Podcast 211: Herbs A-Z: Rubus

Today we’re discussing the entire genus of Rubus plants! We focus most on blackberry & raspberry, because we know them best, but with 1400+ species found on every continent, there’s certainly a local Rubus to be found wherever you go.

Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) & raspberry (R. idaeus) leaf and root are excellent astringents. Not just for the pelvic organs, but also the intestines and urinary system, these herbs tonify tissues and eliminate stagnant fluids. Topically, they’re effective as wound washes, compresses, and pelvic soaks. They’re also nutritive, of course – berries and leaves both – with antioxidants and mineral content for all your systems. And remember: any astringent herb is also an emotional astringent, an herb who can help you “keep it together” … but especially the rose family herbs, like these! 🌸💮🌸

If all you’d heard (before today) about raspberry was that it’s “good for pregnancy”, you might want to check out our Reproductive Health course! We discuss the whole range of human reproductive variability and herbal medicines to support all kinds of people. We even bust a few reproductive-health myths and herban legends. (Preview: vitex is not “a miracle herb for all women”!)
Like all our offerings, this is a self-paced online video course, which comes with free access to twice-weekly live Q&A sessions, lifetime access to current & future course material, twice-weekly live Q&A sessions with us, open discussion threads integrated in each lesson, an active student community, study guides, quizzes & capstone assignments, and more!

Reproductive Health

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Episode Transcript

Katja (00:14):
Hi, I’m Katja.

Ryn (00:15):
And I’m Ryn.

Katja (00:16):
And we’re here at Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn (00:20):
And on the internet everywhere thanks to the power of the podcast.

Katja (00:23):

Ryn (00:24):
Yes. And today we’re talking about some excellent berries.

Katja (00:28):
Two of my favorite berries.

Ryn (00:29):
Really good berries.

Katja (00:30):
Really good berries.

Ryn (00:31):
Really good.

Katja (00:32):
I love basically all the berries, actually.

Ryn (00:34):
Yeah. We’re talking today about blackberry, and about raspberry, and also some friends, but those are the ones that we know best. So, we’re going to focus on them. These are Rubus species plants, and they’re really great.

Katja (00:49):
Listen, the berries themselves are super important and powerhouses of medicinal action, in fact. But traditionally what we would be talking about here is the leaves and the roots.

Ryn (01:03):
Yeah. Before we jump in though, I wanted to make a quick mini advertisement for some of our $10 courses. If you’re interested in learning with us in a little more organized way than scrolling through our podcast archive, as I know some of you have been doing, you may want to check out some of our online courses. That’s where we really give it to you. And you might want to start out with one of our shorter courses. A little less of an investment.

Katja (01:31):
Yeah. A little taster course. A little like $10. Totally affordable.

Ryn (01:35):
And these are profiles of specific amazing herbs that we really love. Like the one about nettle and the one about elder. Not just berry, but also the flowers. And the one about lavender. Yeah. These are, again, just $10 a piece for an in-depth look at these most excellent, friendly, very good herbs of delightful reputation and cheerful pleasant times spent together. Disposition. That’s a good one, yeah.

Katja (02:05):
Yes. And so all of our courses, even just the taster courses, the free courses, the great big courses that you’re going to work on for a long time, every single course is yours for life. You can review it as often as you want. Whenever we add updates, you get them for free auto-magically. You literally don’t even have to ask. We will put it in your account for you. So, it is a super good value. Most herb schools expire your access to the material after a certain amount of time. And we don’t do that, because we think you should be able to review any time that you want.

Ryn (02:42):
Course material is delivered primarily as video. You can also snatch the audio, and put that on your phone, and take a walk, and learn your herbs that way. Since you’re into podcasting, I thought that might appeal to you. We’ve got PDFs. For these ones we’ve got some recipes and some of our favorite formula with the highlighted herbs. All kinds of goodness.

Katja (03:03):
And of course, don’t forget that you get access to our live Q&A sessions that happen twice a week. And if you can’t attend in person, which I hope you can, because they’re super fun. But if you can’t, no problem. We record them, and you get access to all of the recordings as well. It’s a pretty good deal is what we’re saying here. It’s so good.

Ryn (03:27):
Yeah. So, you can check it out at online.commonwealthherbs.com. Okay. Also, before we jump in to talking about the Rubus species today, we want to remind you that we are not doctors. We are herbalist and holistic health educators.

Katja (03:43):
The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalist in the United States. So, these discussions are for educational purposes only.

Ryn (03:55):
We want to remind you that good health doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Good health doesn’t exist as an objective standard. It’s influenced by your individual needs, experiences, and goals. So, keep in mind that we’re not attempting to present a single dogmatic right way that you must adhere to.

Katja (04:11):
Everyone’s body is different. So, the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you. But we hope that they’ll give you some new information to think about and some ideas to research further.

Ryn (04:24):
Finding your way to better health is both your right and your own personal responsibility. This doesn’t mean you’re alone on the journey, and it doesn’t mean that you’re to blame for your current state of health. But it does mean that the final decision when you’re considering any course of action, whether discussed on the internet or prescribed by a physician, is always your choice to make. We believe it. All right. Let’s talk about some rubies.

Katja (04:50):

Ryn (04:50):
Beautiful red gems from deep in… Oh wait, that’s not it. Rubus.

Katja (04:53):
Rubies of the plant family. There you go.

