Can Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Improve Uterine Health?

Today, 40% of pharmaceutical drugs — including the top 20 sellers in America — are derived from plants that have long been used to treat the same ailments, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These days, most of us rely on doctors and pharmaceuticals to keep our health intact. But with the knowledge that pharmaceutical medicine only saw its beginnings in the mid-19th century, it becomes harder to ignore the fact that our ancestors developed effective medicinal systems from the plants that grew around them (per National Library of Medicine).

Red raspberry leaf (RL) is one plant with a particularly long and prolific history of healing. Its Latin name — Rubus idaeus – translates to "bramble bush of Ida," as it was once believed that the plant was discovered on Mount Ida, the birthplace of Zeus (per Société Tea & Apothecary). Greek mythology also states that raspberries were pure white until Ida, the nursemaid of an infant Zeus, pricked her finger while picking the berries, staining them red forevermore.

Historical documents reveal that RL tea has been considered a uterine tonic for at least two centuries, and was previously used to prevent miscarriage and postdate pregnancy, decrease labor pain, and provide morning sickness relief (per ScienceDirect). Still commonly referred to as the "woman's herb," it continues to prove — now in a clinical setting — that it's worth its salt in regard to women's health. Let's take a closer look.

Raspberry leaf tea's effect on the uterus

While it was previously believed that red raspberry leaf tea could effectively induce labor, ScienceDirect reveals that the herb actually facilitates an increase of blood flow to the uterus, allowing the uterine muscle fibers to produce more well-coordinated contractions. RL works to tone and relax the smooth muscles of the uterus, improving uterine function and potentially aiding in the regulation of menstruation (per Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism). One 2016 study review published in Antioxidants found that this toning of the uterus may help reduce minor uterine spasming associated with menstrual cramping. Another 2018 study published in the Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences found that flavonoids in raspberry leaf improve hormone balance in perimenopausal mice, suggesting RL tea may be useful in female hormone regulation. 

Many of the benefits of RL can indeed be attributed to the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals packed into the plant. Healthline reports that in addition to vitamin B, C, magnesium, and potassium, RL contains a significant iron content, which can help combat the anemia that some women with heavy menstrual cycles experience. It also contains fragarine, a toning compound that may be responsible for its reduction of menstrual cramps.

Raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy

Raspberry leaf tea has been specifically shown to be beneficial in the event of pregnancy. According to Science Direct, it can stimulate milk production in pregnant women and has been touted to decrease the risk of miscarriage. The review also reported that pregnant women who regularly consumed RL tea experienced decreased likelihood of pre- and post-term births, a reduction in excessive bleeding, and fewer occurrences of obstetric intervention in the form of cesarean section, vacuum extraction, or forceps delivery in comparison to a control group who did not consume the tea. The review suggests that RL is generally considered safe to use during pregnancy, with a reported 63% of midwives surveyed in one study administering the tea to pregnant patients.

Healthline explains that consuming one to three cups of raspberry leaf tea during the second and third trimester is considered safe for most pregnant women. Some women consume RL during the first trimester as a way to combat morning sickness, but should limit themselves to one cup of RL tea a day. That being said, it is imperative that pregnant women speak with their doctors before consuming raspberry leaf tea. If spotting or Braxton Hicks contractions occur while using RL, discontinue use immediately.