Blackberry

Blackberry is a well-known and widely consumed fruit that boasts medicinal properties as well as versatile culinary applications.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Blackberry
  • Scientific nameRubus fruticosus
  • Main producer(s)Mexico
  • Main Economic UseCulinary
Blackberry

Blackberry is an herb so ancient – over 30 million years old – that it is unclear whether it originated in Asia, Europe, North America, or South America. Blackberries have been valued over time for both their culinary and medicinal properties. Ancient Greeks used the fruit to remedy gout, while Romans favored the leaves to treat various ailments. Egyptians used the berries as hair dye due to the effectiveness of their dark color. Native Americans also used them for food, medicine, to make twine, and to dye animal skins. Because blackberries grow wild throughout the world, they have retained their popularity in many different cultures.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionAntioxidant, Nootropic
  • Key constituentsAnthocyanins, ellagic acid
  • Ways to useCapsules, Food
  • Medicinal rating(3) Reasonably useful plant
  • Safety rankingSafe
Blackberry Benefits

Health Benefits of Blackberry

Because blackberry is more widely used as a food product, it has not been studied clinically. Nonetheless, its constituents and properties suggest the following potential medicinal uses:

  • Supporting brain function. Thanks to their antioxidant properties, blackberries boost memory and cognition, thus preventing age-related diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer.

  • Boosting immunity. Blackberries strength cell metabolism, which shields the body against damaging free radicals and potentially harmful pathogens.

  • Promoting gastrointestinal health. The consumption of blackberries encourages good bacterial growth, which helps with the treatment of diarrhea and improves digestion.

Additionally, blackberries are a good source of fiber, which naturally helps regulate blood sugar.

How It Works

Blackberry is abundant in phenolic compounds, mainly anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant, which is responsible for the fruit's dark hue,  and ellagic acid, which helps prevent inflammation and cellular deterioration.

Both antioxidant compounds work reducing the proliferation of reactive oxygen species in cells, preventing mutations and dead due to oxidative stress. This mechanism of action not improves immune responses against diseases, but has also shown neuroprotective effects.

In addition, the presence of tannins allow for the astringent properties of blackberries, which help in the treatment of diarrhea and normalize digestive functions.

Blackberries also provide essential micronutrients, mainly vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin B3 (niacin), and manganese.

Blackberries are a good source of dietary fiber.

Blueberry and carambola also possess antioxidant properties, whereas tomato and pineapple provide similar anti-inflammatory benefits.

Side Effects of Blackberry

Blackberry is considered generally safe for consumption; however, it may trigger unfavorable reactions in people allergic to Rosaceae species, causing anaphylaxis in rare cases.

Over consumption of blackberry may cause adverse reactions, such as stomach discomfort, nausea, and vomiting.

Cautions

While in dietary amounts the tannins in blackberry are considered harmless, people with a history of degenerative diseases, such as cancer, as well as the ones with chronic gastrointestinal conditions, should seek the advise of a health care professional before consuming the leaves and roots of blackberry in medicinal doses.

Blackberry fruits are considered safe for everyone to consume; however, women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, as well as children under two years old should avoid blackberry leaf tea.

How to Consume Blackberry

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsFruit
  • Edible usesFlavoring, Coloring, Condiment, Beverage
  • TasteSweet, Tart

For centuries, blackberries have been valued by many different cultures as a way to enhance the flavor and smell of all types of meals. However, for medicinal purposes, blackberries can be taken as a supplement or as herbal remedies.

Natural Forms

  • Raw. Although it is widely used as an ingredient in many cooked meals, blackberries are also popularly consumed raw. They can be used as a garnish or an addition to a variety of sweet and savory dishes.

  • Cooked. Blackberries are commonly used in jams, pies, and desserts due to their natural sweetness; however, they are also used to flavor alcoholic beverages, such as wine and brandy.

  • Powder. This is popular form of consumption, with a longer shelf-life, and can be mixed with shakes and other beverages.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

  • Liquid extract. This preparation concentrates the natural properties of the herb. Few daily drops diluted in a glass of water can bring all the benefits of blackberries.

  • Capsules. The antioxidant power of blackberries can be obtained in standardized, daily doses.

Buying

Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buySupermarkets, Farmers' markets

Natural Forms

Fresh blackberry is available year round in most supermarkets. Although its is mostly bought fresh, other forms are also available, such as frozen berries and powder, which can also be purchased online.

