Raspberry leaf - relaxing, nourishing and cleansing

Raspberry leaf is a passable substitute for black tea. It doesn't have the caffeine, of course, but while you have to be careful with the dosage of many medicinal herbs, this is one herb you can drink--and rather enjoy--every day if you want to. 

That doesn't mean it's without medicinal benefits, however. The leaf of the red raspberry bush (both the garden and wild varieties) is used for disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, such as diarrhea, for the flu and other viral infections affecting the respiratory system, for fever, for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, as well as for heart disease and diabetes. 

Creative Commons image by Patrick Cain 

Creative Commons image by Patrick Cain 

Due to its mild and generally nourishing effects, raspberry leaf is consumed in large quantities when medicinal benefits are desired and is usually a secondary herb to support others. It is also considered a good herb for clearing up skin problems caused by a build up of toxic heavy metals and other inorganic compounds in the body. As a detox herb, it is often combined with nettles, but unlike nettle it is beneficial to those with anemia and does not have the side effect of stripping iron from the blood. 

The most important benefit of raspberry leaf is probably it's simple nutritional value. It is high in vitamins and minerals. A cold infusion of the herb is packed with magnesium, potassium, iron and b-vitamins which may explain some of its benefits during pregnancy, including .reducing nausea and leg cramps, as well as improving sleep. 

Many herbalists recommend raspberry leaf as a "women's herb" and there is evidence that it has been used by many cultures to give pregnant and menstruating women a boost . The  nutrients in raspberry leaf give specific benefits to the female reproductive system. Raspberry leaf strengthens the uterus and pelvic muscles which some midwives believe leads to shorter and easier labors. The astringent compounds in raspberry leaf may be responsible for this benefit, causing lax tissues to become firm. This can be helpful in case of uterine prolapse or extensive cramps.

Some women report that raspberry leaf tea can help with painful or heavy periods. Even if it doesn't lessen a heavy period in all patients, it can help to avoid the anemia that may result from excessive menstruation. 

Women wishing to conceive often use raspberry leaf, as many herbalists believe it "tones the uterus." Others use it to mitigate morning sickness in early pregnancy, though some practitioners fear that it could cause hormonal shifts that might slightly increase the chance of a miscarriage.

Creative Commons image by Tatters of Flickr.com

Creative Commons image by Tatters of Flickr.com

There is little evidence for a link to miscarriage and other herbalists use raspberry leaf to prevent miscarriage. However, in this arena any suspicion is usually grounds for banning an herb or any other substance during early pregnancy. As a result midwives often recommend drinking raspberry leaf tea only in the last month or two of pregnancy, when it's benefits to the uterus and in easing birth can be obtained without any potential risk of miscarriage. 

While there is some controversy about the timing and dosage of raspberry leaf during pregnancy, midwives and many doctors are in agreement that after the birth raspberry leaf tea has extensive benefits, helping to mitigate bleeding and swelling as well as to restore muscle tone. The high nutrient content gives extra oomph to breast milk. 

Tea or infusion 

Raspberry leaf is often prepared as a tea, hot or iced. The tea, brewed with boiling water, has a taste similar to that of black tea and is considered quite pleasant by most people. Still the boiling water and the relatively low concentration of raspberry leaf in this tea make it weak as a nutritional supplement. 

To get the full nutritional value of raspberry leaf, it is best brewed as a cold infusion. To brew a cold infusion fill a glass container with the loose dried or fresh leaves. Don't pack them in. The proper amount is about as much as will loosely fill the container in a fluffy pile. Then fill the container up with cold water and stir the leaves in well. Let the mixture sit over night or for at least eight hours. Strain and use the infusion as a nutritional supplement. 

Raspberry leaf can also be made into a tincture with 40 percent alcohol. The tincture is most often used to treat heavy and painful menstrual periods.


Arie Farnam

Arie Farnam is a war correspondent turned peace organizer, a tree-hugging herbalist, a legally blind bike rider, the off-road mama of two awesome kids, an idealist with a practical streak and author of the Kyrennei Series. She grew up outside La Grande, Oregon and now lives in a small town near Prague in the Czech Republic.