"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Red Raspberry Leaf: How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

A brief herbal history:

In the "olden days," midwives were often also herbal masters, and mixed in with more or less old wives' tale-type folklore, they often could heal maladies better than your run-a-day early American doctor.  Many herbalists were persecuted as witches in Europe and early America for their "magic."  (Think The Crucible and the Salem witch trials, and some Spanish Inquisition junk....)  Now, all I will say is that some herbs are so amazing, I often find myself thinking the word "magic" as I use them.

It's also somewhat mind-boggling when you begin to realize that some of the mostest amazing-est herbs are... well... weeds.  Dandelion, anyone?

Bottom line is, herbs are powerful things.  Many modern, main-stream healthcare sources, though, seem to indicate that herbs are unsafe because they are so powerful.  While at the same time, said sources will also try to make you believe that herbs are ineffective as well!

Really, you just need to know how an herb acts and what its contra-indications are before you use it.  Many herbs, such as red raspberry leaf, are quite powerful, but totally harmless, without contra-indications or side effects.

Raspberry leaf is what is known as a 'tonic herb.'  Tonic herbs are not used to cure acute problems, but are meant to be taken is generous doses over time.  They strengthen and 'tone' their targeted body system and promote robust, resilient good health.  While raspberry leaf is an excellent uterine and overall female reproductive tonic, it is also an 'everyone' herb. 

Why?  Well, red raspberry leaf contains high levels of bioavailable iron.  There may not be as much iron in raspberry leaf as in other foods, but the iron in raspberry leaf is easy for your body to absorb, so almost all of it can be used by your body, unlike, say, the iron in vitamin pills that your body can't assimilate very well.  Also, any excess iron in the herb that your body doesn't need is very easy to excrete.  Excess iron from supplements is taxing for your body, specifically your liver, to flush out. 

Its blood-building properties make it invaluable for anyone prone to anemia.  Prepared as I suggest below, it is easy for kids to take.  Much easier than iron pills or even Floradix, a popular but nasty (and wickedly expensive) herbal product widely used for children and especially pregnant women.

For women, red raspberry leaf keeps the uterus in shape.  As we have more babies, it is easy for that stretched out uterus to stay stretched out and not regain its tone.  It also can help relieve excess cramping during menstruation for the same reason.  Women who drink high levels of the tea in pregnancy report shorter (ahem),  faster (aHEM), and easier labors.  Many women report that the FER (fetal ejection reflex) takes over and they don't actually push the baby out at all, but the uterus itself just swooshes the baby out on its own.  (In my experience that is a pretty calm way to describe FER, but exactly how to communicate it in words....)

Although less documented, I have come across sources, as well as numerous midwives, who confirm that red raspberry leaf keeps the placenta strong and healthy during pregnancy.

Overall, red raspberry leaf is a good astringent (a compound which causes body tissues to shrink or contract), making it good for a mouthwash for mouth sores, a good treatment for diarrhea, and because of its high niacin and manganese content, it also helps with low energy levels.

Some sources say RRL is best avoided during the first trimester.  But in the later stages of pregnancy, the general dosage is at least 4 cups of the tea daily. 

To brew raspberry leaf tea, I liike to heap about 1/4 cup in a tea pot and cover with 2 cups boiling water.  Cover tightly and steep at least 15 minutes.  30 minutes up to a couple of hours is better.  This will produce a STRONG tea.  Drink it hot at full strength during the winter, with honey or stevia and lemon to taste.  It will taste a lot like regular black tea.  Or, dilute the tea in plenty of ice and cold water, with lemon and stevia, for a delicious iced tea during warm weather.

For a special treat, add 2 Tablespoons rose hips and 1 Celestial Seasonings 'zinger' tea bag (red zinger, berry zinger, raspberry zinger, lemon zinger) along with the leaf.  Steep as long as possible.  Dilute to make a 1/2 gallon iced tea with lemon or lime and stevia.  Tastes like pink lemonade or Kool-Aid, especially with the red zinger teabag addition!

Again, one of the best things about this herb is that if you don't 'need' all its magic, you aren't harmed by it, and you still benefit from the nutrients it contains.  Plus it makes a tasty way to stay hydrated.

"My idea of a good herbalist is not someone who knows how to use forty herbs, but someone who knows how to use one herb in forty different ways."
-Svevo Brooks

***None of this info is meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.  Information is shared for educational purposes only.  Herbs are not miracle drugs and will never make up for poor diet and lifestyle.  Use at your own risk.  Always consult your doctor.  Blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah.***

Ivy smiling, 4 days old


  1. Thanks for sharing! I love learning more about real food and real medicine. Ivy is precious and I love her name. Congratulations!

  2. Hey, Mo--congrats on the birth of Ivy! (you finally got to use that name!) How wonderful!
    Question: is there a difference between Red Rasberry Leaf and just Rasberry Leaf? I had been using only Rasberry that I got from Food4Though since they didn't have any "Red" RL in the bulk. Now I have some RRL and it tastes different. Just curious, thanks!

    1. Erika-

      I remember that the RL from FFT was a bit different- I think I used it when preggo with Rosemary and also in sitz baths after her and JP's births. I have used RRL from Traditional Medicinals and the RRL from Mountain Rose Herbs. I'm not 100%, but I believe that RL and RRL SHOULD be the same thing. In any case, I doubt the RL from FFT is going to hurt, although sometimes I question the freshness of their bulk herbs! But I can attest to the strength and potency of both TM and MRH RRL. ? Does that help?