I love when spring and summer gently make their appearance in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. There is a burst of beautiful flowering plants and trees. My favorite things are when the plants and trees burst forth with edible flowers and fruits. These attract many pollinators. Bees and butter flies love them more than I do.
One of those plants that is local to my area is Rubus allegheniensis, the common or Allegheny Blackberry. The Allegheny Blackberry is a member of the Rose (Rosaceae) family and blooms in woodlands and meadows throughout eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Suddenly a once stark meadow is filled with Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Monarch butterflies as well as bees, flitting from flower to flower, drinking the nectar and collecting pollen.
Common Blackberry not only provides for important pollinators but its brambles make for a wonderful habitat for animals and in summer when the berries appear, it provides a feast for the birds, animals, and humans alike.
For anyone local to my area there is a beautiful wildflower preserve called Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. It’s beautiful to visit; however, there are many things to learn and see by visiting the website. You can find the information at their website: https://bhwp.org/
Species: Rubus allegheniensis
Common Name: Allegheny Black Berry, sow-teat blackberry, high-bush blackberry
Energetics: Sedates heat and tones the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract. It improves digestion, absorption, and nutrition.
Properties: Prominent Astringent, cooling, dry, possibly Alterative
Taste: Tart, Sour, Sweet
Degree of Action: first
Tissue States: Tones, Tightens Tissues, Irritation, Relaxation, Damp, Flowing, Enfeeblement
Constituents: Contains vitamins, steroids and lipids in seed oil and minerals, flavonoids, glycosides, terpenes, acids and tannins in aerial parts that possess diverse pharmacological activities such as antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, antiinflammatory, antimicrobial anti-diabetic, anti-diarrheal, and antiviral.
Berries can be eaten directly as fresh fruit for nutritive properties. Berries are used green or ripe. Seeds can also be use. Dose for tincture in acute cases 5 to 60 drops every 2-4 hours. Fluid extract, 3.5 ml (1/2 to 1 drachm). Fluid extract, root, U.S.P .(United States Pharmacopeia), 15 drops. Syrup, U.S.P., 3.5 ml (1 drachm).
The fruit contains malic and citric acids, pectin and albumen. If desiccated in a moderately hot oven and then reduced to a powder, it is a reliable remedy for dysentery.
The stem, as young edible shoots are harvested in the spring, peeled and used in salads.
The root-bark, as used medicinally, should appear in thin tough, flexible bands, inodorous, strongly astringent and somewhat bitter. It should be peeled off the root and dried by heat or in strong sun.
One ounce, boiled in 1 1/2 pint water or milk down to a pint, makes a good decoction. Half a teacupful should be taken every hour or two for diarrhea.
One ounce of the bruised root, likewise boiled in water, may also be used, the dose being larger, however. The same decoction is said to be useful against whooping-cough in the spasmodic stage.
The leaves can be used for the same purpose. One ounce of the dried leaves, infused in one pint of boiling water, and the infusion taken cold, a teacupful at a time, makes a serviceable remedy for dysentery, etc. By partially fermenting the leaves you can make a tea similar to black tea.
For tea, use one to two teaspoons of the dried leaves or berries to one cup of boiling water and allow to steep briefly. Drink three times daily. If using the root bark, place one to two teaspoons of dried bark into two cups of water, and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. Use 1/2 cup of this mixture three to four times daily. Syrup can be taken three times daily, using 1/2 to one teaspoon per dose.
Blackberry is the standard “old time” remedy for simple, uncomplicated, diarrhea due to “relaxation of the bowels”. Both the leaves and roots can be infused or decocted and have also been used for hemorrhoids, cystitis, sore throats, and mouth ulcers, inflammation of the gums, and mouthwash.
In spring and early summer the young leaves and shoots are edible. The leaf, fruit and root maybe used, although in Native American tradition, the young edible shoots are harvested in the spring, peeled and used in salads. Collect them whilst the thorns are still completely soft to the touch and with the shoots they shoot snap off crisply.
Both leaves and shoots can be boiled or steamed and served as a vegetable, and they can be added to soups like nettle soup. The leaves are nice blanched for a few minutes in boiling water, drained and then fried in olive oil with onions and garlic. The young leaves can also be eaten raw when very young and have an unusual coconut like flavor and the young stems can be peeled and eaten in salads. This is documented on the website: https://altnature.com/gallery/blackberry.htm
The berries can be somewhat tart and are commonly consumed raw or in sweetened products such as jams, pies and sometimes wine. Often enjoyed fresh, they are also used in cakes, turned into preserves, or dried like raisins (Turner 123). The dried berries would then be used for foodstuffs by the American Indians which provided an easy way to get vitamins during the fruit-scarce winter.
The berries contain an array of vitamins such as vitamin A, folate, vitamin C, K, and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6. They are particularly high in antioxidants but also contain minerals such as magnesium, manganese, potassium, and copper. They contain Flavonoids, Ellagic acid, and
Cyaniding. Ellagic acid is an anti-inflammatory polyphenol that has been shown to have anti-cancer properties and helps restore healthy bone remodeling. Cyanidin is a potent inhibitor of osteoclasts which break down bone, and promotes the production of osteoblasts that build bone.
Because the berries are powerhouses filled with beneficial phytonutrients and high in antioxidants, they have been studied in terms of cancer prevention, as well as for the treatment of allergies, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other medical ailments. Because of their dark color, they are used for dyes.
The plants also have a variety of nutritional and medicinal uses. The roots are crushed and consumed for stomach pains and bowel trouble (Vogel 357). The bark of the root and the leaves contain much tannin, and have long been esteemed as a capital astringent and tonic, proving a valuable remedy for dysentery and diarrhea, etc. The root is the more astringent. They are often boiled to make teas in order to treat dysentery and used as a wash to treat sores and wounds among many other uses.
Blackberries are indigenous to six continents. They are commonly referred to as brambles or briers. Rubus species were a food and medicinal source for native peoples soon after the Ice Age and continue to be used even today.
Brambles were documented in the writings of Aeschylus (Hendrickson, 1981) and Hippocrates, between 500 to 370 BCE. Hippocrates recommended blackberry (batos) stems and leaves soaked in white wine as an astringent poultice on wounds and in difficulties of childbirth (Littre, 1979). Raspberries were harvested by the ancient Greeks as early as 370 BCE (Handley and Pritts, 1989).
Notable Greeks such as Krataeus, Dioscorides, and Galen all documented medicinal uses of Blackberries, as well as the Romans: Cato, Ovid, and Pliny the Elder. Greeks and Romans recorded female applications, whereas the Chinese described uses in male disorders. The fruits were combined in a yang tonic called fu pen zi, ‘‘overturned fruit bowl,’’ and prescribed for infertility, impotence, low backache, poor eyesight, and bedwetting or frequent urination.
Pompey introduced raspberries from southeast of Troy in what is now Turkey to Rome 65 BCE (Trager, 1995). Ancient Egyptians knew of the blackberry but did not document uses for it. Egyptian words for blackberry were ‘‘aimoios’’ or ‘‘ametros’’ approximately the second century CE (Manniche, 1989).
Although today we mostly know of blackberries for their delicious, cultivated fruit, the ancients and Native Americans used the whole plant and its parts. Stems, branches, roots, leaves, and flowers were used in decoctions, infusions, plasters, oil or wine extractions, and condensates.
Decoctions of branches were applied to stop diarrhea, dye hair, prevent vaginal discharge, and as an anti-venom for snakebites. Leaves were chewed to strengthen gums and plastered to constrain shingles, head rashes, eye problems, and hemorrhoids.
Flowers were triturated with oil to reduced eye inflammations and cool skin rashes and infusions with water or wine aided stomach ailments.
Native American Indian medicinal traditions, Asian medicinal tradition, traditional Chinese medicine, and the Ayurvedic tradition of India, all utilize the use of Blackberries. Folk traditions of native peoples throughout the world have also applied Rubus for multiple medicinal uses.
The American cultivated blackberries (R. laciniatus and R. ursinus) are notable for their significant contents of dietary fiber, vitamin C and K.
Nutritionally, a 100 gram serving of raw blackberries supplies 43 calories and 5 grams of dietary fiber or 25% of the recommended Daily Value (RDV) and contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Recent research has measured high ellagic acid, anthocyanin, total phenolics, and total antioxidant content in Rubusfruits. Fruit extracts have been used as colorants and are now being tested as anticarcinogenic, antiviral, antiallergenic, and cosmetic moisturizing compounds. From ancient traditions through conventional folk medicines to the scientific confirmation of health-promoting compounds, Rubus is associated with health-inducing properties.
Although traditional medicinal uses of Rubus consider the applications of astringent action of plants, stems, and leaves, modern focus resides in the phytochemical action of the ingested berries at the cellular and molecular levels. Research on the effects of berry nutrients on human health, the interaction between diet and disease, and metabolomics of berry phenolics are active areas of discovery. Rubus berry phytochemicals may act as ‘‘prodrugs’’ within target tissue sites or to promote colonic microflora to contribute to health benefits (Seeram, 2008).
The consumption of Rubus fruits demonstrates a contribution in the prevention of chronic human diseases, improvement of quality of life, and promotion of healthy aging.
Blackberry's primary medicinal property is its sharp and strong astringency, which makes it a useful remedy for simple diarrhea—it helps reduce both inflammation and tone irritated membranes. Blackberry's astringency also makes it a useful gargle for red and swollen throats. Some even use it to cure mouth sores.
Studies and Recent Research
Current investigations have identified Rubus fruit as a source of bioactive phenolic antioxidants. These compounds have a strong capacity to scavenge oxygen radicals. They inhibit oxidation and the growth of pathogenic bacteria and inhibit growth of certain cancer cell lines in vitro.
Moyer et al. (2002) analyzed dark-pigmented fruit from Rubus, Vaccinium, and Ribes. The black raspberry (R. occidentalis) cultivars had the highest total anthocyanins observed of genotypes of Ribes, Rubus, and Vaccinium. Black raspberry extract was used in the early 20th century as a dye stamp for meat inspection in the United States and as a food colorant (Moyer et al., 2002).
Maata-Riihinen et al. (2004) analyzed fruits of three Rubus species and observed Quercetin 3 glucuronide typical flavonol glycoside. The cyanidin glycosylation forms could separate species of Rubus through chemotaxonomic analysis. Ellagic acid was present as free and glycosylated forms and ellagitannins; other reportedly anti-carcinogenic compounds were also present. Evidence suggests that Rubus and other berry fruits may have beneficial effects against several types of human cancers (Seeram, 2008).
Studies show that the anticancer effects of berry bioactives are partially mediated through their abilities to counteract, reduce, and also repair damage resulting from oxidative stress and inflammation. In addition, berry bioactive chemicals also regulate carcinogen and xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes, various transcription and growth factors, inflammatory cytokines, and subcellular signaling pathways of cancer cell proliferation, apoptosis, and tumor angiogenesis. Berry phytochemicals may also potentially sensitize tumor cells to chemotherapeutic agents by inhibiting pathways that lead to treatment resistance, and berry fruit consumption may provide protection from therapy-associated toxicities (Seeram, 2008).
Blackberries contain numerous phytochemicals including polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanins, salicylic acid, ellagic acid, and fiber ( Sellappan, S). Anthocyanins in blackberries are responsible for their rich dark color. Phytochemical components of blackberries, salicylic acid and ellagic acid have been associated in preliminary research with toxicity to cancer cells, (Lesca, P 1983) including breast cancer cells (Papoutsi Z).
Blackberries rank highly among fruits for in vitro antioxidant strength, particularly because of their dense content of polyphenolic compounds, such as ellagic acid, tannins, ellagitannins, quercetin, gallic acid, anthocyanin, and andcyanidins (Wada L); (Hager TJ).
One report placed blackberry at the top of more than 1000 polyphenol-rich foods consumed in the United States, (Halvorsen BL) but this concept of a health benefit from consuming darkly colored foods like blackberries remains scientifically unverified and not accepted for health claims on food labels. (Gross PM (March 1, 2009)
Warnings: None except possibly for people with food allergies Potential or Reported Drug-
Herb Interactions: We currently have no information for BLACK RASPBERRY Interactions
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