Red raspberry leaf is a herb derived from red raspberry leaves, and has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Raspberry leaf has been used by indigenous cultures in Australia for thousands of years. In the 1940s, western medicine practitioners began to use it as a tonic for the uterus during pregnancy and childbirth.
Health Benefits Of Red Raspberry Leaf Tea or Tablets
Red raspberry leaves contains a rich assortment of vitamins including Vitamin B complex, calcium, iron, magnesium and fragarine. Across the world, red raspberry leaf is used to treat flu, diarrhoea and acne. It is used to lower the blood sugar of diabetic women, regulate irregular menstrual cycles, decrease heavy periods and lower blood pressure.
When taken during pregnancy, red raspberry leaf is said to aid the mother’s immune system, ease morning sickness and promote better circulation. Taking raspberry leaf is said to strengthen uterine muscles and tone the pelvic floor in preparation for childbirth, as well as assist with breastmilk supply.
Studies have shown that women who take red raspberry leaf have a reduced incidence of birth interventions. Research has also found that women who drink red raspberry leaf tea regularly towards the end of their pregnancies had shorter second stages of labour than those who don’t.
From a study published by Australian midwives in 1999:
“The sample consisted of 108 mothers; 57 (52.8%) consumed raspberry leaf products while 51 (47.2%) were in the control group. The findings suggest that the raspberry leaf herb can be consumed by women during their pregnancy for the purpose for which it is taken, that is, to shorten labour with no identified side effects for the women or their babies. The findings also suggest ingestion of the drug might decrease the likelihood of pre and post-term gestation. An unexpected finding in this study seems to indicate that women who ingest raspberry leaf might be less likely to receive an artificial rupture of their membranes, or require a caesarean section, forceps or vacuum birth than the women in the control group.”
More extensive research is needed, but with very little in the way of side effects and such great benefits observed and recorded, raspberry leaf is a great option for pregnant women.
How Should I Take Red Raspberry Leaf?
Lots of pregnant women choose to drink raspberry leaf tea which can be purchased at most supermarkets, health food stores or online. It is available in tea bags or as loose leaf tea – seek out organic, local raspberry leaf tea from a reliable source. Beware of imported cheap teas which may be contaminated with other items.
If you’re not a fan of fruit teas, you can also take red raspberry leaf in tablet form. It is also available as a tincture that can be added to water, juice or tea but be aware that tinctures usually contain alcohol.
How Much Red Raspberry Leaf Should I Take?
It is difficult to be exact with dosages if you drink raspberry leaf tea, because it depends on how long you steep the tea and the quantity you use. The best way to prepare your raspberry leaf tea is to boil a cup of water, placing it into a teapot. Put in a teaspoon of raspberry leaf tea, stir or swish and then let it steep for ten minutes. When ten minutes is up, pour it into your favourite mug and enjoy! The taste of raspberry leaf is a little bitter, so you may want to sweeten it with some honey.
You can have up to 4-5 cups of raspberry leaf tea in your third trimester, but have at least 2-3. If you’re in your first trimester, one cup per day is fine.
If you prefer raspberry leaf tablets, it is suggested that you take two 300mg or 400mg tablets with each meal, three times a day, from 32 weeks (Parsons, 1999).
Potential Side Effects Of Red Raspberry Leaf
Most women do not experience any side effects from taking raspberry leaf tea, however the following side effects are possible:
- Loose stools
- Increase in Braxton Hicks contractions
Can Anyone Take Red Raspberry Leaf?
There is lots of confusing, conflicting information about red raspberry leaf’s contraindications. BellyBelly’s naturopath Nicole Tracy from Nurtured by Nature says that there are no known contraindications for raspberry leaf when used in the third trimester at an appropriate dose, except if previous labour/s have been really fast. You should only use red raspberry leaf under the care of your naturopath or herbalist.
What About Red Raspberry Leaf and VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean)?
There is also some confusion over raspberry leaf and VBAC. Rest assured, raspberry leaf is safe for VBAC women. Nicole says: “There is often some confusion around raspberry leaf being contraindicated in VBAC births. This is most certainly not the case, and it does not increase the risk of premature labour or rupture of caesarean scars. It is wise for all women (especially those planning a VBAC) to take raspberry leaf in tea, tincture or tablet form from the beginning of the third trimester in gradually increasing amounts. This nutrient-rich herb should be continued for two weeks postnatally to assist with reducing blood loss, toning the uterus and supporting breast milk production.”
When Can I Start Taking Red Raspberry Leaf?
It is generally recommended not to start taking red raspberry leaf until you are at least 32 weeks pregnant, but if you wish to take it sooner, simply check with a good naturopath. You can then continue to take it until the end of the pregnancy. Raspberry leaf tea takes several weeks to accumulate in the body and take effect.
You should start by drinking one cup a day, and gradually increase this up to three cups. If you choose to take capsules, follow the recommended dosage instructions on the label. If you experience strong Braxton Hicks contractions after taking raspberry leaf tea, speak to your healthcare provider.
You can continue to drink red raspberry leaf tea after the birth to help your uterus shrink back down, boost your immune system, assist with milk supply and fight infection.