Red Raspberry Leaf: what's the big deal?
by Sarah Lind
I recently saw a thread about red raspberry leaf (RRL) in a Facebook group for doulas. The original post/question had something to do about recommending it to clients, or the client was asking if the doula recommended it, something a long those lines. Much to my surprise, (or maybe not) controversy and debate filled the comments. Several responses included a quick "Yes!" or a "I'd totally recommend" and other forms that gave short answers in favor of the recommendation. But, additionally, there were several comments that were long responses around the idea that it was outside the scope of a doula to provide a such a recommendation, as it is a medical concern, and a few comments about how it could be within scope if the doula had received the additional training in herbal medicine, herbal therapy, or herbal supplements. I disagree, with those comments, and I would totally recommend.
I am a clinical herbalist with appropriate credentials in herbal medicine and women's health, so I feel my background gives me the knowledge and I would like to clear a few things up.
I do believe that doulas have scope of practice and need to operate within such scope, however, I see this as a question that is completely appropriate for a client to ask of a doula, and for a doula to provide an answer that isn't "Talk to your doctor." That's not to disregard any medical history (such as an allergy to this plant family) but in general, this is very likely going to come up at some point from a client.
As an herbalist, I will tell you there is no harm that can be done from drinking RRL and is a safe recommendation to make. The leaf from the plant is edible just like the fruit itself from the plant, and would be of the same risk. However, the leaf from the plant has a great affinity for the uterus, much more than the raspberry fruit, and therefore is a great tea for women to drink, especially during pregnancy. The plant has constituents that tonify the muscle of the uterus and aid it proper function and efficiency. All can be super beneficial to growing a baby, and then ultimately benefit labor and delivery.
Red Raspberry leaf tea can be found in the grocery store, with generic safety warnings, and can be easily consumed. If there was such a high risk or contraindications with drinking it, there would be appropriate labels and limited access. Additionally, most herbal teas found in pre-packaged tea bags and sold on the shelf at the grocery store are mostly downgraded to 'beverage' status by most herbalists, and hold very little medicinal value at that point, making even more safe to consume.
My recommendation to clients will always be a pro-RRL, and my further recommendation would be to get an herbal tea made for pregnancy, and made from an herbalist or reputable herbal apothecary/company. That is more of a guarantee of high concentration of constituents in the plant, and therefore high benefit to the consumer. I also recommend that starting early in pregnancy and drinking throughout is more beneficial, and up to several cups per day.
RRL should be standard just like taking prenatal vitamins and part of a healthy, balanced diet during pregnancy and postpartum. Women in general should consume RRL as it is beneficial to all female cycles and anatomy.