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Raspberry leaf tea has a strange and somewhat convoluted past. The tea itself is not made from the raspberry plant’s fruit, as some would expect, but the leaf. The flavor resembles a somewhat tangy green or black tea, not a sprightly raspberry flavor.  As for the color: brown-ish, not red. No matter – add a little sweetener, a touch of cream, and you have a tasty and reasonably familiar flavored drink.


Raspberry Leaf Tea: From Native Americans to the Civil War

             Raspberry Leaf Tea

Native Americans of the Eastern U.S. were the first to appreciate raspberry leaf tea. They simply boiled the leaves, as they did with wintergreen,

spruce, sassafras, and snowberry leaves, for a healthful and medicinal drink. Eighteenth-century colonists joined in, using raspberry leaf tea as a weapon in their boycott of British tea. According to the Boston Tea Party Museum, the Revolutionaries positioned British tea as poisonous, capable of triggering the “most frightful nervous disorders.” As for raspberry leaf tea, one Revolutionary stated: “…It’s as good as any other tea and much more wholesome in the end.”

Other sources proclaiming the use of 18th-century tea were less eliable. A 1931 newspaper ad from Sterchi’s, a furniture company, claimed that their Early American Poster Bed “commemorates the high-born South Carolina lady who put Raspberry Leaf Tea into Colonial society.”

While the link between bedposts and botanical tea is hazy, the Southern roots are not. In an interview in 1901, an elderly Georgia woman recalled putting “yellow sugar” into Red Raspberry Tea” during the Civil War. “It made raspberry leaf tea taste almost as good as Yang Hyson [sic],” she said.     Likewise, a speaker at a United Daughters of the Confederacy luncheon in 1965 proclaimed the “resourcefulness” of Southern women who drank raspberry leaf tea during the war when little else was available. With that much raspberry leaf tea in the South, it was certainly made by enslaved workers, as well.

The (Unexpected) Medicinal Powers of Raspberry Leaf Tea

Regardless of who was drinking it, raspberry leaf tea was considered a cure. A cure for what depends on who you ask. Today, the tea is thought to help women cope with everything from menstruation to menopause not to mention getting pregnant, being pregnant, and giving birth. Proving the point goes back decades. One article in 1956, entitled “Raspberry Leaf Tea Subject of Big Test” confirms that a group of British researchers were testing the tea on a subject group of expectant mothers. Today, articles boldly tout the women-raspberry leaf tea connection, quoting scientific studies and chemical breakdowns.

That hasn’t always been the case. Raspberry leaf tea was a more-or-less panacea for a cast of ailments, although women’s health was not among them. In the 1850s it was considered a mild astringent good, used internally and externally, a treatment for inflammation of the bowels, fever, and diarrhea… in horses a remedy for upset stomach, aka “summer complaint,” in infants. One publication of 1912, a nurse proclaimed that raspberry leaf tea was a general remedy – i.e. good for everything. As for the flavor: “Raspberry leaf tea with half cream is excellent…”

Raspberry Leaf Tea on mid-1900s cup and saucer with True Treats Jar

By the mid-1900s, the interest in raspberry leaf tea all but petered out only to rise again in the 1960s with the natural foods/hippie/anti-establishment movement. Now raspberry leaf tea, the medicine, the beverage of war, the Southern sipping tea, was a protector of women’s health and a stalwart of healthy food. Raspberry leaf tea was recommended to cap a tasty dinner of “wild foods” such as buttered cattail shoots, acorn bread, and marsh marigold flower pickles, along with gum made of spruce resin. Similarly, it was the closing drink at a  1960s “survival meal” where nine men feasted on goats’ beard, wild and prickly lettuce, and goose foot.  The men were actually Boy Scout Leaders whose mission was to teach boys (not in attendance) how to use their initiative and be resourceful. Sound familiar?

 Raspberry Leaf Tea Today

Raspberry leaf tea was then – as it remains today – an old-time tea. This can be good news or bad news, depending. Most shops selling tinctures, herbal remedies, and botanicals seem to have raspberry leaf tea on hand. Native American tea companies carry it, as well, advertising it as “traditional.”  A variety of medical Websites and whole foods advisors tout the tea for its culinary and curative value. Occasionally, a voice of descent rises from the crowd, but not because of the tea itself. One, in the 1960s, was in response to the suggestion that raspberry leaf tea was “an idea” for maiden aunts. The objection came from an actual “maiden aunt” stating that she was a “swinger” who much preferred “turquoise bracelets and Swedish glass to raspberry leaf tea.”


Want to taste for yourself? Just follow the recipes right here – with serving suggestions!

Love Raspberries? Try our pure raspberry sugar -just raspberries and sugar sprinkled on ice cream, toast, cookies, name it.   A Native American fruit with a European American Sugar. Two cultures. One sprinkle.