Ryn (04:58):
Yeah. A nice raspberry on a hot summer day.

Katja (05:02):
It’s faceted for you already.

Ryn (05:04):
It is, right?

Rubus Seeds, Thorns, & Plant Reproduction

Katja (05:04):
It already has all those. Oh, I guess if we’re going to do these in alphabetical order, then blackberry actually comes first. But in fact, maybe before we even get into distinguishing between blackberries and raspberries, maybe we just talk about the whole group as a whole. Because if you are in a place where you don’t have raspberries, but you’ve got blackberries. Or you have not red raspberries, but black raspberries. Or you have the yellow raspberries or cloud berries or a bunch of different berries that fall into this family. Honestly, the herbal applications are fairly similar across the board.

Ryn (05:46):
Yeah. And you’re quite likely to have one near you, because there’s about… Well, depending on which taxonomist you hang out with. I know that everybody has a favorite. But there’s something like 1400 species of Rubus out there in the world, and they’re out there in the world. They’re essentially everywhere except like the deep, deep deserts and the saturated rainforests. Pretty much everything else in between, you can find a Rubus there.

Katja (06:17):
It really speaks to, so listen, just like humans, plants have this problem of where am I going to raise my kids. And so the way that plants have solved that problem varies from species to species. And some plants solve that problem by saying well, I’m just going to put my seeds right where I am. Because if it was good enough for me, it was good enough for my kids, and let them grow up right here. All of the plants that bear fruit, the way that they decided to solve this problem is I’m going to make something delicious that a mammal wants to eat or perhaps a bird. And they’re going to eat it and then go somewhere else. And I’m going to make these seeds so indigestible that those animals are going to go somewhere else, and they’re going to poop. And they’re going to poop out the seeds unharmed with a big plop of fertilizer. And then my babies are going to go out in the world. And they’re going to grow and thrive, because they’re going to be pre-fertilized. It’s like raspberries started a college fund for their young and sent them out into the world.

Ryn (07:28):
Right. I don’t know why I’m struck with this today, because we say this sort of thing often. But I just want to make a little note. If anybody is like new to the podcast and is like ah, well here we go with this anthropomorphizing language again. This is the pathetic fallacy, you know, as it’s called in poetry, right? It’s the idea of ascribing human motives and perspectives to plants or even animals or whatever else, forces of nature. But the thing is that this is metaphorical language, right? And you can put it another way. You can say that evolution has selected for plants that produce a particular type of seed. And the ones that made a seed coat that was more resistant to digestion and had fleshy bits that were more tasty to the animals, they survived more and spread more of their seeds. And so they propagated. And it continued to move in that direction until we end up with what we’ve got today. Okay, that’s fine. But it’s functionally the same thing.

Katja (08:18):
Right. Yeah. And honestly, I think that there’s legitimate merit to anthropomorphizing, because it is difficult as humans. It’s already difficult for us to remember that we are not actually the smartest thing ever. And we’re not actually the top of the food chain. And we’re not actually in control of all the everything. We’ve been sold that message for so long that it’s actually difficult for us to remember that we’re not. And so for me to put it in those terms of like yeah, plants have to raise kids too. We’re all trying to solve the same problem. Life has certain problems that need to be solved. And whether you’re a human or a wombat or a raspberry, you have to solve these problems. And so, I don’t know, a little bit of anthropomorphizing, or at least finding the common ground in between species, I think helps us to understand that actually we’re all here together doing the things.

Ryn (09:19):
I like that common ground way of putting it. You know, I like the idea of saying what we’re trying to do is put things into a scale that feels comfortable and that makes it easier for us to understand these things. It’s really about shaping our ultimate behaviors in the end. The way we relate to these plants and make space for them in our yards, in our forest edges, and stuff like that.

Katja (09:42):
In our legislation, in our… Yeah.

Ryn (09:44):
So, yeah. Rubus species, these thorny shrub looking things.

Katja (09:53):
Not always thorny.

Ryn (09:54):
Not always.

Katja (09:55):
Because okay, so we’re talking about how different species evolved to solve the problem of spreading their seeds. And so when we think about the raspberry family, they have thorns partially because if one bird or one deer or whatever eat all of the berries, then there’s less opportunity for the genetic material to spread. And if they just eat a couple berries, and then another bird or deer or whatever come and eats a couple berries. So the thorns are to slow you down so that one animal doesn’t come and take the whole darn thing. Except humans who can carefully go and pick all the berries off the bush. Okay, fine.

Ryn (10:41):
Gotta love those opposable thumbs, right? It’s pretty great.

Katja (10:45):
And so okay, so those thorns developed for a purpose. But then humans have also invented especially blackberry bushes that just don’t have any thorns. So, you know, there’s that.

Flavor & Jam

Ryn (11:02):
Yeah, through selection. Well, you know, when we look at the whole group – both of the ones will highlight today and really all of the others as well – energetically, these are cooling in nature. They’re drying in nature. They’re tonifying. We could sort of sum that up and say that they have astringency. That they can drain both fluid and heat in the body. And the flavor is going to tell that to you straight up, right? It’s astringent when you taste it. Even the berries have a little astringency to them. It’s not a ton, but it’s there. But certainly you drink the leaf tea, or you prepare a tincture of the root of these, and even more so. And there’s a sourness as well, definitely in the fruits. The sourness and sweetness are there together. But again, even in the leaf you can taste a touch of sour. There are plant acids that turn up in that part just as they do in the fruits.

