One year I decided to put in a berry patch in the disused run of an old chicken coop. My friend, Cindy, came and helped us to clear the weeds and to lay out concrete blocks for a raised bed look. We even used old crutches for bracing and training the vines. Along with this amazing plan, I had envisioned composting stalls on the western side of the enclosure. We planted raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. Then I forgot about them.
Fast forward, two or three years ( I can’t remember how long because I forgot about them!) – maybe even four, my husband comes into the house from mowing and reminds me about the berry patch. He tells me that the vines are full of berries and I should go and pick them. So I did with a machete. Actually, with my husband leading the way with a pair of shears to trim back the jungle, we ventured forth into the area which had been closed off. He was not wrong. There were berries everywhere. As I picked through I did notice a distinct difference between the wild black raspberries, rubus occidentalis, which grow all over the property and the red ones, Rubus idaeus, left to grow amuck in purposed patch. I also noted that there may have been some intermingling of the two species in this forgotten small ecosystem. Needless to say, the berries were very tasty. However, I am interested in more than just the berries. I am also interested in harvesting the leaves.
Probably since the first raspberry leaf accidentally dropped into a sun warmed hollowed gourd of water, raspberry leaves have been used to make a refreshing medicinal tea. Women, in particular, have benefitted from drinking the tea, or in more recent times, taking capsules of powdered raspberry leaf. Raspberry leaves have a particular affinity for the uterus and pelvic area, providing toning and relaxation of the muscles. A warm infusion of raspberry leaves will bring balance to our lovely lady parts as well as our hair, teeth and bones. Raspberry leaf is a wonderful energizing overall tonic, rich in nutrients. Tonics in general, are great for long term use, particularly during stressful periods of life and during recovery from illness.
Not only do I suggest eating raspberries during pregnancy or at any time in a woman’s life, I also recommend drinking the tea made from the leaves. Raspberry leaves contain calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iron. It will provide pain relief during a woman’s cycle by strengthening the uterus and pelvic muscles and by offering nutrients where there’s a deficiency. Considered a nervine and an astringent, raspberry leaf will aid in clearing out a congested pelvis as well as relieving postpartum pain and depression. It may help with fibroids.
This plentiful herb is one of the few considered safe during pregnancy. Drinking raspberry leaf tea everyday will strengthen the uterus and pelvis, getting it ready for safe Baby Day delivery. Because of its nervine action, raspberry tea will also quell nausea during those first few months. It’s tonic and relaxing actions aid in decreasing pain during delivery while increasing efficiency of contractions, making for faster delivery. After delivery, a warm cup of raspberry leaf tea will hasten recovery and may encourage milk flow. Be careful of drinking raspberry tea in large amounts during those early breastfeeding months as it may slow milk production. But later an extra cup may help with weaning.
Raspberry leaf acts as an astringent in other areas of the body as well. The kidneys and urinary tract benefit as well as the mucus linings throughout the rest of the body. It may help with diarrhea and can stop hemorrhaging.
As an herbalist, I do tend to add raspberry leaves to many female specific formulas. Raspberry leaves pair well with mullein, oat straw, lemon balm, nettle and cranesbill. Here’s a comforting tea recipe for that not so comfortable time of the month:
1 part peppermint leaves, 1 part raspberry leaf, .5 part skullcap leaves, pinch of raw stevia. Place loose tea in an infuser. Pour hot water over leaves. Cover and steep for 8-10 minutes. Enjoy.
Coffee has been the center of controversy for many years. Conflicting studies have depicted this lovely and robust beverage as a culprit in cardiovascular diseases or as a stalwart protector against cardiovascular disease (Greenland, 1993; Jick, Miettinen, Neff, Shapiro, Heinonen & Slone, 1973; Noordzij, Uiterwall, Arends, Kok, Grobbee & Geleijnse, 2005; Wu, Ho, Zhou, et. Al, 2009). However, current research indicates that coffee can indeed be beneficial for heart disease, postmenopause and depression as well as diabetes and weight loss (Choi, Choi, Park, Shin, Joh & Cho, 2016; Freedman, Park, Abnet, Hollenbeck, & Sinha, 2012; O’Keefe, DiNicolantanio & Lavie, 2018; Wang, Shen, Wu & Zhang, 2016). Go, coffee!
So, what is coffee exactly and why is it so wonderful? Americans spend over $40 billion for coffee a year, and the world drinks over 1 billion cups of coffee a day according to the National Coffee Association (n.d.). Coffee, as most of us recognize it, is the liquid brewed from roasted beans of the coffee tree. These trees grow all over the world in a range of climates but generally prefer rich soil, balmy temperatures, plentiful rain and some shade from the sun (National Coffee Association, n.d.). So, to rationalize the amount of coffee that I drink, I scoured EBSCO for pertinent research. I have found the following potential benefits:
Drinking coffee may assist in bone health with postmenopausal women (Choi, Choi, Park, Shin, Joh & Cho, 2016).
