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Herb Library

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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.




BLACKBERRY
Rosaceae
aka Bly, Brombere (Ger), Bramble, Brambleberry, Bramble-kite, Brameberry, Brombeere, Brummel, Brymbyl,
Bumble-kite, Cloudberry, Dewberry, Fingerberry, Goutberry, Piao (Chin), Scaldhead, Thimbleberry

Rubus villosus (Amer) and Rubus fruticosus (Eur)
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Blackberries (notably R. fruticosus) are subject to legal control as a weed in parts of Australia and in some other countries.

CONTAINS:
Leaves and roots contain tannins (tannic acid from root can be obtained by boiling water or dilute alcohol), and flavonoids. Root also contains villosin.
Fruits contain Vitamin C, Vitamin A, malic and isocitric acids, monoglycoside of cyanidin, sugars, albumin, kaempferol, quercertin, and pectin.

Culpeper: It is a plant of Venus in Aries...If any ask the reason why Venus is so prickly? Tell them 'tis because she is in the house of Mars.



This member of the rose family is part of a large genus worldwide consisting of raspberries, dewberries, thimbleberries, etc. Most are used in a similar manner. Blackberries have provided food for man since ancient times which is attested to by fossil evidence. Flowers and fruit can often be seen on the same plant at the same time.
Rambling, thorny shrub with woody stems found in dry or sandy soil. Canes heavily studded with stout, recurved prickles; leaves ovate, double serrate, pinnate with 3 to 5 leaflets; flowers white with 5 petals. R. fruticosus has a relaxed calyx.
Was mentioned by Aeschylus (ca.525-456 BC) and Hippocrates (ca.460-357 BC).
At one time, it not only had a reputation as a medicinal, but also as a charm against various illnesses.
The dried bark was official in the USP from 1820 to 1916 and in the NF from 1916 to 1936 as an astringent tonic. Berries were official in the NF from 1916 to 1926 as a flavoring agent in syrups.

PROPAGATION: Spreads easily enough on its own, but can be propagated by seed, softwood cuttings in summer, leaf bud cuttings in late summer, hardwood cuttings in winter, division in early spring or autumn (easiest method); root cuttings 1/2 inch long are taken in autumn and stored in sand over winter at about 50ºF, then in early spring the cuttings are set vertically into the soil and covered with 3 to 4 inches of soil (or the branches can be layered in late summer when the cane tips are slightly thickened and grow without leaves). R. fruticosus can be tip layered in summer and can also be trained against a wall.
NEEDS: Moist, well-drained soil in sun to part shade. The roots are long-lived, throwing up canes the first year which do not yield fruit until the second year. Once they have given up their fruit, they are done and should be removed. In spring, prune lightly. Susceptible to aphids, crown gall, cane blight, Botrytis and viral diseases.
HARVEST: Leaves are taken either before plant flowers or during flowering, then dried; roots are lifted in summer and dried (root bark is taken at the same time); berries are taken when ripe and used fresh or dried; young shoots are also harvested for some uses in spring..
FLOWERS: June to September
SOLVENT: Water, alcohol
RELATED SPECIES:
CREEPING BLACKBERRY (R. procumbens): Was used by Native Americans for diarrhea and dysentary.
THORNLESS (or Low) BLACKBERRY (R. canadensis): Fruit was eaten by the Iroquois and Kansas Indians.
PURPLE-FLOWERING RASPBERRY (R. odoratus): Was being investigated in 1977 as a possible cancer therapeutic agent.
R. ALLEGHANIENSIS (syn. R. villosus var montanus): Prickles straight, not hooked, and with a range from eastern Canada south to Missouri, Tennessee, and North Carolina, found in thickets and clearings. The Menominees and Prairie Potawatomis used an infusion of the root as an eyewash for sore eyes; also as a poultice. The Meskwaki boiled the root and used the decoction as an antidote to poison.
R. ARGUTUS: A southern U.S. variety.