Katja (11:55):
I think the tannins probably overwhelm that sour flavor for most people, because the tannins are the thing that you just kind of most readily recognize in the flavor. But if you’re drinking raspberry or blackberry leaf tea, just slow down a little bit and kind of hold it in your mouth a little bit longer. And see if you can taste past the tannins to find that sour note. Oh, you were just trying it.

Ryn (12:21):
I was demonstrating for the YouTube. My big squirrel cheeks.

Katja (12:27):
Also, you know, now I have to really think about it. Is it actually unusual that the fruit, the leaves, and the root all are going in the same direction? Perhaps it isn’t actually not unusual. But it is with varying degree of intensity. And actually perhaps that is also not unusual. Maybe I’m just right now noticing like oh, interesting. Like the cascade of… And I just never put it in those particular words.

Ryn (12:57):
Well, if you’re a root, right, you’re going to be in the muck. Whatever kind of soil it is. It could be really muddy. It could be really watery. So, you do need to be able to hold your structure together and not to ooze out. And so more astringency there makes sense. The leaves still need that to some extent, especially in a damp climate like the Pacific Northwest or something like that. Yeah. And then yeah, a bit in the fruits as well. But you don’t want too much, because you do still want these to be appealing, right? There are some plants, and they’re pretty particular about who they want to allow to eat their berries, I guess is the way we could say it. And so they might dial up the astringency. And only a few birds or whatever are going to find that that’s appealing. But raspberry and blackberry, they’re kind of more general. There’s a number of different animals that can eat them and spread them out. And so they want to be appealing to a broad array of palates.

Katja (13:49):
Right. Or rather they want to be appealing to a broad array, so that there will be more animals who are willing to go do the work of spreading their seeds, right? Like all these things developed over time in relationship, like in direct relationship. Because actually the whole ecosystem of everything is all connected. It isn’t just like oh, the plants needed to solve this problem. But like successive generations over the eons working together, getting feedback, like raspberries trying a thing. And then oh, lots of mammals came and ate the berries. And I’m going to presume they went out and spread those seeds, and that’s good. So anyway. Incremental development is sort of what I’m saying here.

Ryn (14:38):
Yeah. One of the ways that I work with blackberry most frequently is in the form of jam.

Katja (14:46):
Well, raspberry actually, I like raspberry jam quite a bit. But I guess we do have blackberry jam most frequently.

Ryn (14:53):
I like the seediness of them. I like the little crunchy seeds that occur every now and then. I know that’s not everybody’s thing, but it is very enjoyable.

Katja (15:03):
Actually for just a moment on the merits of jam. And I think that this kind of a thing is really important to pull out, because right now we are rightfully all aware of that sugar is not good for you and all that stuff. And it’s true. But throughout a lot of history, actually jam was super important. Because it was one of the few ways that you could preserve fruits, especially the soft fruits, through the winter so that you could still get some vitamin C and some all the other things you get from fruits and vegetables.

Ryn (15:41):
Anthocyanins, bioflavonoids, all kinds of fun stuff that we have long names for now.

Katja (15:46):
Right. Like apples and pears. Not all pears are excellent keepers. But apples and pears will keep if you put them in the right conditions. But the soft fruits don’t keep very long at all. And so the making of jam actually was a super important aspect of just making sure you got enough vitamins through the winter. So, these days we think of jam as something you put on toast. But throughout a lot of history, especially the kind of more recent last 500 year’s worth of history or whatever, jam was a legitimate food group. It was really the only way you could get that kind of nutrition through the winter.

Astringency & Formulating for Affinity

Ryn (16:34):
Yeah. Really valuable. Well, so, you know, as herbalist, we tend to focus more on the roots and the leaves when it comes to blackberry. And if we start with the root, that’s going to be the more astringent part of the plant. That’s the one that we think of when we’re like okay, I want to have something portable. That I can put in a first aid kit. That I can take and expect to work quickly, like ideally within 10 minutes or so, for something like diarrhea or other digestive laxity problems. And that’s where we’re going to turn to blackberry root. And our favorite way to work with that is to do a blackberry root done up in a red wine tincture. Something that already had its own like oak tannins in it. And honestly, some of the tannins from the grape itself. And then we add in the ones from the blackberry root. And they’re all similar, but they’re slightly different. And as often with herbalism, we see some synergy when we combine herbs that have similar qualities or activities or indeed chemistry.

Katja (17:35):
You get that sort of broad-spectrum astringent action.

Ryn (17:39):
Yeah. So, that’s a really reliable preparation.

Katja (17:43):
I want to also mention about the wine that astringent properties come out more readily in water than they do alcohol. Now, of course they still come out in alcohol, but they come out more in water. So, working with wine gives you a higher percentage of water. And that just helps more of the tannins come out. People often think like oh, well won’t it just turn to vinegar? It doesn’t. The antioxidants in the blackberry root and also just the tannins themselves have that kind of function of preserving it. So, as long as you don’t just let it sit on the counter with the lid off, it won’t turn to vinegar. It will stay wine. Not the most delicious wine, because now it’s like really astringent. But that’s okay. You’re not drinking it as a beverage.

