What is raspberry leaf?
For centuries, women have been drinking raspberry leaf tea for womb health and easier childbirth. It’s still a popular herbal tea and might have some health benefits.
As the name suggests, the raspberry leaf is the leaf from the raspberry plant (Rubus idaeus). Women and midwives have used these leaves for centuries as a tonic to strengthen and tone the womb during pregnancy. It was also traditionally used to treat diarrhea, wounds, and colic.
Raspberry leaf tea is still a common remedy today, and pregnant women continue to drink it to prepare for childbirth. You can also find various raspberry leaf products, including tablets, tinctures, or extracts.
Benefits of raspberry leaf tea
There isn’t a lot of good or convincing research on raspberry leaf tea, its safety, or how it affects your health. But some early studies suggest it might have some health benefits.
Raspberry leaves are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including:
Vitamin C is water-soluble, which means it dissolves in water. Steeping the raspberry leaves as tea might draw some vitamins into the water, making it a vitamin-rich drink. But high temperatures and prolonged boiling or cooking can also destroy vitamin C. Longer steeping might destroy some of the content.
The leaves are also rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize unstable molecules in your body called free radicals. Your body naturally makes and removes free radicals, but they can damage your cells if they build up. Antioxidants can be in vitamin form or plant compounds, and you can get them from your food.
Raspberry leaf tea contains antioxidant flavonoids, tannins, and terpenes, like:
- Gallic acid
- Ellagic acid
Some studies show that these compounds have positive effects on your body. Gallic acid, for example, might lower free radicals and help destroy some types of cancer cells. It might also help stimulate your body’s natural antioxidants, like glutathione, which might help get rid of free radicals and prevent cancer growth.
One study also showed that red raspberry leaf extract might stimulate your natural glutathione production. So it might help your body clear these damaging free radicals.
That doesn’t mean that red raspberry leaf tea treats or prevents cancer or other diseases, though. Lots of studies on antioxidants and gallic acid show mixed results. Some show these compounds don’t help or prevent disease; others are early studies, so it’s too soon to know.
Might shorten labor during childbirth
Women often drink raspberry leaf tea throughout pregnancy or toward the end of pregnancy to prepare for labor and delivery. The tea is thought to strengthen and relax your womb. In theory, this could make contractions easier and stop heavy bleeding from damaged blood vessels.
While many studies on raspberry leaf and pregnancy aren’t that rigorous, some results suggest it might help with labor. A randomized clinical study gave some pregnant women raspberry leaf tablets and others a placebo pill, starting at 32 weeks of pregnancy. Those with the raspberry leaf had a shorter second stage of labor by almost 10 minutes. The study had some quality problems, though.
An older study also showed that women who took the raspberry leaf before delivery had shorter labor than those who didn’t. They also had no side effects from the leaf product. The study was small, and the types of raspberry products and doses varied greatly. More research is necessary.
Might help lower birth interventions
Studies also show that raspberry leaf might help prevent birth interventions. A randomized clinical trial compared women who took raspberry leaf tablets during pregnancy to those who didn’t. The women who took the pills had fewer uses of forceps during birth than those who didn’t.
Another small study also showed that women who took raspberry leaf were less likely to have interventions like:
- Artificial membrane rupture where your doctor purposely breaks your water
- Cesarean section
Other studies show that women who took raspberry leaf had higher chances of having a C-section than those who didn’t use herbs. But these studies all have some quality problems, so more research is necessary.
Might help oral health
Raspberry leaf is also an astringent, which means it acts on the lining of your mouth and causes it to pucker and shrink. The result is a feeling of dryness, which increases saliva in your mouth. Gargling with raspberry leaf tea could soothe your gums and help your dental and mouth health.
Raspberry leaf tea dose and safety
Raspberry leaf tea is likely safe to drink and might have some health benefits. The recommended dose is 1 to 3 cups daily.
There is debate about drinking raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy. Early animal research shows that it can both relax your muscles and stimulate muscle contractions in your womb. Experts suggest it could cause early labor, so you shouldn’t use it in the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy.
There isn’t much safety information during pregnancy, but based on the studies, it’s likely safe to drink starting at 32 weeks of your pregnancy. You should talk to your maternity doctor or midwife about drinking raspberry leaf tea first, though.
While raspberry leaf is generally safe, herbs can interact with other medications and conditions. Some experts suggest that the antioxidants in raspberry leaf might compete with iron and cause problems absorbing it. In theory, this could lead to anemia if you’re pregnant. No studies back this up, though.
Raspberry leaf could also interact with insulin medications and make you more sensitive, which could cause insulin problems. This is a potential risk, though.
Talk to your doctor
Overall, raspberry leaf tea is safe and can be another herbal drink option. It might give you some vitamins and minerals, and might help during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about drinking this tea during pregnancy.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
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Australian College of Midwives Incorporated Journal: "Raspberry leaf and its effect on labour: safety and efficacy."
BMC Complementary Therapies and Medicin: "Biophysical effects, safety and efficacy of raspberry leaf use in pregnancy: a systematic integrative review."
Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice: "Raspberry leaf – Should it be recommended to pregnant women?"
Czech Journal of Food Sciences: "Antioxidant Capacity and Antioxidants of Strawberry, Blackberry, and Raspberry Leaves."
European Medicines Agency: "Assessment report on Rubus idaeus L., folium."
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Antioxidants,” “Vitamin C."
Journal of Texture Studies: "Alternative Mechanisms of Astringency – What is the Role of Saliva?"
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Natural Product Communications: "A Role of Gallic Acid in Oxidative Damage Diseases: A Comprehensive Review."
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