Latin: Rubus species
Chinese: Fu pen zi
WHAT IT DOES: Raspberry is a gentle astringent and blood nourishing tonic good for the immune system and the eyes. Chinese raspberry is good for bedwetting.
SAFETY ISSUES: None known. Do not use in high dosage with restricted urination.
• Fresh or frozen whole berry: for therapeutic benefit, eat one to two pounds per week.
Berries are my favorite fruits. They are low in calories and high in colorful flavonoid nutrients. Flavonoids aid in the body’s absorption and utilization of vitamin C, which is synthesized from plant and yeast sugars.
Modern scientists now agree that chemical waste products (secondary metabolites) produced by plants, including plant pigments, can act as protective agents which can repel insect herbivores through a variety of mechanisms (Berenbaum, 1995). However, TAM doctors knew of the benefits of fruit and plant pigments long ago. More than 24 years ago my Ayurvedic teacher told me that colorful or strong-smelling plant waste products would neutralize poisons in animals, and vice-versa. That is, eating colorful fruits and herbs would neutralize poisons found in human blood and tissues. We now know that flavonoid pigments increase blood vessel integrity and have anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-allergy, and even liver-protective effects. In addition to their benefit for immune function (as potent antioxidants), they also improve capillary and cerebral blood flow, reduce platelet aggregation (blood stickiness), and affect cholesterol, histamine and prostaglandin metabolism. All of these actions make them especially valuable for the heart and blood vessels.
The astringency of raspberries and blackberries (caused by their condensed tannins) explains their traditional use for treating bedwetting and simple diarrhea. The Chinese tell us that their raspberry (fu pen zi) is very effective for this, and we have successfully treated bedwetting this way. These berries protect inflamed mucous membranes, reduce excess secretions, and inhibit viruses and other pathogens. Though not quite as high in tannin concentration as green tea or oak bark, raspberries and blackberries are usually much more enjoyable for both children and adults. When treating chronic intestinal infections (including yeast infections) it is beneficial to restrict all simple sugars, including fruit sugars. The only exceptions are blackberries or raspberries, due to their low sugar and high tannin contents.
Phytonutrients called furanones are important natural flavoring and aroma agents found in raspberries, strawberries, pineapples, tomatoes and some other foods. The colors and aromas act to attract animals (and people) to the fruits, ensuring seed dispersal via defecation at a new location. In addition, they have been found to be very effective anti-cancer components of the animal diet, protecting against carcinogenic chemicals. Researchers have identified two food-derived furanones that exhibit antioxidant activity comparable to that of Vitamin C. They are also sometimes mutagenic (destructive) to bacteria (Colin-Slaughter, 1999).
Raspberry leaf tea is well known for its ability to facilitate childbirth by relaxing the uterus, ligaments and tendons, an action that is different than the action on the kidneys and bowels. It should be consumed freely (several cups per day) beginning about four to six weeks before delivery. A kennel owner once told me that ever since she started using it with pregnant dogs, the pups just “popped out.”