Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Herbal Discoveries: Red Raspberry Leaf





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     This is the first in a series of new posts I'm calling my "Herbal Discoveries" series. Have you ever wanted to know more about how to use common herbs for you and your family? How about finding herbal solutions for cleaning or body care products without harsh chemicals? Or finding herbs that you can easily grow in your own garden?

raspberry tea leaf benefits natural  medicinal herbs

     I am not an expert on herbs, but it is a subject I enjoy. When I was growing up I always remember walking through the store with my grandma and she would look at clothes or little knick knacks and say, "Oh, I could make that myself and it would be nicer AND cheaper!"

      I guess that has always stuck with me, because I have a tendency to look at things and think "Could I make this myself?" When I started looking into using more natural body care products and cleaning supplies, I started looking at the ingredient lists and thinking, "These are all common items! What if I knew how to combine them in the right way and make this myself! How much money would I save!!"  

         So I'd like to share some of my Herbal Discoveries with you as well. I hope you learn something and are inspired to try something new!


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 freshly picked red raspberry leaves
    
     My first herbal discovery is Red Raspberry Leaf Tea! If you have been pregnant before, chances are you have heard of this herb, because it has a reputation as a uterine tonic. But there's more to this herb than that! Like other berries, red raspberries are high in antioxidants, but did you know the leaves of the bush are as well? Red raspberry leaves are high in vitamins and minerals including vit. C, E, A and many minerals such as Magnesium and Potassium. It also is rich in calcium and iron, in a form that's easy for your body to assimilate!  

       Red raspberry leaf tea can be useful for when you are sick, much like it can be helpful during pregnancy and labor, it also can be helpful during your monthly cycle, to restore balance and lessen cramping.

     Red raspberry leaf is also used as an herb for digestive upset. It can help in two ways, by supplying necessary nutrition when your body is lacking, and also by the tannins astringent anti-inflammatory action on your intestines, slowing the reabsorption of toxins. Commission E (the German government scientists who advise about herbs) suggest as an effective remedy for diarrhea making a cup of tea using two teaspoons of blackberry leaf (which has very similar properties to the red raspberry leaf).    

   In fact, researchers don't know exactly which compound is the active compound in red raspberry leaves. According to the Green Pharmacy by James A Duke, " they (researchers) speculate that it might be Pycnogenol (an oligomeric procyanidin, or OPC)...In one study, taking 200 mg of OPC daily over two (menstrual) cycles eliminated or significantly relieved menstrual cramps and/or premenstrual syndrome in 50 to 60 percent of the women who took them." I find, from personal experience, if I drink the red raspberry leaf tea first thing in the morning BEFORE any cramping starts, it is much more effective than trying to take it like a ibuprofen, after the cramping has begun.


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our very large raspberry bush that needs to be trimmed back, more tea!!!

     Red raspberry plants are extremely easy to grow at home! They thrive in most any environment. Make sure to plant them in a place with plenty of room because they will GROW! We use our own worm compost because our soil has very little organic matter in it. They seem to love the worm compost and our two plants have tripled in size in less than a year and already have many berries!

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beautiful berries getting read to ripen!

     When your bushes need trimming back is the best time to harvest your leaves. Trim the unruly stalks (wear gloves! Red Raspberry has lots of thorns) and then carefully remove the leaves. Since I don't like to do this delicate part with my gloves on,  I like to wear one glove to hold the branch and then using the other hand fold the leaves carefully in half backwards and remove. Why, you ask do I recommend this procedure for removing the leaves? Here's why:

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back of a red raspberry leaf




     Don't worry, once you dry the leaves the thorns will no longer hurt you. I use my dehydrator.

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     There are many beautiful dehydrators out there, popular with real food bloggers, which I'm sure work just as beautifully as they say. If you can afford the price tag, I'm sure they would be worth the investment. I can not, and I have been using the same dehydrator for 14+ years, and it works great! I have dried herbs, made countless kale chips, fruit leathers and dried a LOT of beef jerky on this dehydrator and it's still going strong. It was much cheaper when I bought it. =) If you can't afford one new, keep your eye out at yard sales and thrift stores, they are pretty common. =)

     You'll want to dehydrate your leaves on a very low setting. My dehydrator says 95 degrees F and that's what I use. It takes about two days, but this can change depending on your environment. So keep checking on them. The leaves should be nice and dry and crumble easily in your hand. I store the leaves in a simple Ziploc bag with the air out, and they should last this way for about 6 mo. If you need them to last longer they can be placed in the freezer.


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dried leaves stored in a Ziploc bag



    
     To make the tea, I use a good deal more than Comission E recommends. =) I take a small compressed handful (about 1/4 cup, very stuffed full) of dried leaves and add it to hot (not boiling) water, cover your steeping tea right away! The essential oils from your plant will quickly escape into the air, so cover with a tea cup lid, or a glass/porcelain plate (NOT plastic) if that's all you have!

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I took this picture kneeling in my front yard, I'm pretty sure my neighbors think I'm nuts!=)




     I sweeten it with a little stevia. For my children I use honey and lemon. Another great way to use this tea is to make a strong 2 cups of it and add lemon and extra honey. Wait until it's fully cooled and then put in in a Ziploc bag and lay it flat in the freezer. When it's frozen break it up in the bag. We call this "mama ice" (since it originated as a labor recipe) and whenever my children get an "ouchie" I give them a small Dixie cup full. It's sweet and cold and very nutritious!!

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I could not find my exact tea cup and strainer, but this one is very similar. Please be careful the glass is thin!

     Something new I learned about the raspberries themselves, they can be used to make xylitol (commercially, I REALLY don't think you could do THAT in your home kitchen!) I had heard of xylitol from corn and birch, but apparently it can also be made from many fruits and vegetables, and even some mushrooms! (Source)  







Want to learn more? Check out these titles that I use for myself and my family!

The Green Pharmacy by James A Duke (Mr. Duke is a well-known herbalist who has some great herbal advice for many common maladies.)
Naturally Healthy Babies and Children by Aviva Romm (this is my #1 top pick book for great natural advice for many childhood illnesses and injuries!!)
Practical Herbalism by Phil Fritchey (this book gives specific doses and instructions for using 46 common herbs medicinally)


Shared at Share your Stuff Tuesdays




In case you are interested these shots were taken with a Canon PowerShot  SD 1200



For any and all medical advice please see a qualified medical professional.
I am a blogger, not a medical professional. In compliance with the FDA regulations, any advice is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
  Thank You!