18 July 2018
Herbal uses of raspberry leaf
This article excerpted from the materia medica of Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Healing for Women, who we're delighted to be welcoming back to the Herbal Conference again this year!
Rubus idaeus, R. strigosus
Parts used: primarily the leaf, but often the whole plant for medicinal purposes
For centuries raspberry leaf was recognized as a powerful uterine tonic by indigenous people throughout the world, but the herb’s uses as an aid in childbirth were largely ignored in the West until the 1940s. At that time, several reports were published in prestigious medical journals extolling raspberry leaf’s extraordinary effects on the uterus and pelvic region, and the herb quickly became famous in the United States and Europe. Such scientific studies and the traditional uses of raspberry leaf both confirm its role as an exceptional aid in pregnancy and childbirth.
The presence of fragarine, an alkaloid found in rich concentrations in the leaf, contributes to the plant’s potency as a pregnancy tonic. Fragarine, in combination with several other of the plant’s constituents, serves to tone and relax the pelvic and uterine muscles. It is a rich source of many vitamins and minerals and is particularly high in calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins B, C, and E.
In the early days of my herb shop, if anyone walked in to purchase raspberry leaf, they were either pregnant or buying the herb for someone who was. This wonderful tonic herbs was largely ignored by everyone else. Fortunately, things have changed. Raspberry leaf is now recognized not only for its value during pregnancy, but also as a woman’s herb in general. (It’s also a great herb for men.) Its astringent properties make it a good remedy for excessive menstruation. The high concentration of vitamins and minerals, especially calcium and iron, make raspberry a wonderful nutritive tonic for use during all the cycles of womanhood.
Raspberry leaf serves as an excellent all-purpose herb, with many other application in the herbal medicine. Because of its high concentrations of tannin, it is a valued remedy for diarrhea and dysentery. Recent studies demonstrate its usefulness in lowering blood sugar levels. It is also used for reducing fevers and stopping excessive bleeding. It can be an effective treatment for many childhood illnesses, including fevers and diarrhea, and it is a fine general tonic for building healthy bones and teeth.
Considered by many the “herb supreme” for pregnant women, raspberry leaf is a safe, nutritive, uterine tonic. It is generally recommended for use during the entire nine months of pregnancy. As a pregnancy tonic, it provides a rich supply of vitamins and minerals. It supplies the extra calcium and iron needed during this period and, because of its fragarine content, actually tones and firms the pelvic muscles. It has amphoteric, or adaptive, qualities. Raspberry leaf serves as both a uterine relaxant and stimulant, thus causing a regulating action in the uterus. Raspberry leaf also aids in cleansing the afterbirth from the system and is used to enrich and increase the flow of milk.
Both cultivated and wild raspberry leaves are used. Rubus idaeus, the cultivated variety, is generally more available in most herb stores. But the wild variety, R. strigosus, is considered more potent and carries with it the indescribably, yet discernable, strength and vitality of things that belong to the wilderness. If you have raspberry growing near you, pick the leaves (be sure they are unsprayed), dry them, or use them fresh. Raspberry leaf tea is a refreshing beverage and can be drunk warm or at room temperature.
The herb has no contraindications, does not produce any residual side effects, and is generally considered a safe and effective herb in all of the above situations. Raspberry leaf tea is one of those herbs that has been used for centuries by many different people around the world. Though it has received good press by the scientific community, its real value has been established by the actual experience of thousands of women over hundreds of years.