Herb Profile: Blackberry Leaf

Blackberry Leaf Profile

Also known as: Rubus fruticosus, Black Berry, Bramble, Dewberry, Goutberry, Rubi Fruticosi Folium, Rubi Fruticosi Radix, Rubus affinis, Rubus plicatus, Thimbleberry.

Blackberries are sweet darkly colored fruits that grow on bushy vines in small clusters known as drupelets. In Britain, the same plant is usually called bramble, because of its prickly thorns. The plant is also known as cloudberry (in northern Europe) and dewberry (in the American South). Blackberry brambles can become quite invasive if left to their own devices.

Many earth based and Wiccan religions claim that blackberry leaves can help return evil to enemies that sent it, and may also help remove evil spirits from your home. Superstition in the United Kingdom holds that blackberries should not be picked after Michaelmass (September 29th) as the devil has claimed them, having left a mark on the leaves by urinating on them. There is some value behind this legend as after this date wetter and cooler weather often allows the fruit to become infected by various molds such as Botryotinia which give the fruit an unpleasant look and possible toxicity.

Blackberry leaves have been traditionally used in herbal medicine as an antimicrobial and for their healthful antioxidant properties. A laboratory study published in the “International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents” in July 2009, conducted by researchers from the University of Siena, Italy, confirmed the usefulness of blackberry leaves for these purposes. Blackberry leaf extract was demonstrated to be effective against Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria associated with causing stomach ulcers. The study identified blackberry leaves as an effective alternative to antibiotics often prescribed to fight H. pylori.[2]

Young blackberry leaves have high levels of antioxidants, or oxygen radical absorbance capacity, according to a study conducted by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and published in the “Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry” in February 2000. The USDA study found that the leaves of blackberry and raspberry, the portion of the plant used in tea, were higher in antioxidant compounds than the berries of either fruit.

In this video, herbalist and storyteller Doug Elliott shares the wisdom of Appalachia in performing “Blackberry Boogie” at the three-day RootStalk Herb Festival…

Using Blackberry Leaf as an Herb

Commission E, the German regulatory agency for herbs, has approved blackberry leaf tea for relieving non-specific acute diarrhea. Tannins in the leaves can alleviate this problem, according to Flora Health.

The Commission E advises taking 4.5g of blackberry leaves daily as a tea or other internal supplement.

University of Maryland Medical Center[1] lists a standard dosage of blackberry leaf tea for relieving diarrhea as 1 heaping teaspoon of dried leaves per cup of hot water, and drinking 1/2 cup per hour, and the UMMC recommends talking to a doctor before taking blackberry leaf for treating diarrhea, because certain types of diarrhea can be worsened with herbal treatment.

Both blackberry leaf and sage leaf have long been used in traditional medicine to address a number of illnesses and digestive disorders. Combining the benefits as well as the pleasing flavors of both these leaves into blackberry sage tea creates a delicious beverage with the antioxidant and healing benefits of both blackberry and sage.

Both sage and blackberry leaf are used in traditional medicine for the treatment of gastric distress, including diarrhea and stomach bloating and discomfort. Blackberry leaf is astringent and helps dry up the intestinal membranes to fight diarrhea, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Sage promotes bile flow that aids in the digestion of fats, according to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. Sage is also an anti-spasmodic, and helps to prevent the formation of intestinal gas.

Thornless blackberry fruit and leaves have antioxidant properties, according to a study published in the February 2000 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The study found that blackberry leaves had higher oxygen radical absorbance capacity than the fruit.[3]

How to Make Blackberry Leaf Tea

There are two ways to extract the medicinal properties of herbs or plants to make tea, infusion or decoction.

When using leaves of blackberry you will want to use the infusion method.

Blackberry Leaf Tea is prepared by adding 2 teaspoons of dried leaves to a cup of boiling water, cover and let steep for 8 minutes then strain.

In order to achieve a greater medicinal effect a decoction can be prepared by using about a handful of dried blackberry leaves in a quart of water. Boil until half of the water boils off. According to medical research, it is recommended to take about 2 to 3 small cups every day. Many say that Blackberry leaf tea has no side effects and it is tea you can drink daily. I would like to add that it is a safe herb for those who are not sensitive to tannins, fortunately most people are not over-sensitive.

How to Make a Blackberry Leaf Compress

Blackberry leaf tea as a compress for wounds and skin rashes: it is recommended to make a compress for treating skin irritations and wounds. The best way is to make a decoction (see above) with the blackberry leaves then soak a cotton cloth in the liquid. Wring out the cloth then lay it over the affected skin area. Cover with a plastic wrap for about 30 minutes. This process can be done several times a day.

Additional Herbal Uses for Blackberry Leaves

Chewing fresh blackberry leaves releases tannins and vitamin C which can soothe and heal canker sores and inflamed gums.

Anthocyanocides contained in blackberry leaves act as powerful antioxidants that are essential for reversing cell damage resulting from free radicals which makes drinking the tea a very useful herb for wellness.

Blackberry leaf tea also helpful in regulating both heavy and light menstrual flow as well as intestinal inflammation since its leaves contains the astringent tannins. It is advisable to blend 2 oz of blackberry leaf tea with 1 oz of peppermint leaves in order to get the most effective relief.

Minor sore throat pain: blackberry leaf tea is recommended for those individuals suffering from sore throat pain as it acts as an anti- inflammatory for both throat and mouth normally caused by cold. Using the decoction method is best because it has a thicker consistency. Honey can be used to sweeten the bitter taste then simply use it as a mouthwash or as a gargle. When symptoms of sore throat are first observed, it is highly recommended to take this tea to prevent increased severity of the condition. Two to three cups of blackberry leaf tea daily is recommended to provide the effect.

