R u b u s i d a e u s

Generally known as red raspberry in North America, raspberry leaf tea is well recognized for strengthening the uterus prior to childbirth, and for relieving painful periods. It is also an effective and soothing remedy for flu and fevers, helping reduce the aches and pains that go with them.

This tea is a good source of readily assimilated calcium and other minerals, making it a health-enhancing alternative to regular tea. Raspberries, especially wild ones, are very high in salvestrols, a class of cancer-fighting chemicals.

Rosaceae Rose family

Description: A slender shrub, up to 6 feet high, with arching stems; less spiny and more delicate than blackberry canes. The leaves are a light green, and silvery underneath. The stems are bare in winter.

Habitat: Wild raspberries are often found growing along the edges of woods and forests.

Distribution: Found throughout North America, northern Europe, and northern Asia.

Related species: The North American grayleaf red raspberry (R.idaeus spp. strigosus ) can be used interchangeably with the Old World species. In China, Korean bramble (R. coreanus) fruit is used as a kidney and liver tonic.

Parts used: Leaves and berries.

Raspberry is a member of the rose family, a plant of the Old World, spreading out to the temperate regions from the Mediterranean. The second part of its name, "idaeus," refers to this ancient origin.

The Greek version of the raspberry legend concerns Ida, daughter of the King of Crete. One day she was looking after her infant, Jupiter, while picking berries on a mountainside. The lusty babe made so much noise that Ida was distracted. When she pricked herself her blood caused what were white berries to turn red. They have remained so ever since - and still grow on the slopes of Mt Ida in modern Crete.

Raspberry was given the common name "raspis," meaning rough or hairy fruit (by contrast with the blackberry), and also "hindberry" because female deer would feed on the leaves, and thereby assist in their own birthing.

The noted animal herbalist Juliette de BaTracli Levy has long advocated dog breeders using raspberry leaf tea, with impressive whelping results throughout the world. She quotes a Romany source: "Let all creatures with young, human and animal, take freely of raspberry herb. They will have very easy 'times' and will be saved a tremendous amount of suffering."

Use raspberry for...

The best way to enjoy wild raspberries is to eat them straight off the bush. They may not be as large as the commercial and garden varieties, but the deep, satisfying flavor is special. As the English herbalist John Parkinson wrote in 1629: "The berries are eaten in the Summertime, as an afternoones dish, to please the taste of the sicke as well as the sound."

But it is the leaves rather than the berries that have the most benefit medicinally. The best time to pick them is on a sunny morning after the dew has dried off. Most herbals say drying the leaves is best, but we find the fresh and dried alternatives equally good.

If you are drying the leaves to use later, hang up bunches of the canes tied together with string, or spread the leaves on a drying rack-a linen cupboard is an ideal place. When they are crisp, they can be packed away in brown paper bags or bottles for storage.

Raspberry leaf is astringent, meaning that it tightens and tones tissue. It is high in nutrients, including iron, manganese, and calcium.

The leaf tea is mainly used in pregnancy to help ease delivery and reduce pain in labor. Julie drank it when she was pregnant, and while she wouldn't say labor was easy (the very name means work, after all!) it was not painful. Raspberry leaf continues its work after the baby is born, by helping the uterus return to normal and promoting milk production.

You may find disagreement in various books about how long to use raspberry leaf in pregnancy. Some authors advise taking it throughout while others restrict it to the last two or three months only. It partly depends on the dose, and we suggest you follow what your midwife or herbalist says is best for you personally.

Many herbals recommend using an ounce of dried leaf per pint of water, but this is a very strong brew and isn't too pleasant to drink. Unless you are trying to stop diarrhea, this strength isn't necessary. We think a weaker tea taken more often is a better idea.

As well as pregnancy and for periods, raspberry tea and vinegar can be used to counter anemia, and to relieve colds, flu, and diarrhea. See the recipes overleaf.

Raspberries are high in vitamin C and other antioxidants. They are also high in a newly discovered class of chemicals called salvestrols, which have proven anti-cancer activity.

Professor Gerry Potter, Head of Medicinal Chemistry at De Montfort University and Director of the Cancer Drug Discovery Group, recommends a diet of foods that are naturally high in salvestrols, which includes raspberries and other red and blue berries.

Recent research has found that agrochemicals inhibit plants from producing salvestrols, so wild or organically grown plants have higher levels. Here's another reason to enjoy your wild raspberries!

Raspberry leaf tea

Pour a cupful of boiling water onto 1 rounded tablespoonful of dried raspberry leaf or a handful of fresh leaves. Let it brew for 15 minutes, then strain and drink, either hot or cold.

Dosages: For general use, drink 1 cupful one to three times a day.

In the last two/three months of pregnancy and for several weeks after giving birth, drink two cups daily, or as instructed by your herbal practitioner or midwife. To normalize heavy periods, drink 3 cups a day during your period, and 1 cup a day the rest of the month. At the first sign of a cold or flu, stop eating for a day or two and drink lots of raspberry leaf tea.

For diarrhea, make a stronger infusion with 2 to 3 teaspoonfuls of dried leaf per cup of boiling water. Drink 1 cupful three times a day. Children can have a wineglassful, and babies a teaspoonful.

Raspberry leaf tea

• childbirth

• heavy menstruation

• muscle cramps

osteoporosis

Other uses for raspberry leaf tea

• as a mouthwash for mouth ulcers and gum problems

• as a gargle for sore throats

• when cool as a soothing eyewash for sore and irritated eyes

• as a healing wash for cuts and abrasions

Raspberry vinegar

• salad dressing

Raspberry oxymel

• sluggish digestion

Raspberry vinegar Fill a jam jar with freshly picked raspberries and pour in enough cider vinegar to cover them. Cover the jar and put it in a warm place such as a sunny windowsill, shaking it every few days.

After two weeks the vinegar should be a lovely deep pink. Strain through a jelly bag or fine sieve. If you want a clear vinegar, don't press the pulp - just let the liquid drip out -otherwise squeeze to get the most flavor out of your raspberries, and pour into a sterile bottle.

Dosage: Take 1 teaspoonful every few hours for colds and flu.

This rich, sweet-sour vinegar can also be used to bring a touch of summer sunshine to winter salad dressings. It has a wonderful flavor, enjoyed in the best gourmet restaurants -and your own home.

Raspberry oxymel

Mix equal parts of honey and raspberry vinegar.

Dosage: For sore throats, use 1 tablespoon as a gargle before swallowing. For a sluggish digestive system, add 1 tablespoon of the oxymel to a mug of hot water, and drink before meals.

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