Herbal pregnancy teas are popular and natural. The most common herb in these teas is red raspberry leaf. Many midwives recommend this herb to stimulate labor. It is also used to strengthen the muscles of the uterus, shorten labor, prevent bleeding after delivery, and promote breastfeeding. The scientific name of this herb is Rubus idaeus. This herb has been used in Europe as a medicinal since the sixth century. The question is, does it really work, and is it safe.
What Are Herbal Teas?
Herbal teas are used in alternative health to provide beneficial nutrients and beneficial health effects. The problem with herbals is that there are few studies to support these effects. Herbal teas are different from real teas made from tea leaves. Real teas can be black, green, or oolong (a combination of black and green) teas. Herbal teas don’t come from tea plants. They are made from the roots, berries, flowers, or leaves of various other plants.
Teas that come from tea plants naturally contain caffeine. You want to avoid too much caffeine during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Caffeine can keep you awake. It can also cross through your placenta and get into your breast milk, so real tea can be an unwanted stimulant for your baby. One benefit of herbal teas is that they do not have caffeine.
What Is Red Raspberry Tea?
Red raspberry tea comes from the leaves of the red raspberry shrub. This small shrub grows in temperate climates. It grows wild in eastern and central Europe, Scotland, and North America. It is also cultivated in these areas to be used for herbal teas. To make the tea, you pour a cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried leaf. You let the tea steep for about 15 minutes. The tea has a slightly bitter taste, similar to black tea.
This herb is rich in iron and antioxidants, but the most active ingredient is probably its tannins. Tannins are acidic substances found in many plants. In humans, tannins may decrease blood flow and relax smooth muscles. These effects are not well documented but they could account for the beneficial effects claimed for this herb.
Over many centuries, red raspberry tea has been used to sooth a sore throat, stop diarrhea, decrease menstrual flow and menstrual cramps, and prepare for pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Does Red Raspberry Tea Help Pregnancy or Breast Feeding?
This tea is commonly used to:
- Increase muscle tone of the uterus
- Increase milk production
- Decrease labor pains
- Prevent high blood pressure of pregnancy
- Shorten labor
- Prevent pregnancy complications
- Decrease bleeding after delivery
Midwives have used red raspberry for these purposes over hundreds of years and it seems to be safe in pregnancy. Those are the main recommendations, but what do the studies show. Unfortunately, there have not been many.
A 2014 review by the European Medicines Agency Herbal Medicinal Products Committee (EMA/HMPC), assessed the available clinical studies on red raspberry leaf during pregnancy. There were three studies involving 156 women. All the studies found that use of the herb was safe during pregnancy, but none of them found any significant benefits. Although there was some evidence that women who used the herb had less pregnancy complications (forceps deliveries, C-sections, vacuum extractions), the evidence was not statistically significant. The committee concluded that the existing data does not meet the standard of “a well-established medicinal use.”
Although no studies show that red raspberry leaf causes any harm to a developing baby. Most experts suggest that this herb not be used during the first trimester, just to be on the safe side. Because there is no evidence of safety during breastfeeding and no evidence for any benefit during breastfeeding, the EMA/HPMC does not recommend use of the herb during breastfeeding.
That being said, there are very few studies on red raspberry leaf, and the ones we have are not recent. There may be benefits that have not been found. According to the American Pregnancy Association, red raspberry leaf is likely to be safe and may help tone the uterus, increase milk production, decrease nausea, and reduce labor pains. They advise use only during the second or third trimester.
Other herbs also show up in pregnancy teas. According to the American Pregnancy Association, these herbs are likely to be safe:
- Peppermint leaf for morning sickness
- Lemon balm for irritability and insomnia
- Ginger root for morning sickness.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, these herbs may be unsafe or do not have reliable safety information for use during pregnancy:
- Stinging nettle
- Rose hip
- Yellow dock
Bottom Line on Red Raspberry Tea
This herbal tea is probably safe to use during pregnancy. The facts that it is frequently used and has been used for hundreds of years are its best recommendations. Benefits have not been proven by the few available clinical studies. As with any medication, supplement, or herbal product, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits first. With all things related to pregnancy and breastfeeding, safety comes first.