Herb Profile: Raspberry Leaf

P1000860Botanical Name: Rubus idaeus 

Family: Rosaceae 

Common Names: Rasbperry, Bramble of Mount Ida, Hindbeer, Raspbis, Hindberry (meaning the berry eaten by deer in the woods)

Identification: Raspberries are deciduous shrubs growing to about 2m tall in the wild, and very commonly seen in people’s gardens. A member of the rose family, they produce long climbing vines with oval leaves, which have a coating of white, dense hairs. The shrubs produce clusters of small white flowers, followed by the characteristic bright red fruits. The fruits are ‘aggregate fruits’ meaning one berry is actually composed of lots of small berries aggregated together.

Growing: Raspberries in their wild form are commonly seen across Britain as forest margin plants. They are suckering perennials, so will grow back every year after the green parts die off over the winter. The varieties that are mainly grown in gardens are horticultural ones selected for their larger, sweeter fruits or resistance to certain pests and diseases. For herbal purposes, any variety will do for gathering the leaves. If you would like to grow cultivated raspberries for their succulent fruits as well, I would recommend reading some more about them here: http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/growyourown/71-Raspberry.pdf

Parts Used: leaves, fruits

Medicinal Actions & Uses: Anti-inflammatory, astringent, birthing aid, decongestant, oxytocic, antiemetic, ophthalmic, anti-oxidant, antiseptic, anti-diarrhoeal, diaphoretic, diuretic, choleretic, partus praeparator 

  • As an astringent, drying herb the leaves of raspberries are good for treating diarrhoea, and for protecting the lining of the gut from irritation
  • Raspberry leaf’s main use, celebrated by women for centuries and still commonly used, is in readying the womb for childbirth. The active ingredients in raspberry leaves have the dual effect of stimulating, but relaxing the uterus, it relaxes over tense muscles and tones over-relaxed muscles. The overall effect is that the uterus is more prepared for stronger, and more regular contractions in birth. Raspberry however is not advised in the first three months of pregnancy.
  • Taken after birth, the leaves stimulate the flow of breast milk 
  • Externally the leaves are used as a mouthwash for sore throats, ulcers and inflamed gums
  • Traditionally the herb was drunk as a tea for painful and/or heavy periods 

History and Folklore: 

Joyfully for us in the Northern parts of the world, raspberries are well suited to the damp, Scottish climate and so they are grown on a wide scale here. The remains of raspberries have been found in archaeological digs of Roman latrines along Hadrian’s Wall

Active Constituents: Fragarine, tannins, volatile oil, pectin, vitamin C, niacin, manganese, minerals & trace elements

Contra-indications: In the first three months of pregnancy there is a small chance of raspberry leaves causing miscarriage

References: 

Mrs Grieve’s Modern Herbal www.botanical.com

Plants for a Future www.pfaf.org

Hatfield, Gabrielle (2007) Hatfield’s Herbal: The Secret History of British Plants, London: Allen Lane Publishers

McIntyre, A (2010) The Complete Herbal Tutor, London: Gaia Publishing

Trickey, R (2003) Women, Hormones and the Menstrual cycle, 2nd edition, Australia: Allen and Unwin

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