Herbal Remedies for Stomach Trouble: Raspberry and Sweet Fern

Both raspberry and sweet fern can be used for indigestion, as well as many other health concerns.

| June/July 1993


It is 5 A.M. and I'm hoping to foil the bugs and get home before the heat starts up again. Along the last bend in the road—where the surface is still soil rather than asphalt—raspberry grows right up to the cleared roadway. It is tall and full of fruit, and I pop a few juicy berries in my mouth as I pick. Bullfrogs twang, and the birds I've disturbed start up again. Quietly I continue gathering.


Raspberry is a prickly stemmed, spreading plant that bears edible fruit common to roadsides, thickets, and disturbed areas. Several species are indigenous to the Northeast. The wild red raspberry, Rubus idaeus, is common to roadsides and clearings and is the official raspberry of herbal tradition. Raspberry leaves are alternate and divided, with three to five sharply and irregularly toothed leaflets. They are bright green, often with whitish undersides, and occur along a stiff, prickly stem. These stems are often arched and form dense thorny thickets. Plants may grow as high as six or seven feet, and raspberry's flowers are white or cream-colored, with five regular petals. (The petals and sepals are roughly the same length.) Blossoms, approximately 1/2" wide, appear in late spring and early summer. The raspberry's fruit is a soft, multi-segmented berry that is edible (more than just edible—delicious!) and ripens in mid-to late summer. The berries are juicy and sweet, with fleshy fruit surrounding many seeds; they make wonderful wild jams, jellies, and syrups.

Medicinal Uses:  

Raspberry leaves are astringent and tonic, and have a special affinity for tissues of the female reproductive system. A tea of raspberry leaves helps tone the muscles of the uterus and has been used for centuries to prepare the system for childbirth. Raspberry tea can also be used to reduce heavy menstrual bleeding and, in general, to tone and normalize the reproductive system's functions. Raspberry leaves and root bark can be used, too, to help control diarrhea, because its astringency effectively tones inflamed or irritated tissues. In this case, other species of raspberry can be used interchangeably, because all share the same properties of astringency. (If your diarrhea persists, of course, you should always call your doctor for a checkup.)


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