Raspberry was the underdog of the herbal remedy world until the 1940s when it rose in fame above its super popular cousin, the blackberry, due to its many uses for complaints of pregnancy. We do know that Nicholas Culpeper, renowned English herbalist recommended raspberry leaf as “‘very binding (astringent), … putrid sores of the mouth and secret parts (genitals)…piles (hemorrhoids), …. And too much flowing of women’s courses (heavy menstrual flow).’” Modern research also shows that the herb is a powerful antioxidant, offering added benefit to women during and far after pregnancy.
So what is it used for in pregnancy? Some of the worst symptoms, such as morning sickness, including nausea and vomiting, hemorrhoids, and diarrhea can be relieved by this wonderful plant. It is also a popular herb for women who have previously experienced miscarriage, as it is believed to have a quality of pregnancy preservation.
Here’s a deeper dive into the research. The Lancet, a British medical journal, published an animal study in 1941, which stated raspberry contains a “uterine relaxant principle.” There are also claims that this herb eases labor pains. While the pain-relieving aspects are mostly anecdotal (and not necessarily untrue), an Australian study asked “192 women pregnant with their first child to take either a placebo or raspberry (1.2 grams of leaf twice a day from 32 weeks gestation to delivery).” They found the second stage of labor, you know… the part where you “push,” was shortened! It also “reduced the need for forceps delivery” by 30 percent. Another animal study found that glucose levels are reduced with the use of daily raspberry, which is another benefit for women with gestational diabetes.
When I was pregnant, I experienced diarrhea for the entire first half, which was so utterly annoying, to say the least. I found that drinking raspberry leaf tea helped bind things up when it got really unbearable. This makes sense, because raspberry leaves contain tannins, which are astringent, or binding.
Postpartum, raspberry can be utilized to help reduce and shorten bleeding. When the period returns, heavy menstrual flow or flooding can be quelled as well. But the benefits of raspberry don’t end there!
Raspberries owe their beautiful red color to a pigment called anthocyanoside. It’s an antioxidant. I always describe the oxidation process in the body to that of a rusting car. Antioxidants, therefore, get rid of the “rust” or free radicals that have built up in the body. Technically, we know that free radicals (highly reactive oxygen molecules), cause harm to cells. So the pigment reverses and prevents this damage. Isn’t that amazing? Even conventional medicine recognizes that free radicals play a part in some cancers, heart disease, and other degenerative diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic neuropathy.
While I, as an herbalist and holistic health coach, only make recommendations and encourage clients to do their own research, I can say with confidence that raspberry is has a low chance of harming pregnant women or their fetuses. However, it’s always a good idea to consult a prenatal healthcare provider when introducing any herb to your routine to make sure there will be no adverse interactions with any drugs or other herbs you are consuming at the same time. It is reassuring that there are no reports of adverse affects to pregnant women or their babies in the scientific literature. It is important to note that raspberry is in the Roseacea family and can cause allergic reactions in some people. If you have ever had an issue with its family members such as rose, peach, almond, apple, or strawberry, proceed with caution.
There are many ways to consume or use raspberry. As a food, you can simply eat fresh, organic raspberries to reap the great abundance of antioxidants. Frozen or preserved raspberries are also adequate options if fresh aren’t available. You can make a tea for diarrhea, bleeding, or other pregnancy and postpartum complaints by steeping 1-2 teaspoons of dried leaves in one cup of covered boiling water. Steep for 10-15 minutes and strain. You can multiply this recipe as desired and keep the tea infusion fresh in the refrigerator for a few days and drink as needed. If you’re versed in making tinctures or are lucky enough to come into possession of one, take 1/2- 1 teaspoon up to 3 times per day. If you find a commercial preparation, simply follow the directions on the package. I personally like the Traditional Medicinals tea because it is easy to find in many grocery stores, is higher quality, organic, and is measured into individual tea bags. It’s an easy and affordable option for busy moms.
If you enjoy gardening, (and may I suggest you try the hobby for its many additional therapeutic benefits!), you can even grow your own raspberries. Be aware that raspberry brambles are thorny, invasive, and can grow up to 10 feet tall, so choose a space away from the children’s play area. The bush has small white flowers that bloom in the summer and will develop clusters of sweet ripe berries as the summer progresses. But you have to keep those bushes under control. They are vigorous growers and require merciless pruning. The roots can be cut to the ground but will send up new shoots. Some gardeners prefer to grow them in an enclosed area or even an extra-large container away from other plants to avoid overgrowth. They’re super easy to plant. They need full sun and a composted and well-drained soil to get started. Just grab a 1/2 inch root cutting and plant upright in your chosen spot and water regularly until well-established. Some people like to train the branches along supports or a fence so the leaves and fruit are easy to access without the pain of reaching between thorny branches. Leaves can be harvested at any time, and berries will mature in the summer.
I hope this article helped to highlight this really special plant, which has so many benefits to women during and after the childbearing years. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.
Quotes were taken from Michael Castleman’s book The New Healing Herbs: The essential guide to more than 125 of nature’s most potent herbal remedies, 3rd Edition.
Rose Hollo, B.A. Holistic Health, CMH-D, HHC
(Certified Master Herbalist with Distinction & Holistic Health Coach)
Student of Traditional Naturopathic Medicine
Deep Roots Wellness, in Defiance, Ohio.
“A Holistic Approach to Mental Health”