USES

MEDICINAL:
Astringent, tonic, mild diuretic, hemostatic; fruit specific to liver and kidney. Leaf specific to stomach and intestines. Fruit and juice considered a refrigerant.
Long standing home remedy for diarrhea; European settlers to North America used jam to remedy diarrhea. Has also been used internally for dysentary, hemorrhoids, to loosen phlegm, and cystitis. Root bark as well as dried and powdered fruit have been used for dysentary. The root has been used as a preventative for dropsy (efficacy has not been established).
Leaves, root, and root bark have been used externally for inflammation of the throat, mouth and gums (also bleeding gums) as well as piles, hemorrhoids and leucorrhea. Leaf has also been used to inhibit excessive menstrual bleeding. Chewing of the leaves for bleeding gums is an ancient practice. A strong tea of the leaves has been used externally for eczema.
Has been used as an anti-inflammatory for conditions such as laryngitis and pharyngitis. In American folk medicine the root was also used for tonsillitis.
Fruit and juice have been used for anemia and to regulate menses.
The leaves have been used as a uterine tonic.
The root decoction was once used during the spasmodic phase of whooping cough and a decoction of the leaves was once used as a fomentation for ulcerations; another method was to soak leaves in hot wine to make an infusion, then placing a cloth dipped in the liquid on the ulcerations morning and evening. Once believed useful for appendicitis.
Blackberry jelly was an English folk remedy for swelling of the limbs (especially those associated with heart problems); the jelly was added to apple cider vinegar and used as a compress; blackberry glycerite was also used as a compress on swollen joints.
The flowers and fruit were once used for venemous bites and the young shoots eaten to tighten loose teeth. The white underside of the leaves was said to 'draw' while the smooth green upper side was said to 'soothe'.
Used by ancient Greeks to treat gout, mouth inflammation, and bowel inflammation.
The leaves were once used in England for burns and scalds.
The roots were boiled by the Catawbas for diarrhea. The Alabamas Indians used blackberry for a toothache remedy and a poultice for pneumonia. The Kwakiutils boiled vines, roots, and berries for a drink for those vomiting and spitting blood. The Flambeau Ojibwe boiled the cane to use as a diuretic and used a root tea for diarrhea. The Ojibwe made a tea of the roots as a remedy for pregnant woman who were in danger of miscarrying due to overwork. The Meskwakis used an extract of the root for stomach problems and as a antidote to poison. The Mohegans steeped the berries of the 'running blackberry' (species uncertain) in water and drank as a vermifuge. The root made into a decoction was used by the Chippewa for lung problems as well as for amenorrhea. The Tete de Boule made a tea of the scrapings of the bark of the branches for bronchial infections.
An old remedy for cholera was to combine 2 quarts of blackberry juice with 1 lb of sugar, 1/2 oz nutmeg, 1/2 oz allspice, and boil together, then allowed to stand until cold; 1/4 pint of brandy ws added; 1 tsp up to 2 or 3 wine glass fulls were taken two or three times daily.
Another old remedy for diseases of the bowels was to make a syrup of 8 oz blackberry root (finely cut and bruised), 4 oz bayberry, 2 oz cranesbill, 1 oz myrrh, 2 oz cinnamon, 1/2 oz fennel seed, 1 oz cloves; all were pounded together and placed in 6 quarts of water and allowed to steep 6 to 8 hours at a low simmer until reduced by half; the liquid was then strained and simmered down to 2 pints; while still hot 1 lb of sugar was added; when cold, 1 pint of French brandy wa added; 1 tbsp was considered an adult dose and repeated every 1/2 to 3 hours according to the severity of the illness, and 1 to 2 tsp for a child according to age. Was used for diarrhea, cholera, and cholera morbus.

DOSE: TRADITIONAL DOSAGES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY
!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
BERRIES = 9 to 15 grams
ROOT BARK = 15 to 30 grains
INFUSION = 1 oz dried leaves infused in 1 pint of boiling water; taken cold 1 cup at a time.
DECOCTION of ROOT BARK = 1 oz root bark boiled down in 1½ pints water or milk to 1 pint, then 1/2 cup taken every hour for diarrhea, OR, 1 oz of bruised root boiled in 1½ pints water and 3/4 cup taken.
DECOCTION of ROOT = 2 Tbsp in 3 cups of water simmered down to 2 cups; 1 to 2 tbsp taken up to 4 times daily.
DECOCTION of LEAVES = Boil 1 oz (30g) of dried leaves in 1 pint (1/2 liter) of water for 5 minutes; let sit for 20 minutes, then strain; can be used as a gargle or 1 cup taken as needed.
TINCTURE = 1/2 to 1 tsp twice daily in water
FLUID EXTRACT = 1/2 to 1 tsp
FLUID EXTRACT of ROOT, USP = 15 drops
SYRUP, USP = 1 tsp
BLACKBERRY WINE (a cordial astringent used for diarrhea) = Crush fruit; measure and add 1 quart boiling water to each gallon of fruit; let stand 24 hours, stirring occasionally; strain off liquid and to it add 2 lbs sugar to each gallon; keep tightly corked for 3 months.
BLACKBERRY GLYCERITE = Place berries in a crock; cover with malt or cider vinegar; allow to set 3 days, stirring once daily; then allow to drip through a strainer all day; measure juice and add 8 oz vegetable glycerine to each pint of juice; boil together, skimming scum as it appears; when cool, bottle, label, and keep in a cool place.

