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Red Raspberry Leaf Tea – a blessing or a danger?

04 Jul

A lot of people say that red raspberry leaf tea is good for inducing labour, and other people say that you should take it the whole way through your pregnancy to have an easier labour.  People say that it can cause a miscarriage if you take it too early in your pregnancy  So what is the truth?  Is this tea a blessing or a danger?
 
 
The first two articles on RRLT has been gleaned from the research completed by the lovely ladies on the  http://www.unassistedchildbirth.com/ forums.
 

Susun Weed writes in Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year (Which is currently in it’s 24th printing!!):


The benefits of drinking a raspberry leaf brew before and throughout pregnancy include:

~ Increasing fertility in both men and women. Raspberry leaf is an excellent fertility herb when combined with Red Clover.

~ Preventing miscarriage and hemorrhage. Raspberry leaf tones the uterus and helps prevent miscarriage and postpartum hemorrhage from a relaxed or atonic uterus.

~ Easing of morning sickness. Many attest to raspberry leaves’ gentle relief of nausea and stomach distress throughout pregnancy.

~ Reducing pain during labor and after birth. By toning the muscles used during labor and delivery, Raspberry leaf eliminates many of the reasons for a painful delivery and prolonged recovery. It does not, however, counter the pain of pelvic dilation.

~ Assisting in the production of plentiful breast milk. The high mineral content of Raspberry leaf assist in milk production, but its astringency may counter that for some women.

~ Providing a safe and speedy parturition. Raspberry leaf works to encourage the uterus to let go and function without tension. It does not strengthen contractions, but does allow the contracting uterus to work more effectively and so may make the birth easier and faster.

This is from Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Natural Home Remedies…

The Raspberry Leaf Tea Story

Tea made from raspberry leaves is the best-known herbal aid in pregnancy. Rather than go into all the traditional lore about this herb, we present the following lengthy account, because it is both contemporaneous and highly specific.

“My mother was born and raised in Scotland, coming to america at the age of 26. Whenever a member of her family became ill or had a health problem, her mother had consulted a herbalist or herb doctor. As a result of this, I was treated with herbs as a child.

“Mother had always told me that red raspberry leaf tea would prevent miscarriage and was excellent for pregnancy and childbirth. When I became pregnant, I immediately sent for some raspberry leaf tea and began taking one cup of it each day, made from one teaspoon of dried leaves added to one cup of boiling water and steeped for 15 minutes. I had a very normal pregnancy. Then I went into labor, I truly expected to have an easy labor and delivery because I had faithfully taken the tea. While it is true that I did not have a complicated or extremely difficult time, it was not by any means easy. The tea had not lived up to my expectations.

“It was not until sometimes after the birth of my daughter that I read a book my mother had brought with her from Scotland entitled Dragged to Light by W.H. Box of Plymouth, England. In it I found the secret of just how to take the tea so it would truly work wonders during labor and delivery. Box said, ‘On one ounce of raspberry leaves pour one pint of boiling water, cover and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain, and when the time for delivery is approaching drink the whole as hot as possible.’

“There were a number of testimonials in the book written by women who had used this herb. Several took the strong solution over a period of time before going into labor. They were instructed in that case to take a wineglassful three times a day. They had ‘only two stiff pains and it was all over’ or ‘no after pains and very slight before.’ They never made it out of the house. Box’s instructions were, ‘But those who take the tea considerably before the time should not leave the house when the time is approaching as many mothers are delivered almost suddenly when at their work, to the great vexation of doctors and nurses.’

“When I became pregnant again I was determined to try it that way. I still took a cup a day as I had before. but this time when I went into labor I made a strong solution of it as I had read in the book. I put it in a container and took it to the hospital with me. I wasn’t sure how quickly it would work and I didn’t want to have the baby in the car. I didn’t think they’d allow me to drink it in the hospital so I drank half of it in the parking lot. I was afraid to drink all of it as it was so strong and I didn’t personally know anyone who had taken it this strong before. I had been having strong contractions but by the time I registered and was taken up to the labor room the contractions were so mild I hardly felt them. Upon examination they said I was ready to deliver and would not even give me an enema. In the delivery room I was quite comfortable and hardly felt anything. One hour after entering the hospital my son was born.

“In the recovery room there were several other young women who had just given birth also. They were moaning and groaning. I couldn’t imagine what they were making a fuss about as I felt like I could have gotten up and gone home. I had always read and heard about women getting after-pains with a second child. I never had even one. This was also the testimony of a number of women who were treated with the tea by Box.

“Later I thought I would have had an easy time anyway since it was my second child. I was anxious for someone else to try it. A friend of mine was expecting a baby in a few weeks and she had been taking a cup of the tea daily and was also going to take the strong solution when she went into labor. She had had two previous pregnancies and both times nearly miscarried and had to take drugs and be in bed a good deal of the time. Both deliveries were extremely difficult. When she became pregnant this time she began spotting and it looked like she would have to go through the same kind of trouble she had before. Having used a herb I had given her for another problem, with success, she asked if there was a herb for this problem and I recommended raspberry leaf tea.

