Raspberry: Beyond the Fruit (Rubus idaeus | Rosaceae)

By Steph Zabel
Herbalist & Ethnobotanist

Raspberry leaf is a beautiful, delicious, nutritive and practical herb, and a very versatile plant that appeals to nearly everyone in one way or another.

Most of us are familiar with raspberry as a food — who doesn’t love fresh summer-ripe raspberries? But the part of the plant that I’ll be discussing in this article is the leaf. I love the foliage of this plant: the leaves are run through with veins, and are dark green on the top, and a lovely silvery-white on the back.

Via Wikimedia Commons

Via Wikimedia Commons

If you ever run into a brambly-type of plant growing in or near a forest you might be unsure if what you are encountering is a blackberry or a raspberry as they look quite similar. But a quick way to tell the difference is to turn the leaf over: if it has that beautiful silver-white color to it, you know you have found raspberry.

This delightful fruiting shrub is native to both to Asia and North America, and is a member of one of my favorite plant families, the Rosa (a.k.a. Rosaceae) family. While everyone is aware that raspberry fruits are edible and nutritive, most people do not know that the leaves themselves are a very nutritive agent. In fact, they are high in Vitamins C, E, A and B, and hold a range of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus. They also contain essential trace minerals such as zinc, iron, chromium and manganese. These vitamins and minerals are imparted to us when we make a tea out of the dried leaves.

Beyond being a gentle, nourishing herb raspberry has been used for centuries to support respiratory, digestive and reproductive health. In Ayurvedic medicine raspberry leaves are considered to be a cooling herb that is good for reducing heat and inflammation in the body, especially throughout the digestive tract. As an astringent herb it helps to tighten up the skin around wounds and promote healing. It is traditionally used for diarrhea; nowadays it is also used to strengthen the lining of the intestinal tract where there is permeability or “leaky gut.” Raspberry leaf can help protect the gut from irritation and inflammation.

Raspberry leaf is most famously known as a lovely and supportive herb for women’s reproductive health, especially during the childbearing years. As a tea raspberry can help ease menstrual cramping (perhaps due in part to its high content of magnesium). In addition, the leaves contain an alkaloid called fragrine which helps strengthen and tone the uterus and the pelvic area. This special constituent can promote fertility, prevent miscarriage, and prepare a pregnant woman for birth.

Via Wikimedia Commons

Via Wikimedia Commons

In my own recent pregnancy I drank a lot of raspberry leaf tea. However, I waited until the second trimester to do so because if taken earlier it may cause a sensation of cramping. (I typically recommend only food grade herbs during pregnancy, but especially in the first trimester.) I increased my intake of raspberry leaf tea as I neared my due date. I felt that it was gentle, supportive and full of so many good vitamins and minerals for both me and the baby. I also brought a huge container of the tea with me to the birth!

Many people claim that it can promote a shorter and easier labor. I can’t say if it truly does or not. My own labor was relatively quick and straightforward for a first-time mom… but it definitely was not easy!

I also drank raspberry leaf tea right after the birth and for a while afterwards to help the uterus regain its normal size and tone. Again, I found the mineral content of the tea to be refreshing and helpful after such a physically intense process. Hands down, raspberry leaf is my favorite herb for fertility, pregnancy, and post-natal health.

But it’s not just for women! Men can also benefit from raspberry leaf as it supports prostate health and has a toning effect for the whole male reproductive system. Raspberry tea is also wonderful, safe and gentle enough for kids (perhaps sweetened with a bit of honey.) I also enjoy it as a simple beverage tea — it makes a wonderful alternative to conventional iced tea, having a similar flavor, but without the caffeine.


  • Steep 1-2 teaspoons of dried leaf per cup of hot water for 10 minutes.
  • To make a more nutritive infusion with a high content of minerals, steep 4 tablespoons dried herb in a quart of hot water for 6 to 8 hours.
  • Raspberry leaf makes a great iced tea in the summer. You can do a cold-brew steep (or sun tea) of raspberry leaf by placing 4 tablespoons of the dried leaf in a quart of cold water for 3 to 5 hours. Place in a sunny windowsill if possible.
  • Raspberry leaf mixes well with rose petals, red clover, mint, and chamomile


In pregnancy wait until the 2nd trimester to begin drinking red raspberry leaf tea because it may cause uterine tightening or cramping. Also, because of the high tannins in raspberry leaf some people feel slightly nauseous if they drink the tea on an empty stomach.


Methow Valley Herbs

The Herbal Academy


Dr. Mahalia Freed

Steph Zabel, MSc, is an herbalist and educator who helps urban dwellers connect with the plant world. She teaches seasonal herbal classes and is the founder of HERBSTALK, Boston’s community herbal conference. Learn more about her work at: and

This blog series — Herbs and Botanicals— is for general health information only. This Web site is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. Users of this Web site should not rely on information provided on this Web site for their own health problems. Any questions regarding your own health should be addressed to your own physician or other healthcare provider.

