ‘mother’ plant which shields and protect its ‘babies’ as they grow up and remarkably good for women on a number of levels.
How has it been used?
Raspberry leaf is most famous now as a pregnancy herb but the ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese and Ayurvedic physicians also used it widely as a treatment for wounds and diarrhoea. Culpeper talked about Raspberry leaf as 'very binding and good for fevers, ulcers, putrid sores of the mouth and secret parts, for stones of the kidneys and too much flowing of the women's courses'
Kings American Dispensatory recommended Raspberry as 'of much service in dysentery, pleasant to the taste, mitigating suffering and ultimately affecting a cure. American colonists brewed Raspberry leaf tea and called it Hyperion tea, named for the Grecian father of the sun god, for Raspberries thrive on sunlight.
M. Grieves writes '
an infusion of Raspberry leaves, taken cold is a reliable remedy for extreme laxity of the bowels. The infusion alone, or as a component part, never fails to give immediate relief and it is especially useful in stomach complaints of children.'
Raspberry leaf has been particularly valued in the last 2 or 3 months of pregnancy where it is used to strengthen the uterus prior to giving birth but there are also many historical recommendations for Raspberry leaf in the first months of pregnancy to help prevent miscarriage and to reduce morning sickness.
Raspberry leaf has been widely recommended for many generations as a uterine relaxant and pregnancy tonic and there are no reports in the medical literature of any problems with it. Women who have had repeated miscarriages may find it especially useful.
Raspberry leaf has also been traditionally used as an eyewash or a mouthwash when there is inflammation or infection present or when there are sores that are slow to heal.
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Science on Raspberry Leaf
~ Raspberry leaf has had some rather fascinating studies done on it; a concentrate of Raspberry leaf extract relaxed the uterus and intestine in laboratory experiments. For the uterus the relaxation was occasionally followed by contraction and further relaxation. The degree of relaxation increased with successive doses. Secondary contractions were eliminated and those that occurred were evenly spaced. Relaxation was promoted in tonically contracted isolated uteri but if allowed to relax raspberry leaf caused the organ to contract. When little tone was present in isolated uterus, raspberry leaf caused stimulation but when the uterus was toned the raspberry leaf induced relaxation. All this gives the strong impression that Raspberry leaf has a regulatory action on uterine tone (Burn JH, Withell ER, Lancet 2(6149):1-3,1941 -- Patel AV et al. J Pharm Pharmacol 47(12B):1129, 1990)
~ A controlled study involving 108 women found that they could consume Raspberry leaf during their pregnancy to shorten labour with no side effects for the women or their babies. Taking Raspberry leaf may decrease the likelihood of preterm and post-term labour, evidenced by the smaller spread of the gestation period among the group who consumed the Raspberry leaf. An unexpected finding of this study was the women who consumed Raspberry leaf might be less likely to need artificial rupture of their membranes, caesarean section, forceps or vacuum birth. Treatment began as early as 8 weeks pregnant though the majority commenced at 30 to 34 weeks. The daily dose ranged from 1-6 cups of tea or tablets per day (Parsons M, Simpson M, Ponton T: J Aust Coll Midwives 12(3):20-25, 1999)
Safety of Raspberry Leaf
Given that Raspberry leaf has been consumed, in quantity, by so many millions of pregnant women over so many millennia with no problems you can say with great confidence that this herb is extremely safe in pregnancy. You could say that, but our culture of fear and anxiety will always find something to worry about once it sets it collective mind to it and there are cautions about using Raspberry leaf in the first trimester of pregnancy. I can tell you that those cautions are unfounded, unscientific and plain wrong but that won't stop some women worrying too much to feel they can chance it. A pity, because it clearly does so much to help in pregnancy as well as any other time of a woman's reproductive life.
I can personally stage categorically that Raspberry leaf is exceptionally safe for the young and old, whilst pregnant or breastfeeding and that it can be used with utmost confidence.
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I thought of Raspberry leaf in a rather narrow way in my early years of practice and would only think to include some Raspberry leaf in a herbal formula if a woman came to me in pregnancy and that was about as far as I went with it. Increasingly, as the years have gone by and one learns by actual practice what works rather than by theory, I have found myself prescribing Raspberry for more and more problems with more and more women.
This is because Raspberry leaf truly is a superb uterine tonic all round. By the way this is not just my personal view. I have talked with other herbalists, especially those who work extensively with women’s health problems, and it is clear that they have come to the same kind of high regard for Raspberry leaf in their own work and through their own experiences.
Raspberry is an uplifting herb to the mind and the body and the words ‘tone and strengthen’ give you a close sense of how it feels when you take it for a time.
I have found Raspberry leaf to be of tremendous healing support for many women with fibroids, endometriosis, or heavy, painful or irregular periods. Likewise I have found it to be of great value to women who have become badly depleted through the extraordinary demands of child making and child-raising. Raspberry leaf is not a herb to be shy of in terms of dosages. If using it for at least a few weeks I will gladly use a couple of heaped tsps a day of the leaf in tea form or up to a tsp of its tincture. If needing to get its benefits very quickly for an acute problem you can use it very freely and frequently in higher amounts with no need to worry about side-effects.
If you who are reading this are studying herbal medicine or have your own reasons to want to understand this fine plant ally at a much deeper level then I warmly encourage you to take a cup of Raspberry leaf tea of a small dose of its tincture and then, with a quiet and attentive mind, observe for yourself how it makes you feel. This old method of 'experiential' learning may give you a greater appreciation of the herb's 'action' than any amount of academic learning about it. Of course you have to try such things for yourself to see but I think you may very well soon feel some of the reasons why this herb gets its reputation for 'toning'. If you tune into it you can literally feel how it 'binds together' that which has become weak and how at the same time there can be a lovely sense of those nurturing qualities that have made this such a premiere herb for the great creative journey of life that women undertake.
Raspberry leaf combines particularly well with Lady's mantle for a weakened uterus, with Shepherd's purse for heavy periods, with Vitex for irregular periods or to enhance fertility, with Cramp Bark for painful periods and with Yarrow for a leaky gut.
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Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Raspberry leaf is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with plant B. There is value in this approach, especially in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another, but it falls short in one vital area; and that is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Something that works brilliantly for one person may do less for another -- why is this?
The reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are more hot or cool and at the same time more dry or damp; more info about this here.
There is an old wisdom in treating the person first and the condition second and in this light Raspberry leaf can particularly offer its benefits when a nourishing action is needed in the 'cycle of healing' - something that is discussed here and shown in a chart here.
Further notes on Raspberry leaf and pregnancy
Historically women have taken raspberry leaf tea throughout their pregnancies up to and including childbirth. Many mothers extol this herb's ability to make childbirth easier and less painful.
In a letter to the editor of the medical journal The Lancet, Dr Violet Russel wrote " I have encouraged expectant mothers to drink this infusion and in a great many cases labour has been free and easy from muscular spasm."
Some women also drink the tea throughout their labour, or suck on frozen cubes made beforehand. It reportedly helps expel the placenta, and its nutritional value is thought to be responsible for encouraging and enriching the mother's breastmilk.
Many women continue to drink the tea long after childbirth as it is thought to help restore the reproductive system and continue to help nourish the new mother.
Please understand that I cannot personally advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in my clinic but ideas
on how you might find a good herbalist in your area are here.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!
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