Red raspberry leaf tea is more than just a delicious and comforting drink. Rich in nutrients and antioxidants, this tea has a slew of purported health benefits and has been used for centuries to ease symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and to support pregnancy.
Though more research is needed to back up the smoother labor and delivery claims, there may be benefits to drinking red raspberry leaf tea for both non-pregnant and pregnant people, though everyone should consult a health care provider before drinking it. This article delves into the potential benefits and describes existing research about potential side effects.
What is Red Raspberry Leaf Tea?
Red raspberry leaf tea, also known as Rubus idaeus, is made from the dried leaves of a red raspberry plant, explains Claire Rifkin, a New York City-based registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of the telehealth private practice Claire Rifkin Nutrition.
Red raspberry leaves are cultivated in many areas of the world, especially Asia, Europe and North America. Each tea bag uses a few of the leaves from a red raspberry plant for steeping in hot water. The tea itself “is fragrant and tastes good, like a fruity black tea,” says Stephanie Middleberg, a registered dietician, certified dietitian nutritionist and founder of Middleberg Nutrition based in New York City.
Red raspberry leaves are rich in antioxidants and contain a small amount of magnesium, calcium and potassium, according to Middleberg. Red raspberry leaves also contain a small amount of vitamins like vitamins C, A and E and contain polyphenols, which lead to antioxidant activity. In some parts of the world, red raspberry leaf tea is used in folk medicine to help fight common illnesses, like the cold or flu.
Benefits of Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Red raspberry leaf tea comes with many purported health benefits, some of which are backed by research while others need more study.
Good Source of Antioxidants
A notable benefit of red raspberry leaf tea is that it provides small amounts of vitamins and some antioxidants. “Antioxidants are compounds found in plant foods that help to reduce inflammation in the body,” says Rifkin. “There are many different types of antioxidants, but the one found in red raspberry leaf tea is called anthocyanins. This is a particularly well-studied antioxidant and has some promising research behind it suggesting it may help to lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”
May Aid in Labor
Red raspberry leaf tea is often called “the pregnancy tea” because of its long history of being used as a tea that can help induce and shorten labor, prevent miscarriage and late term pregnancy and decrease morning sickness. “It is believed to specifically help tone the muscles of the uterus, making labor easier,” Middleberg says, adding these claims are not supported by enough research.
There are some studies that show red raspberry leaf tea may help ease some discomfort of labor. One small randomized controlled trial of 192 women, published in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, showed a shorter labor with a difference of about 10 minutes and a lower rate of forceps use. However, this study was conducted in 2001 so it is quite old. More research is needed to support these findings.
Anecdotally, red raspberry leaf tea is thought to help ease the nausea and vomiting that can come with morning sickness. There is no scientific evidence that proves this to be true.
There are some contraindications to taking red raspberry leaf tea and some people believe it should not be consumed during the 1st trimester. Always speak to a health care professional before taking it.
May Ease PMS
Some say that red raspberry leaf tea can help relieve common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as uterine cramping. “The tea has been thought to help reduce heavy menstrual bleeding and cramping and alleviate overall discomfort,” Middleberg says, noting research is very limited.
“Many existing studies have used an intravenous form of the compound in animal models, making it challenging to directly apply these findings to human outcomes,” says Rifkin. “Therefore, further studies are needed to establish these benefits in humans more conclusively.”
Can Red Raspberry Help During Pregnancy?
Many pregnant women wonder if red raspberry leaf tea is worth taking. While anecdotal stories say it can help make labor more comfortable, ease morning sickness and maybe even induce labor in the late stages of pregnancy, there is not enough scientific evidence to determine if any of this is true.
“Women have been drinking this for centuries to bring on labor and while there is little evidence that it can induce contractions—some research shows it may shorten the second stage of labor by an average of nine minutes,” explains Middleberg. It’s worth noting that this study was done in 2001, so again, more research is required.
Even if there is no evidence that red raspberry leaf tea can shorten labor and induce contractions, it still provides nutrients that can be beneficial for pregnant women. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) categories red raspberry leaf tea as “likely safe” to consume during pregnancy, noting that it is rich in iron.
Potential Side Effects of Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
“Red raspberry leaf tea is considered non-toxic and is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when consumed in reasonable quantities,” says Rifkin. “However, this is a general advisement and doesn’t account for potential interactions with medications, pregnancy or other health conditions. Due to the limited research on red raspberry leaf tea, it’s challenging to endorse a definitive safe limit of consumption.”
Negative side effects associated with red raspberry leaf tea include the following.
May Have a Diuretic Effect
According to Rifkin, red raspberry leaf tea has been shown to have a diuretic effect, which could increase the risk of dehydration in pregnancy. “When a person is pregnant, their fluid intake needs to increase,” she explains. “This is not only for the general hydration of mom and baby, but is needed for the growing amniotic fluid and sac that surrounds and protects the baby during gestation. Because of this, I generally advise against consuming anything with a diuretic effect during pregnancy.”
May Affect Glycemic Control
Red raspberry leaf tea might negatively affect pregnant women who are taking medication for gestational diabetes. Rifkin recommends avoiding the tea if you’re taking any medications that reduce blood sugar.
Much more research is required to find out if red raspberry leaf tea can actually shorten labor and help with menstrual cramps. In general it is considered likely safe to drink when pregnant or not, but since experts have differing opinions about its safety, you should consult your OB-GYN before consuming this tea.
“I wouldn’t necessarily tell all pregnant women to consume it, but if they are interested I would say there is really no strong proof that it helps,” Middleberg says. “At the same time, there is no real downside to drinking it during the last few months of your pregnancy. Be realistic about your expectations.”
Since there is not enough scientific research to back up the many claims about red raspberry leaf tea, talk to your OBGYN before drinking it when you’re pregnant.