Red raspberry leaf tea is a popular herbal remedy used during pregnancy. But does drinking raspberry leaf tea actually have any legit health benefits?
What are the benefits of drinking red raspberry leaf tea?
There isn’t a ton of scientific evidence to back up the traditional uses of red raspberry leaf tea. Most of the claims are completely anecdotal. But some potential health perks of drinking the tea include:
- menstrual cramp relief
- easier childbirth and pregnancy
- extra dose of vitamins and minerals
- source of antioxidants
- ease menopause symptoms
- improve skin appearance
- help heal mouth sores
This earthy, slightly fruity tea is made from the dried leaves of the red raspberry plant (aka Rubus idaeus folium). Once brewed, it’s similar to a mild black tea, but it’s completely caffeine-free.
But before you start sipping on red raspberry leaf tea with — or without — a baby bump, let us fill you in on what science has to say about raspberry leaf tea benefits.
More comfortable menstruation
There are no recent studies supporting the use of red raspberry leaf tea for period cramps (boo-hiss!).
Still, red raspberry leaf is approved as an ingredient for use in herbal medicines in the European Union. According to the European Medicines Agency, it can be used to treat minor menstrual cramps in adults. In the United States, the FDA does not evaluate or regulate herbal teas for medicinal use.
Still, some folks find comfort in a warm cup of tea for period pains. Though no side effects are reported when drinking the tea for cramps, make sure to chat with your doctor if your symptoms get worse or last longer than a week.
Red raspberry leaf tea’s main benefit may be in its nutrients. The tea has a small amount of good-for-you vitamins and minerals like:
Like most teas, raspberry leaf tea is a good source of antioxidants. Red raspberry leaves specifically contain antioxidants called polyphenols that include tannins and flavonoids.
But what does this mean for your health? Being alive means you encounter free radicals that cause oxidative stress — leading to aging and illness. Antioxidants help your body fight those free radicals to reduce damage.
Menopause symptom relief
Similar to menstrual cramps, there’s no solid research that proves the tea helps menopause symptoms. Still some folks swear sipping on red raspberry leaf tea helps erratic menstrual changes that occur during perimenopause, like heavy periods.
Improve skin health
Sorry, there’s no magic tea elixir you can drink to look younger. But there is some research that shows applying a topical product with raspberry leaf extract might help your skin.
In a 2020 study, 50 participants applied a serum with vitamin C, vitamin E, and raspberry leaf culture extract to one side of their face for 2 months. Researchers saw significant improvement in skin elasticity, radiance, smoothness, scaliness, and wrinkles. The only observed downside were reports of tingling and tightness.
Soothe mouth sores
This traditional medicine use may actually have some truth to it, but research is extremely limited. According to a small 2015 study, raspberry leaf extract improved symptoms in people with oral lichen planus, an inflammatory condition that causes sores in the mouth.
Participants reported experiencing significantly less pain and improvement in mouth ulcers without adverse side effects. But the study only included 10 adult females over a 6-month period so it’s hardly conclusive.
Easier pregnancy and labor
Many herbal medicine enthusiasts claim red raspberry leaf tea can help you have an easier pregnancy and labor by preparing the uterus. But like other claims, strong research is pretty scant.
In a 2021 review of 13 studies from 1941 to 2016, researchers concluded that while a large number of pregnant people drink red raspberry leaf tea with the hope of making childbirth easier, there’s no scientific evidence to back it up.
An older clinical trial of 192 pregnant women also found no statistically significant difference in duration of labor, gestation length, need for medical intervention to promote labor, need for epidural, or C-section rate for women who drank the tea.
Still, researchers estimate that 7 to 55 percent of pregnant people use herbal remedies like red raspberry leaf tea to help reduce morning sickness, prep for labor, induce labor, and make labor easier.
Ultimately, it’s up to the pregnant person and their doctor or midwife to decide if it’s worth drinking red raspberry leaf tea.
Red raspberry leaf tea is generally considered safe. But as with any herbal supplement, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know you’re using it and consider potential risks.
Some animal studies have shown red raspberry leaf is toxic at high doses. But in human research, red raspberry leaf tea has not been shown to cause either harm or benefit.
Red raspberry leaf tea may also have a laxative and diuretic effect and lead to a lot of bathroom visits.
Since research is lacking, your healthcare professional may also caution you against using red raspberry leaf tea while pregnant — especially if you have complications.
You may be asked to avoid the tea if you:
- have a history or premature labor
- have placenta previa
- have a planned C-section
- are pregnant with a baby in the breech position
- experienced vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
- have a history (or family history) of endometriosis, fibroids, breast cancer, or ovarian cancer
- have high blood pressure
- have gestational diabetes
- are pregnant with twins
If you decide to drink the tea while pregnant, research suggests drinking 1 to 3 cups a day is safe. Some claim the tea can cause contractions. So if you’re concerned about preterm labor, it might be safer to drink it in the third trimester. When in doubt ask your midwife or doctor for advice about timing with pregnancy and labor.
If you’re pregnant and drinking red raspberry leaf tea before you’re full-term, stop drinking the tea if you start having strong Braxton-Hicks contractions.
Health benefits and claims aside, you can totally drink red raspberry leaf tea just because you like it!
For a hot cup of tea: Steep 1 tablespoon of loose leaf or 1 tea bag of red raspberry leaf tea in a cup of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes.
To make an iced tea: Add 3/4 cup of red raspberry leaf tea leaves to 1 gallon of hot water. Steep the leaves for 5 to 10 minutes. Then strain and chill or pour over ice.
You can also personalize your red raspberry leaf tea like you would any other tea. Try adding lemon, honey, or milk.
Whether drinking red raspberry leaf tea will help you give birth faster or ease menstrual cramps is a matter of who you ask.
Traditional herbal medicine says it’s safe and effective. Scientific research has found little benefit or harm from drinking red raspberry leaf tea. Ultimately, you can enjoy a sip whether it benefits your health or not.
Just check with your doctor if you’re pregnant, have any health conditions, or are taking medications.