by Tara Burns
My home is surrounded by thickets of raspberry bushes. Prickly in a fuzzy kind of way and about chest height, I often find myself on my knees receiving their fruits. But the real nutrition and magic of this plant is in the leaves. Red raspberry is well known for its use in pregnancy, but it has positive effects for everyone.
Identification: You’ll know it because it’s where you find raspberries! Any raspberry (Rubus) species will do.
Gathering: Let’s not overcomplicate this. You just pick the leaves. I find that the plants seem happiest if you don’t pick the top leaves, which can protect their pollen from rain.
When you get them home, spread them out away from the sun to dry. A simple way to do this is to fluff them up, so there’s plenty of air flow, in a paper bag and staple it to the ceiling. Or spread them on drying racks. Once they’re dry, put them in glass jars or plastic bags to keep the magic in.
What’s it good for? Raspberry leaves are full of vitamins and minerals that increase your health. It has a lot of vitamin C, but gets honorable mentions for A, B complex, E, iron, calcium, phosphorous, and potassium. Individually, these nutrients are known for preventing colds, giving energy, preventing depression, and building teeth and bones. Together, they can do even more.
Of particular interest to pregnant people, but also pretty much everyone else with a body, is an alkaloid called fragrine in raspberry that tones pelvic muscles – from your uterus to your bladder. Here are some benefits of red raspberry in pregnancy, according to Susan Weed:
-Increases fertility (in men and women).
-Prevents miscarriage or hemorrhage by building tone.
-Eases and speeds birth – your uterus will be so strong, the whole thing will go smoother, with less pain.
-Eases morning sickness.
-Assists in production of breast milk.
Even if you aren’t pregnant, it’s never a bad idea to have some raspberry. Vitamins, minerals, and increased pelvic tone are good for all!
How shall you drink your raspberry? There are so many ways:
Infusions, like we learned in volume one of this lovely zine, are one of the best ways to absorb nourishment from plants. Before bed, put two handfuls of dried leaves in a quart jar and fill it with hot water. Put a lid on it, and in the morning it’ll be ready. Why does it need to steep so long? Different nutrients are extracted at different temperatures. As your jar cools very slowly (thanks to the lid and the glass) over about four hours, all of the good stuff is extracted into the water. In pregnancy, uterine prolapse, or for a very weak bladder, you might want to do this every day. For the rest of us, once or twice a week is probably enough. Or you can have tea! You don’t get quite as much of the good, deep nourishing magic with tea, but a cup of hot tea on a rainy day is its own magic. Raspberry leaf vinegar is wonderful too. I make about a gallon every year. Just fill a jar with raspberry leaf (don’t compact it) and cover with vinegar. At a certain point, it’s good to take the leaves out so they don’t disintegrate, but it’s really fine to leave them in there for a few months. At least six weeks is recommended for full nutrient extraction. I like to fish the leaves out and eat them – they’re a special kind of pickle. Add them to stir fry or soup or salad dressing. Speaking of pickles, once you’ve got the leaves all out feel free to throw some cucumbers or other veggies in there. It’ll make them into nice pickles too. Oddly, kids seem to love vinegar soaked vegetables. The herbal vinegar can be sipped on, added to soup, used in salad dressings… the possibilities are endless.
Lemme tell you about the yummiest: honegar tea. No, really. So, you make any kind of tea (I like ginger the best) and then you add one tablespoon of honey and one tablespoon of herbal vinegar. Besides being the yummiest, the combination of honey, vinegar, and hot water is said to help all sorts of conditions, from arthritis to cancer. All of these recipes can be used with any nourishing plant. A nourishing plant is one that we use for the nutrients (like nettles, red clover, comfrey, or oatstraw), not for a dramatic affect that it has on the body – those plants act more like drugs and you probably don’t want to use them every day. Nourishment is the foundation of good health, and a foundation of the wise woman tradition of healing.