Raspberry: (Rubus idaeus).
Other Names: garden raspberry, European raspberry, American red raspberry, framboise.
Rose Family: (Rosaceae).
Habitat and Range: Raspberries range in fields and thickets from central Alaska and the northern Yukon southward to Oregon.
Physical Description: Raspberry: Rubus idaeus; a: grows 1 1/2 to 6 feet high; b: flowers have 5 white petals; c: leaflets number 3 to 5; d: leaflets have irregular teeth; are whitish below with soft hairs; e: fruit red, juicy, sweet; fall off after ripening fully; f: stems have bristles.
Raspberry: Family Favorite: According to a Chinese herbal book, eating raspberries clears our complexion, cures your cold, increases your virility or fertility, stimulates hair growth, and heightens your body’s vigor. When savoring raspberries, you can rest assured that you are treating yourself in more ways than one.
Harvest Calendar: Spring: shoots. Spring to summer: leaves. Spring and fall: roots. Summer: fruits.
Food Use: Raspberry fruits, as everyone knows, are indescribably delicious. Besides flavor, they’re laden with vitamin B and C and minerals magnesium, calcium, iron, and phosphorus. Try them fresh, frozen, or canned. Mashed, dried berries yield a children–pleasing fruit leather rollie. Fruits can also be dried whole as a raisin substitute.
Use raspberries freely in pies, breads, cakes, puddings, sauces, and candies. Ferment the fruits for gourmet wines and liqueurs; nonimbibers can savor the traditional European beverage–raspberry syrup blended with soda water and served on the rocks.
The high pectin fruits jell readily and make superior preserves. Raspberry vinegar is also highly popular; use in salad dressings, pickled beets, and sweet-and-sour cabbage recipes. It also makes a superior basting sauce for chicken and rabbit.
Other raspberry products are the peeled spring root, (nibble raw, or chop and add to stir-fries and soups), and raspberry leaves (use alone or with dry berries to make teas). Blend dry leaves with other Alaskan herbs to custom–craft a special beverage blend for your family. (SEE CAUTION, following).
MEDICINAL USE: Hygieia calls raspberry “… the pregnant woman’s best herbal friend.” Paravati adds that raspberry leaves contain fragrine, a substance that tones the reproductive organs. Raspberry leaf tea, taken freely, (two or three cups daily), in early pregnancy, is reported to diminish morning sickness. During labor, its relaxant properties on pelvic muscles diminish pain and facilitate birth. After delivery, the raspberry leaf infusions are drunk to reduce swelling and bleeding. The brew is also popular with women troubled by excess menstrual flower. For vaginal discharges such as leucorrhea, the tea is used as a douche.
Drinking raspberry leaf tea is considered to strengthen the heart and the body at large. The soothing brew is a good bedtime beverage; it is a gentle sedative. It’s also advised for children’s stomach upset.
As an external agent, leaf infusions make a good wash for skin eruptions. To cleanse a wound or to remove proud flesh, apply a poultice of raspberry leaves and slippery elm, available from herb suppliers. Garble with the tea for mouth ulcers and sore throat.
To reduce fever in children and adults, sip a wineglass full of raspberry juice (or one tablespoon of raspberry vinegar diluted in water). A root decoction is advised for dysentery and diarrhea. In the pharmaceutical industry, raspberry fruits are often used to flavor medicines.
CAUTION: Use raspberry leaves only when fresh or fully dry. During the wilting process, leaves develop toxic substances. NOTE: Eleanor Viereck of Fairbanks, Alaska, dries leaves by cutting stalks and hanging to dry. It is easy to detach fully dried leaves by running one’s hands over the stalks; if moisture remains, the leaves hang on tightly. I’ve found no evidence of toxic reactions from raspberry tea. However, kidney and bladder irritation is possible, due to the presence of tannins in the leaves, if large amounts are continually ingested.
Cosmetic Use: To reduce tartar on your teeth, brush with raspberry syrup. Afterward, rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of the sweetener.
Add raspberry leaves to herbal baths and to facial steams and facial packs for oily skin. For a rinse reputed to darken the hair, massage the scalp with a strong leaf decoction; rinse well after fifteen minutes.
Historical Use: In New England, farmers traditionally predicted the severity of the coming winter by natural indicators such as the thickness of skin on tomatoes, the height of beaver damns, and the thickness of winter coats on farm animals. In Alaska, Dena’ina Athabascans use the height of the summer raspberry canes as a basis for predicting snowfall; short canes foretell scanty snow cover, and tall ones assure a deep, white winter.
Other: Juliette de Bairacli Levy, in The Complete Herbal Book for the dog, quotes a gypsy herbal document that advises, “let all creatures with young, human and animal, take freely of raspberry herb.” For retention of puppies, Levy advises bitches be given two tablespoons powdered raspberry leaves mixed with molasses and water, (at four-hour intervals for several days).
Herbal Medications states that Rubus idaeus “… has been shown in animals to relax the smooth muscle of the uterus and intestine.” Dog breeders who administer raspberry tea freely throughout their animals’ pregnancies report easy whelping.
The northern raspberry, Rubus idaeus, is the same species that grows wild in Europe; it is frequently cultivated in gardens. A Modern Herbal recommends propagating raspberries by layering and placing the herbs two feet apart in rows spaced four to five feet apart. In the fall, the old canes should be cut back and fertilizer applied.
Raspberry is prolific in disturbed soil. When new ground is tilled or disturbed by floods, raspberries often appear in abundance. If natural plant succession is allowed to occur, the light–loving shrubs eventually give way to taller plants.
Raspberry’s botanical name, Rubus, describes the plant as a bramble; an alternate translation is red. Both meanings describe this prickly shrub with the ruby–hued fruit. Some botanists insist idaeus means ‘small’; others believe that like Vaccinium vitis idaea (lingonberry), the specific name refers to Mount Ida of Crete. Fossilized remains of raspberries have been found in Switzerland that verify the herb’s existence at the time of Christ. It is highly likely raspberries also grew, with lingonberries, on slopes in ancient Crete.