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Raspberry leaf: more than just a tea?

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Red raspberry tea is commonly found in herbalist stores and has several folkloric uses. The leaf, not the fruit, has the pharmacologically active constituents.(1) Raspberry, Rubus idaeus, is included in the family Rosaceae.

Why do people use it?

Raspberry leaf tea is used to treat diarrhea and as a gargle to reduce sore throat pain.(1)(2)(3)(4) It is also commonly used to facilitate childbirth. Women use raspberry leaf to control excessive menstruation and morning sickness.

How does it work?

Few compounds have been isolated from the plant. The astringent properties of raspberry leaf are associated with tannins, which occur at concentrations of 13% to 15%.(1)(2) Flavonoids, volatile oils, phenolic acid and ascorbic acid have also been isolated from the leaves.(1)(4)

The astringent properties of raspberry leaf are responsible for its soothing effect on the throat and for the control of diarrhea.(1)

What is the evidence?

There is very little human or animal data associated with the use of raspberry leaf.(4) Most of the suggested uses are derived from folklore but have never been tested in a controlled environment. One double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial evaluated the effects of raspberry leaf on the duration of pregnancy, labor, and the number of medical interventions required during labor and birth.(5) One hundred and ninety-two pregnant women were evaluated. The results indicate that raspberry leaf is not toxic but also does not influence birth outcome. The treatment group had a shorter second stage of labor by about 10 minutes and had a lower rate of forceps use compared with the placebo group (19.3 vs 30.4%).

There is conflicting evidence concerning the activity of raspberry leaf on the uterus. It acts as a uterine muscle relaxant in pregnant rats, but the herb stimulated contractions in strips of human uterine muscle.(4)

A literature review...