Humans have used plant medicine since the dawn of time.
In the context of women's health, herbs have been used to support fertility, promote conception, relieve the common challenges associated with pregnancy, nourish mothers and their growing babies, facilitate an easeful birth, promote postpartum healing, support breastfeeding, and promote healthy parents and children.
This is the wise woman's way - leaning on plant medicine during the energetically and nutritionally challenging childbearing years to foster deep vitality for mothers and their babies, which of course positively ripples out into the rest of their family and community.
Every pregnancy and every body is unique, but if there is one herb I would recommend to anyone traversing the birthing years it would be Red Raspberry Leaf.
Red raspberry leaf, Rubus ideaus, (also called RRL for short) is an incredible ally to know during the childbearing years where it heals, tones, and nourishes the entire reproductive and generative system.
It is THE premier pregnancy and birthing tonic in western herbalism, and for good reason!
✧ Nutritional tonic.
The leaves are deeply nutrient dense, and a long-steeped infusion is an amazing and simple way to nourish the mother and her growing child. Restores mineral stores postpartum. Good in iron syrups (can be helpful for anemia and fatigue), calcium tea, re-mineralization blends, and to support teething little ones.
✧ Strengthen womb and musculature of the pelvis.
Astringent and tonifying effects have a particular affinity to the uterus, womb, and tissues/musculature of the pelvis. Supports the proper alignment and tone of pelvic musculature, tissues, and organs after birth. Can be worked with to heal prolapse. This nourishing and strengthening action RRL has also increases our innate fertility and the ability of the womb to "hold and sustain" a pregnancy, so can be used to prevent repeated early pregnancy loss/miscarriage.
✧ Minimize nausea and morning sickness.
Many women find that RRL tea reduces their nausea, vomiting, and the sensation of a queasy stomach. It is also a gentle remedy for the same in babies and children, as well as diarrhea and the symptoms of the stomach flu. Overall strengthens and heals the digestive tract.
✧ Sustain a healthy birth.
The actions of tonifying, strengthening, and nourishing the uterus and womb prepare for a smooth and healthy birth, strong and even contractions, and can reduce the intensity of the sensations and cramps. High mineral content increases our energy levels and helps prevent fatigue and exhaustion during the birthing process. Raspberry leaf encourages an easy placental birth, reduces postpartum bleeding and the risk of postpartum hemorrhage, and relieves afterbirth pains/cramps.
✧ Supports breastfeeding.
RRL enriches the nutritional profile of breastmilk with its abundant mineral profile, with ample amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, and vitamin C. It pairs well with marshmallow root, shatavari, fennel seed, fenugreek seed, and nettle leaf to encourage abundant milk supply.
✧ Heal tissues after birth.
RRL is a great addition in a sitz bath, or the tea can be used in a peri bottle after every trip to the bathroom, to heal vulva and pelvic tissues after birth. Whether there has been any tearing or not, using a sitz bath or peri bottle with healing herbs supports the restoration of our tissues, and feels so soothing.
How to Harvest & Use:
We use the leaves primarily, though the fruit has a medicine of its own as well ~ balancing sweet and sour, generous of body and spirit, freely shares gifts.
You can harvest healthy looking leaves before flowering/fruiting, usually in early to mid-summer, from wild raspberries (which are ABUNDANT and weedy in the northern Midwest) or raspberries you might have growing in the garden for berry-production.
Use the leaves fresh for a tincture, elixir, oxymel, or infused vinegar, and dry for future use as a nourishing infusion, sitz bath or steam, or to wear in an amulet bag or put on your birth altar to bring fertility and protection for our babies and our pregnant selves.
I craved RRL tea SO MUCH in my last trimester, I was drinking about 2 quarts of the infusion w/ lemon juice in the final weeks before my daughter was born and for what it’s worth my labor was about 4.5 hours, very peaceful, I had minimal bleeding postpartum, and birthed the placenta with ease.
We will be exploring raspberry leaf in depth, along with 35+ other pregnancy and breastfeeding safe herbs, in the upcoming Tending the Mother: Herbal Support for the Birthing Year workshop.
If you're a natural-minded women who is pregnant, hope to be someday, or you work with women's health as a doula, nurse, or midwife, OR you just love mothers, babies, and families and want to feel confident using herbal medicine during these precious and important times - I'd love to see you there!