Drinking coffee may reduce the risk of depression (O’Keefe, DiNicolantanio & Lavie, 2018; Wang, Shen, Wu & Zhang, 2016).
Drinking coffee may reduce lower risk for type 2 diabetes, as well as liver and colon cancer (O’Keefe, DiNicolantanio & Lavie, 2018; Wierzejska, 2016).
Drinking coffee may also prevent cardiovascular diseases (O’Keefe, DiNicolantanio & Lavie, 2018; Wierzejska, 2016).
One of coffee’s constituents, caffeine, has several benefits. As a stimulant, caffeine blocks the effects of Adenosine, an inhibiting neurotransmitter and in turn, releases dopamine and norepinephrine (Fredholm, 1995).
Coffee also has nutrients and antioxidants (SELF Nutrition Data, 2014).
Drinking coffee may have neuroprotective applications for some neurodegenerative diseases (O’Keefe, DiNicolantanio & Lavie, 2018).
Drinking coffee helps with improved asthma control (O’Keefe, DiNicolantanio & Lavie, 2018).
If coffee is so healthy, why is there controversy? Coffee initially got a bad name mostly in part due to flaws in the research designs of several studies. In several of the studies, certain “confounders” were not identified. Proper screening of pre-existing conditions or habits like smoking or lack of exercise were not completed In the earlier studies (Greenland, 1993; Jick, et al., 1973), Once these confounders were discovered and considered in future studies, coffee got a well deserved reputation for being beneficial. However, certain clarifications should be made about the coffee being consumed in these studies and there are certain situations when coffee consumption should be very limited or avoided sadly. With all good things, it’s important to remember that there must be balance.
A cup of coffee is considered 6 ounces and not the giant cups (24 oz) found at most convenience stores.
A cup of coffee means a hot water infusion of coffee beans – boiling hot water slowly poured over ground beans – and not a double mocha frappuccino. Unfortunately, consuming large amounts of sugary coffee beverages can lead to diabetes and heart disease!
Drinking more than 4 six ounce cups of coffee a day can have side effects like anxiety, insomnia, headaches, tremulousness, and palpitations (O’Keefe, DiNicolantanio & Lavie, 2018). Think about drinking an herbal tea like skullcap or a mushroom coffee. Both of these have the effects of drinking coffee without the caffeine.
Pregnancy and coffee or any beverage with caffeine may not be a good mix. Limiting to one small cup a day while pregnant may be prudent (O’Keefe, DiNicolantanio & Lavie, 2018). Drinking coffee while pregnant can increase the risk for low birth weight and preterm labor (Australian Breastfeeding Association, n.d.). So if an expectant mother had trouble getting pregnant or is susceptible to premature labor, she should avoid coffee while pregnant.
Most breastfeeding mothers can drink a moderate amount of coffee or tea without it affecting their babies. However, newborns are very sensitive to caffeine as they take a long time to process it. The wait can lead to cranky babies. As babies reach the age of six months or so, they can work through caffeine in about 2-3 hours. Research is scant on this topic and what is there suggests that there does not appear to be effect (Santos, Matijasevich & Domingues, 2012). However, I would err on the side of caution. My recommendation would be to enjoy a cup of Joe right after nursing or even while nursing and then express breast milk 1-2 hours afterwards to insure that very little if any caffeine would be present at the next nursing.
So, how much coffee should we drink?
In sum, coffee is safe to drink in moderation. Coffee can have positive effects on the body and some even protective. For coffee lovers under the age of 55 years, no more than three to four, 6 to 8 ounce cups of coffee should be drank in a day, not to exceed 28 cups in a week. Coffee drinkers over the age of 55 years can drink as much as they want within reason. Coffee is a bitter and full of tannins so it can get rough on the digestive tract. Coffee drinkers should be mindful of what they are adding to their coffee. Additives may minimize the overall perks of drinking coffee. I think in light of these findings, I will go and joyfully refill my coffee cup, and leave you with one of my favorite coffee poems:
Coffee, coffee, coffee,
Everyone, shut up.
Acheson, J., Zahorska-Markiewicz, B., Pittet, P., Anantharaman, K. & Jéquier, E. (1980). Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals [Abstract]. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition(33)5, 989-97. Retrieved November 28,2014, from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/33/5/989.short.
Australian Breastfeeding Association. (n.d.). Breastfeeding and Maternal Caffeine Consumption. Retrieved May 30, 2019 fromhttps://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/breastfeeding-and-maternal-caffeine-consumption.
Choi, E., Choi, K., Park, S. M., Shin, D., Joh, H., & Cho, E. (2016). The Benefit of Bone Health by Drinking Coffee among Korean Postmenopausal Women: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the Fourth & Fifth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Plos ONE, 11(1), 1-14. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147762
Freedman, N., Park, Y., Abnet, C. C., Hollenbeck, A. R., & Sinha, R. (2012). Association of coffee drinking with total and cause-specific mortality. The New England Journal Of Medicine, 366(20), 1891-1904. doi:10.1056/
Jick, H., Miettinen, O. S., Neff, R. K., Shapiro, S., Heinonen, O. P., & Slone, D. (1973). Coffee and myocardial infarction [Abstract]. The New England Journal Of Medicine, 289(2), 63-67.
