One reviewer wrote, “Ladies if you aren’t drinking red raspberry leaf tea when you have your menstrual cycle you are missing out.”
While another said, “Raspberry leaf tea for cramps 10/10!”
I thought I had finally found something that could make life during my period a little bit easier.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the magic cure that I was hoping for. For two cycles, I would drink one or two cups of raspberry leaf tea the day before my period was due, two to three cups during the first day of my period and another two cups the following day.
And I didn’t notice any noticeable reduction in period cramps at all. Truthfully, I was gutted. I felt that social media had lied to me… But had it?
Where does the concept come from?
“Raspberry leaf is a herb that is spoken of in the midwifery community as a uterine tonic or a uterine purifier and this comes from a lot of oral tradition passed down and then spread into the community,” says Kristin Mallon, CNM, RN, a board-certified nurse midwife and co-founder and CEO of FemGevity Health.
There’s evidence to suggest that raspberry leaf tea has been used for at least two centuries as a uterine tonic and for use during pregnancy and labor. However, Tracy Malone, ND, a fertility naturopathic doctor and director of nutraceuticals at Bird&Be, explains that the available evidence on the efficacy of red raspberry leaf tea—whether for monthly cramps or for labor and pregnancy—is inconclusive.
Purported raspberry tea leaf benefits
Despite a lack of scientific evidence, many people online shout about the benefits that raspberry leaf tea can offer your uterus. In addition to easing menstrual cramps, the main ones include:
More efficient contractions and labor
“Red raspberry leaf tea contains fragarine, an alkaloid that may help to tone the muscles of the uterus, including the smooth muscles responsible for contractions during labor,” Dr. Malone says. “Strengthening these muscles may promote more effective contractions during labor, helping shorten the duration.”
A 2001 study found that women who consumed two raspberry leaf tablets from 32 weeks up until labor had a shorter second stage of labor (by an average of 9.59 minutes) compared to the women who did not.
Increased cervical ripening
In addition to shortening the second stage of labor, raspberry leaf tea is said to have an effect on cervical ripening. “The tea contains tannins that may help to soften and prepare the cervix for labor, making it easier for the cervix to dilate and efface,” Dr. Malone explains.
There is only a little evidence to back up this claim, but one 1999 study did find that women who consumed raspberry leaf tea were less likely to need a cesarean, forceps, or vacuum birth.
Easier postpartum recovery
According to Dr. Malone, there are also some claims that raspberry leaf tea can help with postpartum recovery. Some say it may help through strengthening the muscles of the uterus after childbirth, and some say it can reduce postpartum bleeding. Unfortunately, more research is needed to see if there is any scientific truth to these ideas.
Is it safe to drink raspberry leaf tea?
The good news is that raspberry leaf tea is completely safe to drink, according to Dr. Malone. While there is limited research to support the claims of benefits for your menstrual cycle and labor, no adverse effects have been reported.
However, if you are pregnant, you should speak to a healthcare professional first. Many midwives will advise against drinking this tea in early pregnancy since it can stimulate the uterine muscles, which could potentially cause a miscarriage or complications. However, they may recommend that you start from 37 weeks onwards, as you get much closer to your due date.
Also, raspberry leaf tea can cause stomach upset and other unpleasant symptoms if taken in excess (more than one to three cups a day).
The bottom line: Speak to your doctor before trying it to make sure it won’t interact negatively with your body and any medications you’re taking. And don’t overdo it.
So why is it making the social media rounds?
While it’s clear that some people feel they benefit from drinking raspberry leaf tea, it’s fair to say that it does not work for everyone. So, what’s making the difference? Dr. Malone believes that it could be a placebo effect.
“I only recommend it to my patients if it’s clear to me they believe it is going to work for them, then I will get on board with what they already believe is true for themselves,” she explains. “The mind is very powerful and can be a useful ally in pregnancy and labor.”
Even though the research is limited, Dr. Malone says the plant itself is rich in nutrients and is a good source of many vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium. Therefore, even if it does not offer the outcome you were hoping for, you can feel reassured that you are at least consuming something that’s good for your health, in one way or another.