March Monthly Muse: Dr. Eva Zasloff

By Mary, CN Body Care Buyer & The Naturalist Contributor

We’ve been marching our way into wellness all month long, and encouraging you, our wonderful readers and customers, to do the same. As important as it is to nurture health throughout our entire lifetime, there’s no more important time than when we first arrive here. We at Cambridge Naturals are not doctors or pharmacists, and although we all carry a wealth of knowledge on our products, most of us don’t have the kind of experience and education needed to help ensure the best care for those precious days of pre and post-natal care.

Eva Zasloff, M.D. is a Cambridge based doctor offering in-home medical care for newborns and new mothers and has helped so many get the support and healthcare they need during this time. The term “fourth trimester” was not a term I was familiar with prior to speaking with Dr. Zasloff and I don’t think I’m alone. It refers to the moment of birth to three months after, and is a time of great change and adjustment for both the baby and parents.

At a time when the percentage of postpartum depression is up to 75% in the US, Eva’s model of care is an important one to know about. She offers pediatric check-ins as well as support for mothers for anything from lactation support to navigating postpartum blues. Her practice focuses on in-home visits allowing patients to be treated in the environment they’re most comfortable in. Read on to learn more about Eva and her work, including her top recommendations for new moms!

What is your favorite place or thing to do in the Boston area?

I love the pick-your-own-flowers CSA at Lex Farm. It is a local community-run farm located next to the Arlington reservoir.  Every week in the summertime, I head to the farm to hand pick flowers from the fields for my home. I look forward to it every year.

Do you have a life changing book you’ve read that you can recommend?

Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. I have been interested in the microbiome and probiotics for a long time, but about 5 years ago I discovered this book. I love Katz's style and approach to fermenting foods- super informative but also laid back. This is my go-to book for homemade sauerkraut, pickles, and yogurt recipes. My three boys have grown accustomed to many glass jars with strange foods fermenting on our kitchen counter or patio...

What initially drew you to working with postpartum moms and babies when you entered the medical field?

I have always been struck by the beauty, power, and vulnerability during this time for both the newborn and the family. The physiology of the mother and baby is so fascinating. Newborns have to figure out how to exist breathing and living outside of womb which was filled with amniotic fluid - like figuring about how to transform from being an amphibian into a mammal! The postpartum mother is healing from the birth experience and having dramatic shifts in hormonal and regulatory mechanisms in order for lactation to be established. Another amazing aspect is how connected the mother-baby unit is, both emotionally and physically. How the baby is feeding, how the mother is feeling, these things affect one another. Also, so much attention is put into the pregnancy and birth experience- which is great- but so often, the baby is born and the support falls. As a practicing family doctor, I over and over again had felt like I could be caring for this population in a better way.

What have some of the highlights been since you founded your own practice, Tova Health?

So many! First, it is an honor to be a part of this transformative time for a family and to be welcomed into their home. It is also so energizing to have a vision of something good and important, and then to actually make it happen. It really is a creative process for me. Doctors and midwives from all over the country are reaching out and excited about this new model of care. So thrilling to watch this grow.   

I also love the multicultural richness of the postpartum time - there are many ancient traditions and rituals surrounding this time. After one my newborn home visits, the grandmother brought me to the kitchen to teach me how to make a traditional Indian postpartum drink. It is delicious and made with dill seed and ghee. Now I bring the ingredients and recipe of this tea as a welcome gift to new families.

Home births and in-home care for mothers and newborns is still a foreign concept for some in this country. Your patients have found the care you offer invaluable. In what ways is your service different?

For the first 3 months of life, I visit the family in their home, caring for the mother and baby in an integrative way. I provide comprehensive newborn care for the baby. The family can rest and heal. I walk through this time with them and meet them where they are. I listen to their birth stories- the beautiful parts and the hard parts. Sometimes there are tears. We talk about postpartum blues, breastfeeding concerns, diaper rash, all of it! It is remarkable how much recovery, learning, and grown can happen when supported.

Lastly, what are your top 3 Cambridge Naturals product recommendations you can make for new mothers?

  1. Organic Fenugreek seeds in the bulk section. Fenugreek is thought to promote milk supply. swallow 1/2 teaspoon of seeds each day postpartum if milk supply is low or needs a boost.

  2. Silverette Nipple Caps. These are a great gift! They can be really helpful and soothing during the first few weeks of  breastfeeding.

  3. The First Forty Days. Such a beautiful book- full of postpartum wisdoms, cultural traditions and recipes. great to read during the end of pregnancy or during those long postpartum nights.

Eva Zasloff MD  is a board certified family doctor with a focus on pediatric & women’s health. She has created a new model of care called Tova Health: Integrative Newborn & Maternal Care at Home serving the greater Cambridge area. /