Blackberry leaf is also approved in Germany for treating mild inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. This makes it beneficial for relieving sore throat, mouth sores and gum inflammation. For these purposes, it can be used as a gargle, mouthwash or tea.

Constituents

Tannins, gallic acid, villosin, starch, and calcium oxalate.

Parts Used

Leaf

Tea Steeping Time Reduces the Bitter Tannin Flavor

Tannins tend to have a ‘bitter’ flavor when the tea is steeped for too long. Therefore, it is recommended for ‘normal’ drinking of the tea that the steeping time not exceed 6 minutes.

Try a test yourself… take two individual cups of hot water and add to it the same amount of Blackberry leaf. Steep one of the cups for 5 minutes and the other for 15 minutes. Taste. Do you taste the difference?

Typical Preparations

Washes, compresses, and baths. Can be taken internally as a tea, capsule or extract. Leaf is slightly sweet and may be sprinkled on food.

The properties of tannins should always be kept in mind while applying extracts from tannin-rich plants for medicinal purpose. Tannin is basically an astringent that means that it tauten the pores and pulls out liquids from plants. In plants, tannins are large astringents molecules that easily attaches with proteins. To find the truth about these properties of tannins you may try a few small experiments. If you put tannin on your skin, you will witness it to shrink and if you apply if on your face you will notice wrinkles appearing. At the same time, tannins help to draw out all irritants from the skin. These properties impart medicinal qualities to tannin which is applied on the skin to pull out poisons from bee stings or poison oak bringing in instant relief.[4]

The other remedial values of tannins include application on burns to heal the injury and on cuts to stop bleeding. Tannin’s ability to form a strong ‘leather’ resistance on the exposed tissues helps in protecting the wounds from being affected further. While it stops infection from above, internally tannin continues to heal the wound.

In case of third degree burns using strong tannin sources will not only prevent septicemia, but also help to save life. This traditional method has been practiced by most medicos in all countries. On the other hand, when a tannin-rich solution is poured on the flesh, it generates a sealing ‘eschar’ that often helps in growing new skin albeit temporarily. This technique requires repeated washing of the wound with tannins and this helps to eliminate the bacteria too. Hence, tannins are also said to have antiseptic properties. Interestingly, this practice is still followed in the primary health care centers in China and is also recommended as a first-aid treatment at places where emergency medical services are still inadequate or faulty.

Tannins can also be effective in curbing hemorrhages as well as restrict bare swellings. While tannins are proved haemostatics, they are also beneficial when applied on mucosal coating in mouth. Hence, herbs possessing tannins are widely used as mouthwashes, eyewashes, snuff and even as vaginal douches and also treat rectal disorders.

Tannins sour the mucus secretions and contract or squeeze the membranes of the stomach and other digestive parts in such a manner that secretions from the cells are restricted. Tannins’ anti-inflammatory effect helps to control or curb indications of gastritis, enteritis, oesophagitis and irritating bowel disorders. This action is possible by involving lymph stasis and neutralizing the autolytic enzymes.

Conventionally, tannins have also been used to cure diarrhea. Diarrhea can be caused by the irritation of the enteritis or the small intestine and is the reason for many deaths worldwide. Although diarrhea initially affects the large bowel, but a reflex action origination higher up aims at eliminating the disturbing material in the system as early as possible. Diarrhea many be considered to be a healthy action as it helps to remove the unwanted or disturbing substance from the system, but if it prolongs, it may lead to dehydration and nausea often resulting to death. Thus, in order to control the fierceness of diarrhea, application of an effective astringent medicine is recommended. An effective astringent does not stop the flow of the disturbing substance in the stomach, but helps in controlling the irritation in the small intestine.

Precautions

Blackberry tea contains tannins, plant substances that can have negative effects. Blackberry tea contains hydrolysable tannins such as gallotannins and ellagitannins, which can have toxic effects on the liver in large quantities. Do not drink blackberry tea if you suffer from any type of liver disease without talking to your medical practitioner. Signs of liver damage include yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, upper right quadrant abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.

Tannins can also interfere with absorption of calcium and iron. Taking blackberry tea with milk helps to neutralize its effect on calcium and iron absorption. Adding lemon, which contains vitamin C, also helps to increase iron absorption. Don’t drink blackberry tea at the same time as meals. Low calcium levels could lead to bone disorders such as osteoporosis; low iron levels can cause anemia. Signs of anemia include pallor, weakness, low energy levels and shortness of breath on exertion.

In smaller to ‘normal’ amounts Blackberry leaf tea has no negative warnings and is thought of as a very safe herb to use with the exception of those who are very sensitive to tannins.

Likewise, those who experience shortness of breath and/or nausea after having a Tamiflu shot, this is due to the Tamiflu vaccine being very high in tannins.

You might also enjoy these other herbal blogs…

How to Grow and Maintain an Organic Blackberry Patch

DIY How To Make Your Own Natural Beeswax Candles

Resources

1. University of Maryland Medical Center: Diarrhea

2. “International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents“; Antimicrobial activity against Helicobacter pylori strains and antioxidant properties of blackberry leaves and isolated compounds; S. Martini et al.; July 2009

3. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: Antioxidant Activity in Fruits and Leaves of Blackberry

4. Herbs2000: Tannins

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