Red Raspberry Leaf
Common name: Red Raspberry (American Raspberry, Black Raspberry, Dewberry, Bramble Fruit, Thimble Berry)
Botanical name: Rubus spp. – Rubus idaeus (cultivated variety), Rubus strigosus (wild variety)
Family: Rosaceae (rose family)
Raspberry is a beautiful plant native to Europe and Asia Minor, though now widely naturalized throughout the world. A member of the rose family, raspberry is in the genus Rubus, meaning “red” and the species idaeus refers to the shrubís historic growing region on Mount Ida near Troy in northwest Turkey. Taken together this botanical name identifies raspberry as the “red bush of Ida”.
Records of domestication of raspberry have been found in writings of Palladius from the 4th century while the therapeutic effects of red raspberry leaves were documented in the writings of Gerard in the late 16th century. The Native Americans prized the fruit, leaves and roots (of the North American variety, Rubus strigosus) as a womenís tonic, as well as a nutritive tea; the Eclectics likewise touted the plant as a great contributor to womenís health. Raspberry was included in the United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary until the middle of the 20th century.
Raspberry is a perennial that prefers a temperate climate with full sun and rich, moist, soil. The woody root can grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter, with main roots found to grow to depths of 13 ft (4 m). Secondary roots run sideways and send up about 4 stems (known as canes) per foot. These canes are actually biennial, with the first year cane (primocane) not producing any fruit but rather 3 serrated, hairy, leaves that sit atop 7 leaflets. The second year cane (floricane) produces the flowers and fruit but fewer leaves.
Raspberry leaves, which are further identifiable by their silver, nearly white underside, are the portion of the plant with the greatest therapeutic value, although the fruits boast of numerous health-promoting constituents such as ellagic acid, flavonoids and multiple nutrients.
Primary Constituents: Tannins, polypeptides, flavonoids, volatile oils, pectin, vitamins, minerals, ellagic acid, malic acid.
Energetics: Cooling, Drying (locally), Moistening (systemically)
Taste: Bitter (mild); Astringent
Herbal Actions: alterative, antacid, antiabortifacient, antiemetic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, alterative, antiseptic, antispasmodic, hemostatic, parturient, stimulant, tonic (digestive, reproductive ñ all soft tissue).
Red raspberry leaves contain large amounts of tannins (between 13% and 15%), which are responsible for the plantís well-known astringent properties. In fact, the entire rose family is characterized by astringency. Master herbalist Michael Moore has famously labeled these plants YARFA’s, for “Yet Another Rose Family Astringent”. All rose family plants possess some level of astringency (raspberry being more mild while blackberry is the strongest) and consequently all can be used in similar ways.
Astringency simply defined is the act of causing tissues to contract or tighten. Chinese medicine defines astringent herbs as those that stabilize and bind while Western herbalism emphasizes the herbís ability to tighten and tone weepy tissues. This action can be helpful in cases of organ prolapse, overly relaxed or leaky, drippy tissues.
While raspberry has gained notoriety for many conditions, its astringent properties are most commonly used to remedy complaints of the female reproductive system, specifically in alleviating menstrual discomfort and facilitating childbirth (parturient).
Along these lines folk uses include it as a treatment for cramps, labor pains, menstrual pain, uterine bleeding, morning sickness and postpartum healing. Raspberry leaf infusions (tea preparations made from steeping the delicate plant parts, like leaves, in near-boiling water) have long been used to prevent miscarriage, to ease labor pains, and to increase milk supply postpartum.
An alkaloid discovered in 1941, termed “fragarine”, plays a key role in toning the uterus and other pelvic muscles. Fragarine helps uterine muscles to contract smoothly and uniformly, reducing cramping during menstruation while also lessening heavy menstrual bleeding. This effect has been well-documented in animal studies but the herb and its effects have not been rigorously tested in humans.
Red raspberry also has an affinity for the smooth muscle and mucosal tissues of the digestive tract. The tanninsí ability to also halt infection (antiseptic) and reduce inflammation make the herb particularly useful for healing ulcers, bleeding gums, and relieving tissue inflammation in the mouth. An infusion of the leaves can be used as a gargle for sore throats.
Historically, raspberry has also been used to ease indigestion and nausea.