Ryn (18:33):
Yeah. You’re not going to take this by the glass. Oftentimes just a few squirts of the tincture or a little spoonful of it, of that red wine root tincture, that’ll do the trick. And again, very, very safe as well. It’s not like oh, this is going to work, but it’s a little bit risky. So, here we go. This is an extremely safe thing to take.

Katja (18:56):
Yeah. It’s not like you’re taking horse chestnut internally. It’s not so astringent that you’re going to… So, if you have diarrhea, the pendulum can swing. You can try to stop it and maybe take a bunch of really strong astringents. And then the pendulum swings and now you’re a little constipated, because you had too many astringents. So yeah, if you are thinking of horse chestnut or like nettle root as your diarrhea solution, you’re going to dose those really carefully. Blackberry root, it’s strong enough to get the job done, but not so strong that it’s going to like get you bound up in the process.

Ryn (19:35):
Yeah. Super handy for that. But that’s not all.

Katja (19:40):
But wait, there’s more. Yeah.

Ryn (19:42):
Now that astringency, it’s not only operating on the intestines, although that’s one of the more obvious places, particularly with blackberry when you work with that. But this one does provide some astringency to the urinary organs and to the reproductive organs. Raspberry generally and particularly raspberry leaf is maybe a little more famous for that in kind of contemporary herbalism. But they’re so similar.

Katja (20:12):
I think they’re fairly interchangeable. If you want to get super-duper specific, then okay. I might go with raspberry for pelvic astringency and blackberry for digestive astringency. But at this point it really is splitting hairs. Sometimes when it sounds like splitting hairs, it’s not. It’s getting at the energetic action. But in this case, I do think it’s a little splitting hairs. You really can’t swap them in and out, and it’s okay.

Ryn (20:42):
Right. And that’s the real world takeaway that we’re trying to give you here basically. Is to say don’t look around and say oh, I want to make this formula for somebody who’s pregnant or has been pregnant recently. And we’re going to tonify the uterus. And I need to have raspberry leaf in it. And it has to be Rubus idaeus. But no, Rubus fruticosus will do it. That’s blackberry. I wouldn’t be shocked if we did a tour of all the Rubus in the world and found all of their leaves to have this type of astringency with this organ affinity. It seems more likely than not.

Katja (21:19):
Around the world with Rubus species.

Ryn (21:21):
Yeah. Totally. So, you know, again, what are we even talking about when we say urinary or reproductive stagnation, fluid retention, bloating, right? Well, those things, okay. You can feel that. People can name that and be like I’m feeling bloated around my uterus today. Okay. So, it’s the wateriness here that these herbs are going to be good at eliminating.

Katja (21:47):
And actually since you mentioned uterus stuff or digestive stuff or whatever, if you really want to get more specific, then you can formulate. So, in my particular case, if I’m having like a lot of menstrual bloating, I might put raspberry or blackberry leaf with some sage, and some ginger, and maybe some damiana. And if I was thinking about digestive type of issues, either digestive bloating or other digestive laxity, then maybe I would be thinking about blackberry leaf or raspberry, and calendula, and maybe some chamomile. Well okay, the ginger is going to go in either way actually.

Ryn (22:43):
Yeah, totally. But you’re right though, so much. The formulation is where a lot of this nuance or this directionality comes from. Because herbs like this, they’re like well, I can operate on a lot of tissues. And if you take me by myself, then I will. Not on any particular one of them with a laser focus, but on all of them in a nice way. And that’s kind of shaping that activity as a tonic, really in overlapping senses of the term there. Right. So, tonic in the most strict sense of tightening, tonifying the tissue. But also tonic in the sense of like helping to restore proper function over a period of time, right? With these, we get both. They’re like double tonics. And with herbs like that in particular, if you have a particular issue in mind, then you want to give them a targeter or an herb that’s like an organ driver or an affinity driver. Yeah. And so that’s a concept from formulation, which essentially means you pick an herb with a really strong draw, or affinity we call it, or activity on a particular organ or part of the body. And that pulls everything else in your formula over in that direction.

Topical Applications & Pregnancy

Katja (23:58):
That’s really important if you’re doing internal work in the organ systems. But of course, if you are doing topical work, then you can just put that part of your body into the… And so blackberry and raspberry both, actually the leaves and the roots, are going to be effective as a wound wash. Probably not the first thing you would’ve thought of. You probably would’ve thought of something like yarrow, or calendula, or rose, or whatever first. But listen, blackberry and raspberry are really easy to find in nature. And so you might not have those other things to hand. Also they have a fairly long season. They start leafing out reasonably early in the year. And the leaves hang around until fairly late in the year. So, you might be looking around and be like well, all the yarrow’s gone. There’s nothing here for me to work with. And then like oh, there’s some old raspberry leaves on the bush. You could grab them. And so in a wound wash capacity, listen, anything with tannins is going to help. It’s going to have some antimicrobial action. It’s absolutely going to have some pull it togetherness action. That’s that astringency. So, absolutely it would be fantastic. Also, if you had a really wet eczema kind of situation, this could be very important for that. Because if you have eczema that’s wet – like oozy – the likelihood is that you cycle back and forth between dampness and super dry, itchy eczema, right? It is probable that you go back and forth between those. So, when you’re in your oozy kind of phase, it wouldn’t be awesome to put like the most astringent, astringent-y, astringent-ness on there, because that’s going to push you right past the center right over into your itchy time. And so instead with a more mild astringent, we can maybe try to push you towards the center and hopefully keep you there.