“She started taking it and the spotting stopped immediately and she had a normal pregnancy, much to the amazement of her family who remembered her difficulties in the past. When she went into labor she took the tea as I had and told me she had only 25 minutes of hard labor before her baby was born.

“I have told a number of women about this amazing herb through the years, but no one else seemed interested enough to try it. However, 1978 my daughter became pregnant and she was very much interested in having an easy delivery. She took the tea each day and had a normal pregnancy. She, too, took the strong solution of the tea with her to the hospital and also being a little wary drank only half of it. When the doctor examined her, it was late in the evening. He said the baby wouldn’t be born until six o’clock in the morning so he went home. She was having hard contractions at this time and I was very disappointed and felt the tea hadn’t worked. An hour and a half later we received a call from our son-in-law saying we had a little grandson. The tea started working and the doctor had no sooner reached his home when he had to turn around and come right back to the hospital. My daughter said the next time she is going to drink all of the tea.” — I.A., Utah

From http://www.birth.com.au/Preparing-for-new-baby/Raspberry-leaf-during-pregnancy?p=3

Research findings
There are a couple of recent studies that look at the effects of raspberry leaf tea when taken by pregnant women. These have been conducted by a group of midwives at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital, Australia.

  1. The first study is a retrospective observational study of 108 mothers over a 6 month period (Jan-July 1998). Of this group, 57 women (52.8%) consumed raspberry leaf products (tea or tablets) during their pregnancy and 51 women (47.2%) did not (being the control group). Most of the women taking raspberry leaf started doing so at some stage between 28 and 34 weeks of the pregnancy, but a few started as early as 8 weeks and others as late as 39 weeks. The study could not identify any side effects from taking raspberry leaf and it indicated that the herb may help prevent women having a premature or overdue baby and may be less likely to need an artificial rupture of their membranes (breaking the waters by the caregiver). They were also less likely to require a caesarean section, forceps or vacuum birth than the women in the control group. (Parsons 1999)
  2. The second study was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 192 first time mothers (average age 28.5 years) who had their babies between May 1999 and February 2000. One group of women took raspberry leaf tablets (1, 200mg twice per day) from 32 weeks of their pregnancy until labour started and the control group took a placebo. There were no identified side effects for either mother or baby, but contrary to popular belief, it did not shorten the 1st stage of labour. The only clinically significant findings were a shortening of the 2nd stage of labour (by about 10 minutes), a lower rate of forceps deliveries (19.3% vs. 30.4%) and less chance of Caesarean (62.4% vs. 50.6%) for the women who took raspberry leaf. Both groups of women experienced similar occurrences of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and constipation. (Simpson et al. 2001)

Contradicting effects
The herbal literature outlining the benefits and effects of raspberry leaf varies widely and is often conflicting. This may be related to the dose taken and/or perhaps each individual woman’s physical response to the herb. For example:

  • Some herbalists recommend raspberry leaf to help prevent miscarriage, while others advise against taking raspberry leaf during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy because it may stimulate the uterus and possibly cause a miscarriage. A few will recommend low doses during early pregnancy, increasing it after 12 weeks and again after 28 weeks. Raspberry leaf is also believed to reduce the chances of premature labour but has shown to increase uterine action after 16 to 20 weeks of pregnancy. At this stage, we do not know what the real effects are. Therefore, many caregivers err on the side of caution and advise avoiding it all together until the 3rd trimester.
  • It is believed that raspberry leaf can help with uterine cramping (during menstruation) and strong Braxton Hicks contractions during pregnancy. However, some women are more sensitive to the herb and can experience more cramping and stronger, more frequent Braxton Hicks contractions when taking raspberry leaf.
  • Some practitioners recommend raspberry leaf for morning sickness, but some women experience nausea from taking raspberry leaf. (Again, its safety during early pregnancy is not known.)
  • It is believed raspberry leaf can help with diarrhoea, but it may also act as a mild laxative and cause diarrhoea if used for other purposes.

Recommended dosages

  • Tablets- taking 4 x 300 mg tablets (or 3 x 400 mg tablets), 2 to 3 times a day with meals from 32 weeks.
  • Teabags – having 1 cup of raspberry leaf tea per day during the first 12 weeks and increasing to 2 cups a day from 12 to 28 weeks and up to 3 to 5 cups a day from 28 weeks to the birth, freely during labour and after the birth as desired. Or just starting with 1 to 2 cups a day from 12 or 28 weeks and increasing to 3 to 5 a day after 28 weeks or the last month of pregnancy.
  • A pot of tea or a cup of brew – 1 teaspoon of leaf per cup, adding the herb after bringing the water to the boil. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain the leaves before drinking. Having 2 to 3 cups per day after 28 weeks.
  • Using a tincture (made up by a herbalist). This is an alcoholic extract of raspberry leaf and the dosage will depend on the strength of the tincture. Be aware that some preparations are very high in alcohol and probably should be avoided during pregnancy.