VETERINARY:
Used in the treatment of farm animals for gastric problems, failing appetite, diarrhea, nerve and skin disorders.
Used externally in the treatment of farm animals for eczema. Pulped leaves applied to burns and foot blisters.
DOSE for FARM ANIMALS = 2 handfuls of leaves or fruits daily.
An old gypsy tonic for horses is to make a decoction of the young leaves in red wine and dose with 1 pint daily until health is restored; for external problems a decoction of 1 handful leaves in 1½ pints water is used to bathe the affected area.

CULINARY:
Also see:
COOKING with BLACKBERRIES
The dried leaves are used as part of herbal tea blends.
Fruits are eaten fresh or cooked.
Berries are made into jams, jellies, pastries, syrups, cordials, wine.
The berries were often infused in brandy and rum by early settlers of North America.
Although the fresh was preferred, Native Americans dried both blackberries and thimbleberries and added the powdered fruit to water which was sweetened with maple syrup and drank as a beverage (uhiagei).
BLACKBERRY CORDIAL = Press juice from berries; add 2 lbs sugar per each quart of juice and 1/2 oz each of nutmegs and cloves; boil all together from 5 to 10 minutes, then allow to get cold; add a bit of Brandy. OR - Mash or puree (in blender) 4 cups ripe berries; cover with 1 pint of brandy and let stand for 2 to 4 weeks; strain and bottle; can be served immediately.
BLACKBERRY VINEGAR SHRUB (used for feverish colds and as a thirst quencher) = Place berries in a crock and cover with malt vinegar; let stand 3 days to draw out juice; place in strainer and allow to drip all day; measure juice and add 1 lb sugar per each pint of juice; place in kettle and boil gently for 5 minutes, removing scum as it appears; set aside to go cold; bottle and cap; to use, combine 1 tsp of the vinegar to 1 glass of water to drink.
BLACKBERRY SYRUP= 8 cups blackberries, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup honey, 2 tbsp lemon juice. Mash berries and blend in water. Bring to boil over medium heat, then simmer gently for 5 minutes; strain through jelly bag. Measure 4 cups, then to it add the warmed honey and lemon. Refrigerate in sterile bottles.
TIP WINE = Collect 1 gallon of tender green shoots in May or early June (or when available in your area); boil 1 hour in 1 gallon of water to which 4 lbs brown sugar have been added; strain off liquid and allow to ferment; bottle and allow to age 1 year.

COSMETIC:
Leaves used in a skin tonic herbal bath to freshen and brighten winter weary skin. With 6 to 8 oz. of dried leaves, make an infusion and add to bath water.

CRAFT:
Dried berries go well with sweet scented geraniums in potpourri.

DYE:
Light gray to black from young shoots using alum mordant. Root produces orange. Canes red-tan. Berries blue-gray.

OTHER:
Lying beneath the bush, or creeping through the tangle of brambles on hands and knees was once believed a charm against rheumatism, boils, and blackheads. Considering the nasty nature of the prickles and the guaranteed damage this would cause to one's dermis, this could be a case of the cure being so bad, the problem seemed insignificant by comparison. The berries were also believed to provide protection from 'evil runes' if gathered at a propitious time of the moon.
At one time a permanent black hair dye was made by boiling leaves in a strong lye.
The Ojibwa claimed that if an unwell woman ate the berries it would spoil all the berries on the bushes (do you suppose that kept the poor creatures from eating them and ensuring their greedy males got all of the harvest for themselves? Pffft!)





©2000 and 2004 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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