Ryn (26:07):
Yeah. And it’s nice too that these herbs have some, aside from the tannins, they have these other elements in them that are cooling. We could say sedative in the kind of herbalist sense of reducing activity. Or in this case what we’re really talking about is inflammatory heat.

Katja (26:24):
Yeah. That irritation.

Ryn (26:25):
When we’re talking with eczema, if you’re oozy, you are almost certainly going to be red, and inflamed, and swollen, and irritated at the same time. And so yeah, the tannins in there to like tighten up, squeeze out the fluid. The plant acids and these other sour tasting but cooling topical constituents to reduce that heat and that irritation response. That’s going to be really helpful. Yeah.

Katja (26:54):
Is it time to talk about the berries?

Ryn (27:00):

Katja (27:04):
Okay. Because I’m very excited to do it.

Ryn (27:07):
Yeah. I did want to just mention that when we talk about topical work with blackberry and raspberry and friends, we might still be talking about some reproductive work with these herbs. So, a soak of the sitz regions of your body.

Katja (27:30):
Yeah. A nice sitz bath. Like get yourself a bucket that your butt fits into. Yeah. And there’s so many applications.

Ryn (27:37):
That could be that you had a UTI. Or it could be that you are… well, okay. Any kind of plumbing dealing with a UTI. But I’m just really trying to get to here and say that it’s not just the butt and the yoni and all of that, but penis soaks can be really handy. And if somebody is in a relationship, and they’re passing a UTI back and forth. Which happens a lot, and people don’t always realize. And oftentimes somebody with a penis may not realize even at all that they were harboring the infection, because it’s like a mild little burning. And it sort of passes, and you don’t quite notice.

Katja (28:15):
Yes. And there’s this whole mythology that like oh, well we don’t get urinary tract infections. Oh no, you do, you just didn’t notice.

Ryn (28:23):
Yeah. It might be milder or whatever. But if there’s this kind of repetitive pattern in a couple like that, then everybody should be doing a soak. And a nice astringent soak like this, these achieve an anti-infective capacity. They have that amount of astringency and that set of activity in them. You could combine them. You could do blackberry root and raspberry leaf and uva-ursi if you really wanted to be like let’s get this done.

Katja (28:55):
Or some yarrow could be in there too or sage even for the antiseptic kind of actions. Yeah.

Ryn (29:04):
Right. So, you know, just to say people are always, always, always talking about raspberry leaf infusions for pregnant women, and strengthen the uterine tone of the muscles, and make the birthing process easier. And yeah, it can for sure help with that. But that’s not the end of the story in terms of applications, or times when it could be healthy or helpful. You know, it’s a nutritive in addition to these tonifying, astringing, fluid draining effects. So, it can be helpful for a lot of folks. But don’t ever forget the fundamental energetics. And don’t go around saying that raspberry leaf or Rubus generally is the right thing for anybody who’s pregnant. Because there can be someone who’s pregnant but dry and tense. And they would not need more cooling astringents.

Katja (29:59):
Right. They actually might need help on the other end relaxing a little bit.

Ryn (30:05):
Maybe they need Solomon’s seal, like a nice moistening loosening kind of a remedy.

Katja (30:10):
And actually I would say that that kind of thing is actually quite critically important in the last couple weeks before birth. Because one of the biggest reasons, I think probably the biggest reason, for labor to stall out is stress and tension. Like not being able to relax enough that you can let everything open for the baby to come out. And so if you have a person that you’re working with, and you know that they are a really tense person, and maybe they run really dry. And you think well, I’m going to go with the raspberry or the nettle or whatever. And I’m going to formulate it, just to make sure that they’re getting all the nutrition that they need and whatever else. But I’ll formulate it with marshmallow, so that they don’t dry out. Yes, but in the last week or last two weeks I would pull that and replace it with stuff that is just super moistening and super relaxing. If you want to swap out. If you’re still worried about mineral content, that’s not wrong. So, in this case it would be broth and seaweed, right?

Ryn (31:21):
Yeah. And then we can have infusions with like linden and fennel and marshmallow and violet. That could be nice.

Katja (31:27):
Just to really make sure that in that last preparatory amount of time there, you are setting up for that relaxation to be able to happen. Yeah.

Ryn (31:39):
Yeah. And, you know, because it’s us, I can’t get through this without mentioning that actual movement can also make a huge difference here. And I think one of the ways that raspberry leaf kind of got so popularized coincided with a greater tendency towards sedentism and less especially pelvic strengthening and mobilizing movements. Squatting and lunging movements and that kind of thing. And a greater amount of the population spending more time seated at computers for more of the time, including during pregnancy. Yeah. That’s going to have most of that population benefit from something that can tonify the uterus and even help to tonify the musculature there. Yeah. That does make a lot of sense. So, that’s the general rule, but there are these exceptions. And if you are one, it matters a lot.

