Herbal Wisdom #1 : Red Raspberry Leaf

Herbal Wisdom #1 : Red Raspberry Leaf


Welcome, Goddess-loving friends, to our Herbal Wisdom corner!

As we gear up for the 2024 Glastonbury Goddess Conference, we welcome in the Goddess in her Maiden form and call to her in her Healer aspect – so in this column you will find easy, useful ways to bring more healing into your life by working with medicinal herbs. I could not think of a better time to start this series than now, at Imbolc, when so many of us are aligning with and inviting in the energies of Brighid/Bride, maiden goddess of Healing and Inspiration (among many other things).

Being that the most commonly accepted meaning of the word “Imbolc” is “in the belly” – referring to this very “pregnant” time in nature when we begin to see the first stirrings of the springtime that is just around the corner – I thought it appropriate to begin our series with a best-loved herb for womb healing and fertility – Red Raspberry Leaf.

Red Raspberry Leaf, aka Rubus ideaus, has always felt very tied to Avalon for me, being that it is a member of the Rose family (Rosaceae), just like our beloved Apple, Hawthorn, and Rose. She is best known as a Uterine Tonic, an ally for those trying to conceive a child. However, she is also excellent for reducing painful menstrual cramps, regulating the menstrual cycle, and being an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, particularly iron. If I could choose an herb to represent the Red Spring, it would probably be this one!

Red Raspberry Leaf is easy to identify, having very distinct leaves (medium sized, oval shaped, toothed, and having a downy white underside that brings lunar energies to mind), thorny vines, flowers similar to hawthorn or apple blossoms, and of course having luscious berries that are safe to eat in summertime. She is common and currently in no danger of being over-harvested, showing up both in the wild and in gardens everywhere. You’ll want to harvest the leaves in spring, ideally before the plant begins to flower and fruit.

So what’s a Uterine Tonic?

Remember that herbs which are classified as tonics yield the most benefit when taken regularly over time. In many cases they target a particular system of the body, though they typically support overall well-being as well.

According to Dr. Aviva Romm, Uterine Tonics:
…are plants that have a toning, strengthening, nourishing effect upon both the tissue and function of the female reproductive system. We do not have a good understanding of how and why they work, but this should not invalidate their observed therapeutic value. They are commonly applied for conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibromyomas, dysmenorrhea, metrorrhagia, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, and other conditions in which the uterus is ‘boggy’, there is regularly excessive bleeding, or there are pain and spasmodic activities. For the latter, they are often combined with uterine antispasmodics”.

Those first three words – toning, strengthening, nourishing – sum it up perfectly. So we can keep in mind that even if the aforementioned conditions aren’t a concern, uterine tonics offer an array of benefits for all women at all stages of life, and that they aren’t necessarily the same thing as an Emmenagogue (which we’ll discuss in a future article!).

When should I work with Red Raspberry Leaf? Let’s look at Her Indications, Contraindications, and Herbal Actions

Indications:
● Irregular menses, painful periods, cramps
● Anemia/low iron
● Excessive bleeding (menorrhagia), or metroorrhagia (bleeding at irregular times between cycles)
● Trying to conceive
● Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats
● Postpartum recovery (“shrinking” the uterus back to normal size)
● Stomach upset, diarrhea

Contraindications/Cautions:
● First trimester of pregnancy*

Actions:
● Uterine tonic
● Astringent (having a tightening/drying effect)
● Nutritive (rich in vitamins and/or minerals)
● Anti-inflammatory

*Note that many Herbalists are in favor of using Red Raspberry Leaf throughout all stages of pregnancy, and that RR Leaf has a history of use to aid in the prevention of miscarriage.
Medicinal Differences between various uterine tonics

While Red Raspberry Leaf is considered extremely safe in almost all cases, other Uterine Tonics are contraindicated until the last few weeks of pregnancy – but why? The key factor here is the level of astringency that each plant provides.

I’ll compare Red Raspberry Leaf to two of my other favorite Uterine Tonics, Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) and Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens). While all three are uterine tonics that are all astringent, Lady’s Mantle and Partridge Berry are far more so than Red Raspberry Leaf. This likely contributes to why the latter two are not recommended for use until the very end of pregnancy (remember that astringent plants typically also act as Styptics – herbs that stop excessive blood flow), and make stronger emmenagogues, whereas Red Raspberry Leaf’s astringency level is lower, making it more tonifying and strengthening to the uterus overall, and appropriate for nearly all stages of pregnancy. Good stuff to know!



Medicine making with Red Raspberry Leaf

Rubus ideaus is super fun and accessible when it comes to medicine making, as it’s effective both as a tisane (herbal tea infusion) and as a tincture/glycerite (an extract into alcohol or vegetable glycerine). Here are some tips for you to try:

● To make a tea with Red Raspberry Leaf, simply harvest the leaves, chop, and dry (drying rack or dehydrator is best, but you can lay them out on parchment paper to air dry carefully if need be). Once dried, use a heaping teaspoon for every 8oz of boiling water, steep for 10 minutes at the boiling point (longer is fine too).
● For folk method tincturing, grab a clean mason jar and use a ratio of about 1:5 marc (plant material) to menstruum (solvent) if using dried plant material, and a ratio of about 1:2 marc to menstruum if using fresh plant material.
● With fresh plants, your menstruum can be composed strictly of 100 proof vodka, since the plants will of course still be retaining some water in them, and for dried plant material you can use a menstruum of 75% vodka and 25% water – just be sure to properly label your jar with your ratios & ingredients, date, and if you like, the moon phase/astrological sign under which it was created.
● Once your tincture jar is filled and labeled, you’ll want to keep it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight and shake it every day (we Herbalists call this “garbling”) for one full lunar cycle. Upon completion, strain and transfer into a new, clean jar, or into small dropper bottles.

I hope you have enjoyed walking this Green Healing Path of Avalon with me today!

Hugs and Herbs,
Suzanne

To delve more deeply into the ancient art of Herbalism, join me for the next run of my nine month online course, “Herbs of Avalon: Morgana’s Materia Medica” – registration runs from February 13th through the 26th: https://suzanne-s-site-f61d.thinkific.com/courses/herbsofavalon
And please feel free to reach out at info@alchemyofavalontea.com with questions!

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