In the lower digestive tract raspberry is ideal for remedying cases of intestinal permeability (leaky gut), symptoms of irritable bowel and for relieving excessive diarrhea. Keep in mind that high doses of raspberry leaf infusions (> 6 cups) may be contraindicated during pregnancy and medicinal doses should be discontinued once healing has occurred.
Lastly, raspberry is a wonderful, nutritive herb. The leaves are rich in vitamins B, C and E, as well as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, niacin, magnesium, and manganese. According to herbalist Susun Weed, a raspberry leaf infusion contains calcium in a form that is easily assimilated. Raspberry is also a rich source of iron and is very useful in cases of anemia, especially when combined with nettle. Infusions made from raspberry leaves make an excellent nutritive tonic for the entire family.
Nutritive Tonic for Women
(for all stages of life!)
2 parts raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus)
2 parts nettle (Urtica dioica)
1 part oat straw (Avena sativa)
1 part alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
1 part kelp/bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus)
1 part red clover (Trifolium pretense)
Place all herbs in a tea infuser or glass jar. Cover with near-boiling water and allow to steep, covered, for up to 4 hours. The tea will change in flavor as more and more nutrients are pulled from the herbs. The longer it steeps the stronger it will taste and the more nutrients it will provide!
[NOTE FROM SHARLENE PETERSON: If you have, or prefer tinctures, I would mix 10 ml of each herb in a 2 oz. bottle. Use 20-30 drops once a day as a tonic and twice a day if you need to alkalize or are recovering from an illness. I am assuming the tinctures have a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio]
During pregnancy itís wise to avoid use of red clover. While adverse effects have never been reported, red clover does contain natural phytoestrogens that may interfere with the delicate hormonal balance of pregnancy. If you are pregnant, maintain a diet and lifestyle that is clean and simple, nutritious and alkalizing, supporting instead of altering.
About the Author
Faith is a wife and homeschooling mother of five, a clinical herbalist, and a nutrition guru pursing a degree in holistic health at Genesis School of Natural Health. In her spare time she is the caretaker of 14 chickens and a large herb garden…. which grows exceedingly well despite her brown thumb.
Aiyer, Harini. Gupta, Ramesh. Berries and Ellagic Acid Prevent Estrogen-Induced Mammary Tumorigenesis by Modulating Enzymes of Estrogen Metabolism. June 2010. Web. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/berries-and-ellagic-acid-prevent-estrogen-induced-mammary-tumorigenesis-modulating-enzymes
Bamford, DS. Percival, RC. Tothill, AU. Raspberry Leaf Tea: A New Aspect to an Old Problem. British Journal of Pharmacology, Sept, 1970. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1702706
Bennett, Robin Rose. (2014). The Gift of Healing Herbs. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Burn, J.H. Withell, E.R. A Principle in Raspberry Leaves Which Relaxes Uterine Muscle. The Lancet. July 1941. Web. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673600713481
Duke, James. (2000). The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook. Rodale Books.
Fritchey, Phillip. Practical Herbalism. Whitman Publications, 2004.
Hoffmann, David. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Hopman, Ellen. ìRaspberry – Rubus Strigosusî. Herbal eZine July 2006. Web http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/July06/grandmother.htm
Patel, AV. Rojas-Vera, J. Dacke, CG. Relaxant Activity of Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) Leaf Extract in Guinea-Pig Ileum in Vitro. November 2002. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12410549
Patel, AV. Rojas-Vera, J. Dacke, CG. Therapeutic Constituents and Actions of Rubus Species. Current Medical Chemistry. June 2004. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15180580
Pedersen, Mark. (2010). Nutritional Herbology. Warsaw, IN. Whitman Publications.
Salmon, Jessie. Red Raspberries [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://pages.towson.edu/osman/foodppt/raspberry06.ppt
Thomson. PDR for Herbal Medicines, 3rd Edition. Thomson PDR, 2004.
Weed, Susun. Herbal Allies for Pregnancy Problems. Web. http://www.susunweed.com/Article_Pregnancy_Problems.htm
Westfall, Rachel. Herbal medicine in pregnancy and childbirth. Advances in Therapy, January 2011. Web. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02850250