Berries & The Importance of Fiber

Katja (32:27):
Right. All right. Well now I want to talk about the berries from a nutritive perspective, but especially from a digestive health perspective. Fiber, y’all. Fiber, fiber, fiber. Just fiber. And you’ve probably heard somebody say oh, fiber’s important for digestive health or whatever. And then you’ve seen things or like oatmeal or whole grain bread or whatever. And they’re like a good source of fiber. They’re a terrible source of fiber, y’all. Terrible. So, bread has a gram of fiber per slice. Or if it’s like fiber bread, it has two grams of fiber per slice. That’s terrible. You need like 30 to 40 grams of fiber a day. And if you’re doing it, that would be like 30 slices of bread in a day. That’s bonkers.

Ryn (33:23):
The official position of Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism is that it is not a good idea to consume 30 slices of bread in a day.

Katja (33:29):
That’s true. Yes, absolutely. Okay. So, you might be thinking how can I get my fiber faster? Well, it turns out that plants will do that for you. And one of the most fiber-acious plants that you can consume is raspberries. A cup of raspberries has eight grams of fiber. Holy cow, that’s fantastic. And guess what? It works even if they’ve been frozen. Because like fresh raspberries you can only get for a certain amount of time. And also, they’re spendy. Yeah. But frozen raspberries you can get all year round, and they’re much more affordable, and all of the fiber. So, much fiber. So, the other like highest fiber item is avocados. And listen y’all. I am not a huge fan of smoothies. But if you are going to smoothie, and you made it with like a cup of raspberries and a whole avocado. Okay, well that would be an expensive smoothie, but also that’s 18 grams of fiber right there. That’s a huge percentage of the fiber that you need in a day, and that’s fantastic. Have some kale or some collard greens for dinner, and you’re there. So, I think that that is super important. And in particular because there’s no amount of talking about fiber that can be enough.

Ryn (35:01):
Well, you know, maybe we can try it like this. Okay, you eat fiber. It bulks up your poop, and now you don’t have to strain so much. And you don’t have diarrhea or constipation. That sounds good. Okay. Maybe that’s motivating. But how about when you have inadequate fiber in your diet, you are going to cause problems for your hormonal balance and for your blood chemistry. And you might say what? What are you talking about? Well, you squirt out bile from your liver into your intestines whenever you’re processing food. That’s both a digestive fluid. Like it breaks up the fat molecules and makes it so you can absorb them. But it’s also an eliminative pathway for waste products. But it only eliminates if that bile gets bound up in fiber in the intestine and carried all the way out. If you don’t have adequate fiber in there, then a lot of that bile gets reabsorbed. And it carries back in cholesterol. And it carries back in some hormones that should have been excreted out of the system. And they’re not getting eliminated the way that they should be. So, they start to stack up. Now you have problems with elevated cholesterol levels. You’ve got problems with too much estrogen kicking around. And also your bile is getting thick and sludgy and more likely to form stones and cause other issues winding down your digestive capacity even further, contributing to any kind of malnourishment problem you can come up with. So, wow. Okay. Is fiber important yet?

Katja (36:29):
But also, so if you’ve ever eaten a meal, and then like you were hungry very shortly afterwards. And you’re like what is going on? Well, it turns out that fiber is really important for satiety. And this is not like a weight loss trick, because I’m not into that. But on the other hand, sometimes it’s hard to know when to stop eating. Like maybe the television’s on. Maybe you’re having an emotional day. Maybe you just aren’t really paying attention to your food or whatever. Sometimes it’s just hard to know when to stop eating. And part of the reason that it’s hard to know when to stop eating is because maybe hormones aren’t doing the job that they should do. There is a hormone that should tell you oh, oh, I’m full. I’m full. You can stop eating now. And that hormone is leptin. It gets out of whack pretty easily. And then you are not getting the message that you have what you need, and you can stop. Okay. Well, one of the things that helps your body to recognize I am now full is fiber. And so when it hits a certain fiber threshold, it’s like oh. Full. I’m good. I’m good here. And then I remember, so I grew up in a family that was very like 1950s. Like a super Leave it to Beaver family. And we had salad before the meal, like little bowls of salad. And that always was before the meal. I mean, it was iceberg lettuce, so whatever. It wasn’t like it was super fibery. But it was still that tradition of you have your salad, and then you have your dinner. And it kind of makes me think about the origins of that tradition. Of like oh, well eat the fibery things first.

Ryn (38:21):
Well, people used to say you’ve got to get your roughage.

Katja (38:23):
Yeah. Your roughage.

Ryn (38:24):
It’s good for you.

Katja (38:25):
Right? But you have those things first, and then you have the rest of your meal. But those things are like getting in there and saying okay. Okay. And it’s almost like it’s pre-programming you to stop at the right time, like the goldilocks amount of food for your body right in that moment. So, anyway, all this and more. Okay. But also fiber plays a role in the prevention of colon cancer. It plays a role in the prevention of flareups of all kinds of digestive diseases.

Ryn (38:59):
It plays a role in feeding your probiotics.

Katja (39:01):
Yeah, exactly. If you’re a person with really active Crohn’s, or really active diverticulitis, or really active ulcerative colitis, then certain types of fiber are probably going to be irritating in that moment of a flare up. But there are soft kinds of fiber. And they are going to help you come back to a place of balance. You’ve just got to kind of choose your fibers wisely if you’re feeling sensitive.

Ryn (39:26):
Right. And if there’s dysbiosis, that can be troublesome. But the thing is that like raspberries are not usually on the lists of if you have SIBO you better avoid it, you know? It’s not one of the things like your garlic or your onions or such.