Junxiu, L., Xuemei, S., Lavie, C. J., Hebert, J. R., Earnest, C. P., Jiajia, Z., & Blair, S. N. (2013). Association of Coffee Consumption With All-Cause and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 88(10), 1066-1074.
McCready, A., Bird, S., Brown, L. Shaw-Stewart, J. & Chen, Y. (2018). Effects of maternal caffeine consumption on the breastfed child: a systematic review. Swiss Medical Weekly 148, 39-40. https://doi.org/10.4414/smw.2018.14665
Noordzij, M., Uiterwaal, C. M., Arends, L. R., Kok, F. J., Grobbee, D. E., & Geleijnse, J. M. (2005). Blood pressure response to chronic intake of coffee and caffeine: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials [Abstract]. Journal Of Hypertension, 23(5), 921-928.
O’Keefe, J., DiNicolantonio, J., & Lavie, C. (2018). Coffee for Cardioprotection and Longevity [Abstract]. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 61(1), 38-42. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2018.02.002.
Wang, L., Shen, X., Wu, Y., & Zhang, D. (2016). Coffee and caffeine consumption and depression: A meta-analysis of observational studies. Australian & New Zealand Journal Of Psychiatry, 50(3), 228-242 15p. doi:10.1177/0004867415603131
Wierzejska, R. (2016). Coffee Consumption and Cardiovascular Diseases – Has the Time Come to Change Dietary Advice? A Mini Review. Polish Journal Of Food & Nutrition Sciences66(1), 5-10. doi:10.1515/pjfns-2015-0048
Wu, J., Ho, S. C., Zhou, C., Ling, W., Chen, W., Wang, C., & Chen, Y. (2009). Coffee consumption and risk of coronary heart diseases: A meta-analysis of 21 prospective cohort studies. International Journal Of Cardiology, 137(3), 216-225. doi:10.1016/j.ijcard.2008.06.
I have no trouble remembering my first pregnancy and will tell any who inquire about my experience that it is amazing that I had four more children. It was the worse. I lost forty plus pounds during that first time. I could not stand the smell of food and was so nauseous, any tiny whiff had me gagging. The first trimester was spent on my couch as far away from the kitchen as possible. By the last trimester, I slowly was able to function again and to avoid being put in the hospital. Even now – 26 years later! – I shake my head thinking about it. If I were more informed, I may have had a better time of it.
I recently was speaking with a friend who was having similar nausea with her first pregnancy, making it hard for her to go to work, take care of her pets and be a reasonable human being. I wrote a recommendation sheet up for her. Here are some of the suggestions:
Listen to your body.
Rest and sip nutritious warm fluids like tea and low salt broth. Solicit the help of family and friends to manage your responsibilities. I recommend seeing a clinical herbalist to formulate a tea specifically for your needs but I also like Traditional Medicinals teas & almost any organic broths.
Drink Raspberry leaf tea throughout the day. Forgo the coffee if you can. Try and eventually drink up to three cups. Raspberry leaf is a great overall uterine tonic and has been found to decrease pre & post gestational deliveries.
Drink Nettle tea throughout the day as well. I suggest altering weeks with the Raspberry. Nettle tea is another great all around pregnancy tonic and is very nutritive to your tissues as your support your baby.
Drink Ginger tea but small amounts. If you can manage it, try a ginger lozenge, slowly chew a small piece of crystallized ginger or a tiny bit of ginger root. You can also try and sip real ginger ale. I adore ginger. Research has shown that ginger will, at the very least, decrease nausea if not stop vomiting, when taken regularly.
When you can tolerate food, try and increase calcium intake. Good sources include fish like salmon, mackerel & sardines, dairy (if you use dairy), seaweed (especially kelp), sesame salt (gomasio), tahini and dark leafy greens such as turnip tops, beet greens and kale. I suggest very small portions initially and increase as tolerated.
Supplement with B6 at the direction of your healthcare practitioner.
As always work with your healthcare practitioner and a clinical herbalist when addressing these issues. The information above is not intended as a medical diagnosis or treatment, and should be considered for your interest and educational purposes only.
Happy pregnancy and congratulations!
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Parsons, M., Simpson, M. & Ponton, T. (1999). Raspberry leaf and its effects on labour: safety and efficacy. Australian College of Midwives, Incorporated Journal 12(3).
Viljoen, E., Visser, J., Koen, N. & Musekiwa, A. (2014). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect and safety of ginger in the treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea and vomiting. Nutrition Journal 13(20).
Weed, S. (1986). Wise Woman Herbal, Childbearing Years. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing.