Saturday, March 16, 2013



Known also as Bramble, Dewberry and Cloudberry (and a host of others around the world I am sure).  There are several varieties of blackberries so if you are looking for a specific kind it is best to know the Latin name; Rubus villosus, Rubus fruticosus, Rubus allegheniesis and Rubus laciniatus. 

Blackberry is a member of the rose family actually.  Its compound leaves have five (+/-) plus or minus leaflets, which are toothed, and the white or pinkish flowers bloom/ripen mid to late summer.

Parts used:  berries, leaves and roots.  Standard infusion of the leaves; decoction of the root bark.  (An infusion is similar to making tea, put the leaves in a tea ball or bag and pour boiling water over them and let them steep anywhere from 5-15 minutes.  A decoction is made by slowly simmering the herb in water until half of it is gone (the fluid) and then adding more fluid and simmering some more until only about a cup remains.)

Systems affected:  Liver, Kidneys, Stomach and Intestines.

Leaves and root bark are: Yin (cooling) tonic to the body, blood nourishing, said to be hemostatic (to stop bleeding), antipyretic (reduces high temperature) and astringent (tightens and tones tissues).

Root bark:  has been used for diarrhea, dysentery and bleeding.

Leaves:  has been used for fevers, colds, sore throats, vaginal discharge, mucal (mucus) discharges.

Blackberries:  have been used for anemia and constipation.

Blackberry  has a high tannin content so a little goes a long way.  It shouldn't be taken for long periods of time due to this (meaning more than 1 week at a time) unless you choose to use milk with it.  The proteins in milk will bind with the tannins in blackberries and make them insoluble.  However, if you find you have mucuous producing issues (like me...I am an A blood type and we tend to produce excess mucus when eating certain things, dairy being one of them) then just stick to the 1 week at a time limit.  If you consume too much tannin, you can experience constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, thirst, liver, heart or kidney failure.  So when using blackberry, PLEASE use it for a limited time or ALWAYS use milk when consuming it as a tea or decoction. 

FYI:  Native Americans used the roots mixed with other plants for stomach aches, eye sores and backaches.  The Chinese have used it to increase circulation, they state it helps to relieve pain in the bones and muscles.  The early pioneers used it as a vinegar for arthritis and gout, and blackberries have been said to contain several anti-carcinogenic properties as well.

The Highlanders of Scotland felt that blackberry was blessed-they often made wreaths of it to ward off evil.  In Gaelic, blackberry is 'an druise bennaichte' which means "blessed bramble".  This is because they believed Jesus used a bramble switch to chase the money-changers out of the temple.

There are different types of blackberry crosses as well.  For instance, the Marionberry is a cross between two different types of blackberries.  A Youngberry is a cross between a blackberry and a dewberry (another variety of blackberry) and a Loganberry (named for Judge Logan who developed it) is a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry.  So...several different kinds and ALL very tasty. 

Blackberries are said to dissolve deposits in the alimentary system as well as in the kidneys.  The fruit has also been used to regulate menstrual cycles.  In some places the leaves are chewed to relieve headaches.  Crushed blackberry leaves have styptic like abilties so have been used for small cuts or wounds (the kind one might incur picking such berries as the thorns are OUCH. :) )  The main used of blackberry has been in tea form from the leaves for diarrhea.  And the unripe fruit (red or green) has been used for the same.  The leaf tea is similar in nature to green tea and gives a nice feel of relief to mouth sores or those who have issues with their gums.  When cool, the tea makes a nice skin tonic as well.

The leaves should be picked in spring and summer so they are fresh and green.  The can be used fresh (you will need to use twice as much fresh as you would dry) in tea or dried for winter.  Dry the leaves in a shady place or indoors until they are brittle and crumble easily.

The root should be gathered either before the plant flowers or after all the green material has died back in late fall (I might add that because plants are living things-if you are harvesting roots, please ask the plant for permission as you would be taking a life.  All living things have spirits and should be respected as such and most of the time if you ask permission they will give their lives willingly and you will not have to struggle to get them out of the ground.  The struggling you do with plants is mainly because they are not ready to be picked). Cut the roots from the plant, rinse and peel the root bark away.  Cut the root bark into strips and spread out on a screen to dry.

As you can see there are several different leaf patterns for blackberries.  This will also help you find a certain variety if you are looking for something in particular.  When picking berries, leaves or harvesting the bark please wear leather (THEY MUST BE LEATHER) gloves as they will protect your hands from getting cut and scratched up from the protruding thorns found on wild blackberries.
You can purchase blackberry plants from several different places (Miller Nurseries, Stark Brothers, Pine Tree Garden Seeds, Berries Unlimited, etc.  Just do an online search and you should be able to find them easily enough.  Or if you wish to just buy the blackberry leaves or root that has been dried there are plenty of online herbal stores one can purchase those from some of which are Mountain Rose Herbs, Starwest Botanicals, Pacific Botanicals, etc).
Blackberries are so amazing in their health benefits and potential.  I love them and use them often.  Please feel free to email me for some of my personal favorite recipes using blackberry plants for a number of things.  I would be more than happy to share them with you.
Below are some links to books that have information about blackberries in them mostly from a culinary standpoint but the third one does talk some of its medicinal uses.  Most of the recipes I use are for medicinal purposes so please email me personally if you would like those.
Happy Harvesting!

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