Minerals & Emotional Astringency

Katja (39:40):
Right. Yeah. So, it’s like a fiber you can get even if there’s lots of kinds of… yeah. And while we are also on nutritive aspects, then we should also mention the mineral content of the leaves, because it’s not shabby. Like if we say minerals, you say nettles, right? Like that’s just how this goes. It’s like the herbalist game. We say minerals, you say… And then they hold out the microphone, the herbalist microphone, and all the herbalists go nettles. Whatever. But nettles aren’t the only plant with minerals. Green things have minerals assuming that the soil that they grew in had any minerals.

Ryn (40:24):
Yeah, yeah. One of our courses called Foundations of Holistic Nutrition or Fundamentals of Holistic Nutrition. And one of the things we put together for you there is an information sheet that lists mineral content of some kind of famous nutritive herbs, including nettle and burdock and bladderwrack and chickweed and horsetail and so on. But raspberry leaf makes an appearance on there.

Katja (40:52):
I love that catnip and chamomile are in here.

Ryn (40:54):
Yeah. I kind of put them on there for comparison, because catnip is actually a really rich source of potassium and not too shabby on calcium content either. But to be fair, raspberry has about twice as much calcium as catnip.

Katja (41:11):
Less potassium.

Ryn (41:12):
A little bit less.

Katja (41:13):
There is more potassium in catnip.

Ryn (41:15):
Yeah. But if you were to consume an ounce of raspberry leaf over the course of the day, you’d get almost your kind of optimum daily intake for iron. You’d hit your calcium number. You’d be almost there with your magnesium. And you’d be doing not too bad on chromium, actually. So, that’s pretty cool. Now don’t go saying I’m just going to drink my cup of tea and get all of my minerals, okay. Because this would be, remember, an ounce of the herb. And we’re assuming a hundred percent extraction, which isn’t going to happen in your tea, no.

Katja (41:47):
But if you do a long infusion that way.

Ryn (41:52):
And brew it twice.

Katja (41:53):
Yeah, go ahead. Like have a quart of it. Have two. And also have other things, right? Then you’re going to be replete. And again, like this is not going to happen if you’ve got hydroponic. I don’t even know if raspberries grew hydroponically. Or if you’re growing raspberries in soil that doesn’t have any good minerals in it. Okay, well then they’re not going to have minerals. But, if you are in the grocery store, and thinking do these raspberries have? Well, you wouldn’t be buying raspberry leaf in the grocery store. So, that’s pretty much just about your garden. So, really it’s just about making sure that you compost. Making sure that you put some bones or some eggshells or something in your compost.

Ryn (42:39):
Yeah. And remember minerals is not just about your bones, or your fingernails, or your hair, although it does help. And that can be nice.

Katja (42:49):
And your teeth.

Ryn (42:51):
Oh yeah, teeth. Those are good. But mineral content is also about signaling. It’s about communication. It’s about electrical activity. It’s about nerve health in your body. Yeah.

Katja (43:03):
Also your heart needs minerals to beat properly and do all of its stuff. Your thyroid needs your minerals to be in a certain range. Just really everything in your body. Like you need minerals to make your stomach acid. It’s important.

Ryn (43:17):
It’s your earth element, you know. You’re going to build a lot of you out of it. All right. Well before we wrap up for the Rubus-es, Rubus-ai? Okay. We need to say this one. Any astringent is also an emotional astringent. Because any fill-in-the-blank herbal action physically in your body is also doing that action in your mind and in your emotional patterns, right? So, with astringency, and especially with the Rosaceae, the rose family astringent, this is sort of why we have that acronym, JARFA – just another rose family astringent. But especially these. These make excellent emotional astringents. You know, we work with rose petal and even rose leaf this way. We work with agrimony this way. There are a great many examples. But blackberry leaf, raspberry leaf, they’re not just for kind of holding your fluids where they belong, and keeping your structures together, and holding your uterus in place. Don’t let it prolapse and all of that. But they’re also about holding your emotions together.

Katja (44:25):
Yeah. Especially if you are the kind of person like me – like with super watery emotions – and you just need to hold it all in. You need to hold it all together. These are really good ones. And especially not all rose family plants have thorns, but the ones that do I find even more helpful for emotional hold-it-togetherness. Because sometimes the reason that you can’t hold it together is because the emotion is overwhelming. But then there also can be an aspect of you don’t feel like you have the safety that you need. And so if the emotion is just overwhelming, but you feel like you’re in a safe environment, it’s a lot easier to pull yourself together, metaphorically speaking, but also even with an astringent herb. But if you’re having trouble holding on to your emotions, and you feel like you are not safe, it’s like a double challenge to do that work. And so I really appreciate the thorniness for the like oh, hold me in here and protect me. Like give me this barbed wire force field so that I feel safe inside to do the work I need to do to pull my emotions together.

Ryn (45:46):
Yeah. One of the really interesting things about these plants is that they’re occasionally ascribed the activity of an antispasmodic. And if you get kind of too stuck in logic, you might say that’s impossible. Anything astringent can only be tonifying and tightening. And it couldn’t prevent or release spasms. But if we think about that mineral content, we recognize some of that’s potassium, some of that’s magnesium. These are minerals that are required to release muscular tightness. Okay. We can see it there. If we add that layer of saying well, these are Rosaceaes flowering fruiting plants. And when we smell the scent of the flower, when we taste the berry, and to some extent also when we work with the leaves, they add that emotional calm. And that can reduce some tendency towards spasm and tension and that sort of thing. So, I think that that one is a little more nuanced. It’s less about very obvious effects of the plant, or what happens when you drink a quart in an hour, or something like that, you know? But it is realistic. It is real that that’s present.