You may wish to add honey or sugar to the tea to make it more palatable, or mix the tea with other herbal teas such as peppermint or spearmint. You can buy raspberry leaf products from health food stores or herbal suppliers. Be aware that herbal preparations lack manufacturing regulations in Australia and many other countries (unlike medicines) and some preparations may be contaminated with other substances. Therefore, make sure you purchase through a reputable source.

And from http://www.motherandchildhealth.com/Prenatal/raspberry.html

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea – Can this herb ease childbirth?
by Stacelynn Caughlan Cl.N., CH

First recorded in the 1500’s, red raspberry leaf tea (Rubus ideas) has been used for centuries in Europe, China, and both North and South America. This popular tea has earned the reputation of “herb-supreme” amongst pregnant women. According to folklore it can relieve almost any discomfort of pregnancy from morning sickness to leg cramps. And there may be good reason for its reputation.

Raspberry Leaf Tea is very high in an assortment of nutrients including calcium, iron, and B vitamins, all of which are very important during pregnancy. The herb also contains a variety of chemicals -most of which have yet to be identified- that produce a direct effect on the pregnant uterus. They have been shown to strengthen the uterine wall, relax smooth muscle, and help to make delivery easier and speedier by helping the uterus contract more efficiently.

Historically women have taken raspberry leaf tea throughout their pregnancies up to and including childbirth. Many mothers extol this herb’s ability to make childbirth easier and less painful. In a letter to the editor of the medical journal The Lancet, Dr. Violet Russel wrote “somewhat shamefacedly I have encouraged expectant mothers to drink this infusion. In a great many cases labour has been free and easy from muscular spasm.”

Some women also drink the tea throughout their labour, or suck on frozen cubes made beforehand. It reportedly helps expel the placenta, and its nutritional value is thought to be responsible for encouraging and enriching the mother’s breastmilk. Many women continue to drink the tea long after childbirth as it is thought to help restore the reproductive system and continue to help nourish the new mother.

Studies have not yet been done to give us statistical data on the use of raspberry leaf tea, but as more women and health professionals discover its potential, its popularity will surely continue to grow. This is one herb that all pregnant women should have in their cupboards!

NOTE: Some medical and popular media make reference to raspberry leaf tea as something to avoid during pregnancy for risk of miscarriage. This notion stems from a study conducted in 1954 where fractions were isolated from Rubus sp. and applied in vitro to the uterine tissues of guinea pigs and frogs. The scientists discovered such things as one fraction acted as a spasmolytic whereas another caused uterine contractions. Herein lies the risk of isolating the parts of a whole. When used as a whole plant, neither action is exacerbated and the herb is deemed safe. If a mother is prone to miscarriages she may feel safer avoiding raspberry until the third trimester. This is a herb with centuries of safe use behind it, there is usually little cause for concern.

References
C.J. Briggs and K. Briggs, Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal, April 1997
Rosemary Gladstar, Herbal Healing for Women
Richard Mabey, The New Age Herbalist: How to Use Herbs for Healing, Nutrition, Body Care, and Relaxation
Susun S. Weed, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year
Joy Gardner, Healing Yourself During Pregnancy, The Crossing Press, 1987
Aviva Jill Romm The Natural Pregnancy Book: Herbs, Nutrition, and Other Holistic Choices

 

Summing up…

I took RRLT during my pregnancy with Will, up to 3 cups a day towards the end of my pregnancy, and as you can read on my birth stories tab, his labour was quick and pretty much pain-free.  How much of that can be contributed to the the tea, I don’t know.I feel that after reading all this research, the best decision you can make is one that feels right to you.  If you take RRLT, and your uterus reacts, maybe lower the dosage.  Or stop taking it.  It’s up to you!  Listen to your body.  But by and large, it seems that a lot of the fear surrounding this herb / tea as a labour inducer is based on false assumptions and beliefs.
 
Enjoy your tea! :)
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5 responses to “Red Raspberry Leaf Tea – a blessing or a danger?

  1. Claire

    April 10, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Ace, thanks so much for this post, I love the combination of methods and science.

     
  2. Jen Ross

    June 20, 2012 at 1:02 am

    Really enjoyed this article. I’ve been taking two RRL pills for about a month now, to aid in fertility, and I plan to take it throughout my hopefully soon pregnancy.

     
  3. amber parker

    October 2, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    i used RRL with both previous pregnancies starting about 6 weeks. my first labor was 4 hours and the 2nd only 45 min! I didnt feel much of the contractions until about pushing stage. So happy with this herb that i use it now for period relief and of course using it during this pregnancy too.

     
  4. TCLynx

    March 6, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    I think I need to reduce the dosage I’m taking. I didn’t really start taking it till about 36 weeks and increased my dose at 37 weeks now I’m 38 weeks and have noticed a change in my bowel movements the past few days and since yesterday have been having extremely long lasting Braxton Hicks contractions.

     
    • misskalypso

      March 10, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Oh how exciting! 38 weeks, you could be in early labour! Let us know how you go. xx

       

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