Blackberries are imported from Mexico to the United States and Europe during the off-season, so they remain available all year-round, either in fresh form or as jam and juice.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

Blackberry supplements are mainly found in specialized health stores. In addition, there is a wide variety of blackberry products available through online retailers.

Blackberry supplements are made from the fruit and leaves of the blackberry plant most commonly. However, they can also be found made with the juice of the fruit. Because of the different ways in which the supplements can be produced, it is important to research the content of any supplement. It is also a good idea to consult a medical expert before deciding to take blackberry in medicinal doses.

Growing

Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Harvested partsLeaves, Fruit
  • Light requirementsFull sun
  • SoilLight (sandy)
  • Soil pH5.6 – 6.0 (Moderately acidic), 6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic)
  • Growing habitatTemperate climates
  • Plant spacing average3 m (9.84 ft)
  • Potential diseasesViruses

Blackberry is very adaptable to its surroundings, and grows wild on many continents throughout the world. In fact, in some regions, it is even considered a weed. However, when it comes to commercial cultivars, it is important to consider the specific type of blackberry being grown.

Growing Guidelines

  • Erect blackberry shrubs require less spacing (as little as 10 feet, or about 3 m, between each shrub) but fairly regular formation pruning; semi-erect and trailing cultivars will require 16 - 26 feet (approx. 5 - 8 m) between each plant in addition to training to conduct growth.

  • In order for blackberry to reach its maximum potential, it should be planted in sandy, acidic soil in a spot which is exposed to full sun.

  • It is preferable for the soil to have a pH of 5.5 - 7.0. Deep watering will prevent soil from drying out.

  • Blackberries prefer warm, temperate climates and are vulnerable to frosts.

  • They are also quite vulnerable to viral infestations, so it's strongly encouraged to keep blackberry plantations far away from wild blackberry shrubs.

Additional Information

Quick Facts (Additional Information)
  • Other usesDye

Plant Biology

The blackberry fruit has a torus that stays with the fruit, which is what differentiates it from raspberries and brambles, relatives in the same genus. The fruit is not a true berry; it is instead an aggregated fruit. The leaves are three or five compound oval leaflets, and the white or pink flowers of the plant are 0.75 - 1.2 inches (2 - 3 cm) in diameter.

  • Classification

    Blackberry is a member of the Rosaceae family, which contains about 2,830 species spread out over 95 genera. Other well-known members of the Rosaceae family are almond (Prunus dulcis), apple (Malus domestica), pear (Pyrus communis), prune (Prunus domestica), and strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa).

    Blackberry is also a member of the genus Rubus, which comprises a wide variety of evergreen and deciduous shrubs. It includes 12 recognized subgenera, many of which have hundreds of species. Raspberry (R. idaeus), and blackberry (R.eubatus), are among the most popular species of Rubus cultivated for their edible berries. On the other hand, R. coreanus and R. hirsutus are mostly used in Chinese traditional medicine, while R. ursinos has been traditionally consumed by Native Americans to treat swellings and sores. 

  • Varieties and Cultivars of Blackberry

    For millennia, blackberry has grown wild on the Earth and dozens of varieties have appeared naturally. As a result, there are many types of blackberries nowadays.

    Because of the blackberry's ability to crossbreed with ease, there are numerous cultivars that have been created and introduced for commercial and amateur cultivation, both in Europe and in the United States, such as the long-standing 'Brazos' and 'Cherokee', or the newer 'Black Satin' variety. Prickle-free cultivars, which facilitate processing of the fruit, have been developed throughout the world, including the 'Black Diamond' and 'Nightfall' cultivars.

    Popularly consumed hybrids of raspberry and blackberry are 'loganberry', 'boysenberry', and 'tayberry.'

Economic Data

Mexico is currently the biggest producer of blackberries, with most of their produce being exported to North America and Europe during the off-season.

Oregon is the biggest blackberry-producing state in the United States, with over 56.1 million pounds (25.4 million kg) of blackberries cultivated over 7,000 acres in 2009. The United Kingdom, Chile, and New Zealand are also producers.

Blackberries crossbreed with each other easily, and so many have been artificially cultivated to increase their yield and value.

Other Uses

  • Dye. Historically, the berries have been used as a dye for both hair and materials.

  • Wine. The blackberry vines and twigs have been historically used as flavoring agents in the wine industry.

  • Cosmetics. Extracts of blackberry are also added to some cosmetics for color or aroma.

Bibliography