Katja (46:54):
Also, especially if you have spasm actions with laxity. So, whether that is physically you have a lot of laxity in your body – maybe some edema, some varicosity, some whatever – and then you’re getting charlie horses. Okay, well that’s likely about minerals and a bunch of other things. But also sometimes it is about trying to do a thing, but you don’t quite have the muscular strength to maintain it. So, you kind of like try to grip, and then it falls. And then you try again, and it falls. And you can get stuck in that pattern. But that can also happen emotionally. And I think even specifically some ADD and ADHD patterns are like this. And people always are like well, what’s a good herb for ADD or ADHD? Like listen, everybody’s version of that is different. Everybody’s experience of that is different. And for some people you are going to need herbs that relax you. But for some people the spastic nature of focus or lack of focus is more about you didn’t quite have the mental energy to grab the focus. So, you pushed through, and you tried. But then the brain was like whoo, that was really tough. And so then you dropped the focus, right? You like lose the focus. And if that is your experience of ADD or ADHD, then an astringent like the rose family – especially raspberry leaf or blackberry leaf – could be really helpful. Because you’re getting a little bit of focus, a little bit of clarity, a little bit of astringency, and also a ton of minerals, which is going to help with the processing of all of these thoughts and emotions.

Taking Time & Enjoying Berries Near You

Ryn (48:49):
Yeah. Basically none of this is going to happen right away, right? So many of the actions of these plants are slow moving. They accumulate with time. It’s not generally going to happen with a couple drops of tincture taken once a day, that kind of thing. These are plants to consume as para-food, right? We’re talking about those long nourishing infusions. Eating the berries in food as well, same idea, right? And letting these things start to build up, right? You’ve got to restore that mineral bucket. It’s going to take a little while to build that up. You’ve got to restore that tendency towards an appropriate degree of tension down here in the pelvic organs. That doesn’t happen all in one moment. And you don’t actually want it to. If it did it would be from something forceful, and that’s not always a great idea. Especially when we’re talking about pregnancy or herbs that people always mention in the context of pregnancy, right? We want to move slow. We want to move gentle. We want to nudge rather than pushing. So, these are really lovely herbs to do that. Yeah. So, like we said at the top, there’s lots of other Rubus species, various colors of blackberry and raspberry. I don’t know. I know there’s black raspberry. I hope there’s red blackberry.

Katja (50:09):
I think your red blackberry is just not ripe yet.

Ryn (50:11):
Yeah. There are white ones. There’s all kinds of things. There’s cloudberry and wineberry and salmonberry and dewberry, and they’re all pretty similar, right? They’re all Rosaceous and they’re all JARFA. They’re all Rubus together. Yeah. So, find your local ones and love them. That’s our biggest advice here.

Katja (50:30):
You don’t need ones from far away. They’re not better than the ones that you have that are near you. Your local ones are fantastic.

Ryn (50:38):
All right. So, before we go, we want to give you a little ad for one of our courses. And although we’ve kind of been shying away from or sort of just moving around the reproductive focus for these plants, because that’s usually the only thing anybody says about them. They are relevant. They are realistic, helpful herbs for a variety of reproductive-related things, and not just pregnancy itself. So, we want you to learn more than raspberry is good for pregnancy. We want you to learn more than vitex is good for PMS. We want you to learn more than chamomile is good for cramps, and saw palmetto is good for benign prostatic hyperplasia. We want you to understand these herbs in the context of their energetics, and their actions, and their affinities, and how to match those qualities to the problem that’s presenting. So, what’s actually going on for that person rather than the name of the problem, right?

Katja (51:36):
Right. Match them instead to the actual person, and what they need in this moment. Yeah.

Ryn (51:43):
So, that’s our goal with this Reproductive Health course. That’s our goal with all of our courses. And just like all of our courses, this one comes with access to our biweekly Q&A sessions, live discussion threads, and the active student community space to ask all your questions and get them answered within a day. You get downloads. You get audio. You get PDFs. You get recipes. You get formula suggestions. We give you quizzes. There’s a capstone assignment at the end, so you can really prove you’ve learned it.

Katja (52:18):
And they’re optional. Don’t stress. It’s totally fine if you don’t want to do it. It’s totally fine. And also a major feature of our courses is that they are all taught by video. Yes, the other things are there. If you like to listen instead of watch, it’s completely fine. Don’t worry. If you like to read along while you’re watching, it’s also good. But in real life sometimes it’s just easier to watch stuff. And you come home from work. You’re tired. You don’t have a lot of energy to study, and pick through books, and all that other stuff. Just watch TV and learn herbs.

Ryn (52:55):
Yeah. So, you can find that course and all of our courses at online.commonwealthherbs.com. All right. Well, that’s it for us for this episode. We’ll be back next time with some more Holistic Herbalism podcast for you. Until then take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Drink some tea.

Katja (53:19):
Drink some tea.

Ryn (53:19):
And keep it together with some Rubus astringency. That’ll be great.

Katja (53:27):

Ryn (53:27):


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