Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Raspberry Leaf - A Woman's Best Friend

This morning I am sharing another post that I wrote a few months back elsewhere. I've discovered one of the benefits of doing this is that I can read my articles with fresh eyes and revise them if needed.

Let me begin with the following admission: I am a coffee drinker. *head hanging* Yes, it's true. In fact, I love my coffee; A LOT.  But that said, I have decreased the amount that I consume on a daily basis to usually only one cup in the morning and some days none at all.  During my last pregnancy, I discovered that I actually really, really enjoy the comforting, earthy taste of red raspberry leaf tea (which tastes nothing like raspberries, by the way). It is also an excellent source of the alkaloid fragrine, which tones and strengthens the muscles of the pelvic region, including the uterus itself which really helps lessen or even eliminate cramps during the menstrual cycle besides making for an easier childbirth. I firmly believe that red raspberry leaf is an herb that that should be in the kitchen of every woman, pregnant or not. If you're not a big herbal tea drinker, you might find it easier to drink it iced and with a little squeeze of lemon or orange rather than hot, or even sweetened with a bit of stevia or honey. Some of my friends have mentioned these ways of enjoying it, so I thought I'd share with you. However you decide to drink it, please, please take the time to read about this fascinating herb and all that it can do for you.

A History of Red Raspberry Leaf:

The use of red raspberry leaf dates back for centuries (some resources go as far as to say 10000 years ago). The therapeutic use of raspberry leaf was first described in 1597 in a book called “The Herbal,” or “A General History of Plants" written by British herbalist John Gerard (1545–1611 or 12)  While the exact origin of its herbal use hasn't been entirely confirmed, red raspberry leaf has a rich history of being used to treat a wide variety of ailments. Early Roman use of the raspberry leaf included relief of uterine contractions during childbirth, as a remedy for stomach and throat ailments, and as a poultice for wounds and sores. Various American Indian tribes were also aware of the leaves’ astringent properties, and made use of raspberry leaf tea as an eyewash, to cleanse wounds, and to relieve diarrhea, dysentery, uterine hemorrhage, menstrual cramps, and runny noses. The most popular use of red raspberry leaf today is by far during pregnancy, though that is definitely not its only use.

During Pregnancy

Many of the complications that arise during pregnancy can be traced back to the mother’s diet, which is typically lacking in vital nutrients and minerals. For thousands of years, wise-women have recommended herbal tonics during the childbearing years to help both mother and baby experience a healthy, normal pregnancy, labor, and birth. Herbal tonics are generally considered to be both safe and effective as they help improve mom's overall health and prevent any major problems. Tonics also boost the supply of vital vitamins and minerals, help increase energy, and improve uterine tonicity. Herbal tonics should be used on a regular basis in order to gain the most benefit from them.

One of the most important of these herbal tonics is red raspberry leaf. The increased vitamin A contained in red raspberry leaf can aid a pregnant women's immune system as well as facilitate healthy skin and bone development for the baby. Vitamin E helps to promote better circulation in the mother whose blood volume dramatically increases during pregnancy. Red raspberry leaf also contains an easily absorbed form of calcium, which is important as increased availability of calcium is necessary both for controlling nerve response to pain during childbirth as well as for proper bone development in the growing baby. The presence of fragrine allows the uterus to contract more powerfully and effectively during labor. The high vitamin and mineral content helps to replace those that are lost through blood loss in delivery. Finally, the alkaloids present in red raspberry leaf aid the uterus after birth as it contracts down to its normal size.

A Summary of Benefits during Pregnancy:

-Increases fertility in both men and women (drink for several months while trying to conceive).

-Prevents miscarriage and postpartum hemorrhage

-Eases morning sickness (a HUGE plus!!!)

-Reduces pain during and after labor

-Can help make labor faster because it encourages the uterus to function more efficiently

-May actually reduce mother's chance of needing artificial rupture of membranes, forceps delivery or cesarean

-Assists in the production of breast milk

Recap of Vitamins and Minerals Found in Red Raspberry Leaf:

-Vitamin A

-Vitamin B complex

-High concentrations of Vitamin C

-Manganese and Magnesium

-Easily assimilated Calcium and Iron

-Vitamin E

-Phosphorous and Potassium as well as trace amounts of many other minerals

Outside of Pregnancy Red Raspberry Leaf is good for:

-Eases symptoms of  the common cold or flu

-Soothes sore throats

-Treats diarrhea

-Regulates the menstrual cycle and decreases heavy periods

-It can act as an astringent, effectively reducing excess skin secretions, relieving irritation and improving skin firmness, thus treating acne and other skin issues.

-Soothes mouth and throat irritations when used as a mouthwash/gargle

-Can lower blood sugar in those with diabetes.

So, You're SURE It's Safe?

Red raspberry leaf has been used for thousands of years and is generally considered to be safe during pregnancy. From the studies that have been done, no side effects have been found, however, I would be remiss if I did not mention that I have heard some physicians warn against use of red raspberry leaf during the first trimester.

Based my own personal experience with the use of this wonderful herb, the advice of many herbalist mentors, and the experiences of my friends who have used it during their own pregnancies, it is entirely safe and recommended during pregnancy for reasons I have already covered.  Ultimately, you are responsible for your health and if you have any concerns, please seek advice from your PCP.

Finally, if you don't happen to have your own patch of this beautiful plant to harvest from, let me conclude this post with a shameless promotion of my business, The Natural Path for when you decide you are ready to purchase high quality, 100% Certified Organically grown red raspberry leaf.  I have it available in teabags or loose, and if you just really can't stand the idea of a tea I can even prepare it in vege-caps for you.

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