The Benefits of Red Raspberry Leaf

Red raspberry leaf
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Red raspberry leaf is a natural substance long used in herbal medicine. Extracted from the leaves of the Rubus idaeus plant, it's often consumed in tea form. Also available in dietary supplement form, red raspberry leaf is said to enhance women's health.

Red raspberry leaf contains a number of compounds that may have health-promoting effects, including such antioxidants as quercetin and kaempferol.

Health Benefits of Red Raspberry Leaf

Although it's been used in herbal medicine for centuries, red raspberry leaf and its health effects have been tested in few scientific studies. Still, some preliminary research shows that this remedy may offer certain benefits. Check out these findings from the available studies on red raspberry leaf:

1)  Pregnancy

When taken during pregnancy, red raspberry leaf is said to protect against pregnancy-related complications (such as preeclampsia and preterm labor) and help shorten the duration of labor. However, research on the use of red raspberry leaf during pregnancy has yielded mixed results.

In a 2001 study published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health, for instance, 192 low-risk women took either red raspberry leaf supplements or a placebo starting at 32 weeks into pregnancy and continuing through labor. Although red raspberry leaf did not appear to shorten the first stage of labor, the second stage of labor was shortened by an average of 9.59 minutes.

What's more, women given red raspberry leaf had a lower rate of forceps deliveries (compared to those given the placebo).

In a 2010 study published in Reproductive Sciences, however, tests on rats demonstrated that red raspberry leaf failed to increase contractions of the uterus and facilitate labor.

2)  Cancer

Red raspberry leaf shows promise in the protection against some forms of cancer, according to a preliminary study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2012. In tests on human cells, scientists observed that antioxidants found in red raspberry leaf extract may help knock out cells causing colon cancer and cancer of the larynx. 

Uses for Red Raspberry Leaf

Red raspberry leaf is often touted as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

Popular among midwives, red raspberry leaf is also used to facilitate labor and delivery, as well as to prevent miscarriage. 

Additionally, red raspberry leaf is purported to improve heart health and aid in the prevention of heart disease.

When applied topically (i.e., directly to the skin), red raspberry leaf is thought to soothe sore throat and promote wound healing.

Safety

The most common adverse effects appear to be due to contaminated fruit, resulting in digestive upset, diarrhea, vomiting and fever.

Large amounts of raspberry leaf during pregnancy may initiate labor unintentionally. 

The lack of clinical trials makes it difficult to assess the safety of red raspberry during pregnancy. A rat-based study published in Reproductive Sciences in 2009 found that the use of red raspberry leaf throughout the entire pregnancy was associated with an increased pregnancy length and accelerated reproductive development in the offspring.  However, it is generally not recommended that women begin taking red raspberry until they are at least 32 weeks pregnant.  A clinical trial involving 192 pregnant women who took 1.2g raspberry leaf tablets twice a day from 32 weeks gestation until labor found no adverse effects for mother or baby.

There's some concern that red raspberry leaf might be harmful to people with liver or kidney disease. 

Learn more about how to use herbal remedies safely here.

Alternatives to Red Raspberry Leaf

For an alternative therapy that may help treat pregnancy-related health issues, consider undergoing acupuncture. Research shows that receiving acupuncture during pregnancy may help alleviate back pain, ease morning sickness, fight insomnia, and protect against depression.

Where to Find Red Raspberry Leaf

Teas and dietary supplements containing red raspberry leaf are sold in many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in herbal products. You can also purchase red raspberry leaf online.

Sources

Durgo K, Belščak-Cvitanović A, Stančić A, Franekić J, Komes D. "The bioactive potential of red raspberry (Rubus idaeus L.) leaves in exhibiting cytotoxic and cytoprotective activity on human laryngeal carcinoma and colon adenocarcinoma." J Med Food. 2012 Mar;15(3):258-68.

Gudej J. "Kaempferol and quercetin glycosides from Rubus idaeus L. leaves." Acta Pol Pharm. 2003 Jul-Aug;60(4):313-5.

Holst L, Haavik S, Nordeng H. "Raspberry leaf--should it be recommended to pregnant women?" Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2009 Nov;15(4):204-8.

Jing Zheng, Pistilli MJ, Holloway AC, Crankshaw DJ. "The effects of commercial preparations of red raspberry leaf on the contractility of the rat's uterus in vitro." Reprod Sci. 2010 May;17(5):494-501.

Johnson JR, Makaji E, Ho S, Boya Xiong, Crankshaw DJ, Holloway AC. " Effect of maternal raspberry leaf consumption in rats on pregnancy outcome and the fertility of the female offspring." Reprod Sci. 2009 Jun;16(6):605-9.

Rojas-Vera J, Patel AV, Dacke CG. "Relaxant activity of raspberry (Rubus idaeus) leaf extract in guinea-pig ileum in vitro." Phytother Res. 2002 Nov;16(7):665-8.

Simpson M, Parsons M, Greenwood J, Wade K. "Raspberry leaf in pregnancy: its safety and efficacy in labor." J Midwifery Womens Health. 2001 Mar-Apr;46(2):51-9.

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