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Dialogue on Raspberry Leaves

written by Marina Zacharias

I recently visited (via e-mail) with a very nice vet in Colorado to discuss raspberry leaves. Because of some very real concerns, I am passing along our dialogue.

To Marina:

Hello, I am (name), a Veterinarian in Colorado. I have received some of your information from a client of mine and I had a few questions if you don't mind.

First, I will explain that I have done some extensive work with a woman that was an OB nurse that now has her own business of providing a service by which an owner can monitor the uterine contractions of their pregnant bitch and determine when the bitch is in labor and how things are progressing during the labor process. Through this information we can safely augment the labor with necessary medications when needed, such as oxytocin or calcium. Through this service we have found the use of wild raspberry leaves can sometimes lead a bitch into premature labor. By the confession of the bitch owners that they have been giving their bitch wild raspberry leaves after finding the bitch to have unusually high numbers of contractions very early before the due dates.

I wanted to ask you about the wild raspberry leaves and see if you had a reason why some bitches will go into premature labor and some do not when given this medication by their owners. Am I right to believe that wild raspberry leaves are an ergot derivative and that it causes the contraction of smooth muscle? When, exactly, do you suggest that the bitch owners start giving the NR Birth Aid that contains a (1) proportionate blend of wild raspberry leaves and other herbs? Is there a mixture of herbs that you recommend to give to bitches prior to breeding/during breeding that also contains wild raspberry leaves? I am curious, as I feel that the contractions of the smooth muscle of the uterus at the time of conception does not allow for the "quiet environment" that is needed for placentation to occur.

Marina, I do not wish to be antagonistic, I just am curious to hear what your feelings are about the wild raspberry leaves. I look forward to further conversation with you over this topic. Thank you for your time.

My Reply:

I do appreciate your genuine curiosity and am always ready to cooperate wherever possible.

As with most herbs, raspberry leaves have their uses and abuses. Where there has been a problem associated with the use of raspberry leaves, I have found that it is generally dosage or quality related. (The old "if a little is good, more is better" fallacy). Usually, the pure herb (dried or fresh) was used and in some cases I have heard of whole handfuls being given to toy breed bitches throughout the pregnancy.

Traditionally, it is used in small quantities (usually as a "weak" tea) as a female tonic. It is reported to "...strengthen and prevent miscarriage and render parturition less laborious" (Source: Natural Healing with Herbs, Humbart Santillo, N.D.). Juliette Levy in her Illustrated Herbal Handbook states " It would be rare for a gypsy woman to go through pregnancy without having taken raspberry leaf tea from the first weeks of knowledge of conception."

On the flip side of the coin, it was used as a "strong" tea for difficult labor, or afterwards to bring down retained afterbirth. Again to quote Juliette, "...strong drinks of raspberry-leaves tea, with a teaspoon of crushed ivy leaves to every two teaspoons of raspberry leaves, is given every two or three hours. This treatment has been successful when the more popular ergot (a derivative of rye) has failed."

Juliette's formula for dogs (i.e. "Birth Aid") was developed over 50 years ago and contains a very small percentage of raspberry leaves along with other traditional pregnancy herbs. We have found that it helps to produce a "wet" birth and is therefore contra-indicated where a planned C-section is anticipated or in breeds that are known for water retention problems (ex. Bulldog). Over the years I have personally been in touch with thousands of breeders that have used this particular formula (as directed) without problems and with good results.

In general I recommend it from the time of breeding, through delivery and a few days after. We have found it to also be effective if only used in the last part of the pregnancy. Practical experience has indicated that it helps to produce more even sized litters and significantly improves "free-whelping" in relatively short periods of time.

I do not recommend straight raspberry leaves. The quality available is always a question (some might as well be sawdust) and contamination is a very real concern. Dosage is of course a prime factor. A small pinch of properly treated organic leaves can be equivalent in strength to a cupful of ill-processed leaves. Thus, how much is too much? Proper dosage will help to tone the muscles of the pelvic region and the uterus. Too much can trigger contractions. Due to the long, successful history of Juliette's Birth Aid formula, it is the only product I can confidently recommend.