The sun warms our faces, kisses our arms and necks, as we make our way to start our first mulberry harvest of the season. It isn't unbearably hot out, the breeze helps. We pick the berries, fighting off bugs and reaching higher. Berries fall to the ground and we grab those, too.
The birds sit in the branches closer to the top of the tree, looking down, rushing off. Don't worry, we'll leave enough for you. Berries have stained our hands, stained my pants, stained a spot on my neck where a bug had landed; goes without saying, that bug is no more...
About four cups worth of berries later, I set out to process them and make a spread for our future morning toast.
Oh, this beautiful tree.
The mulberry Morus tree belongs to the family Moracaea. In Asia, they still use this tree in the process of raising silk worms. The worms use it as food and shelter, particularly the white mulberry Morus alba tree that is native to Asia. From there, it spread to Greece, France, and then the rest of the world. Monks and kings alike learned to appreciate and cultivate silk. Eventually, it became a world wide trade.
The mulberry trees, red, black, and white alike, also have a long history of being used medicinally. To this day it's used in Ayurvedic and chinese medicine, particularly in the method of treating those with type 2 diabetes. In fact, it is quite common over in Asia for the use of mulberry leaves in helping lower blood sugar.
Research has been done to prove whether or not it is possible to lower blood sugar with mulberry. In one study, they used both normal rats and diabetic rats. (Where do you even find those? Did someone give a rat fast-food?) The researchers made a false mulberry extract, simply dyed water for placebo effect, to look like the true extract. One group of rats received the mulberry extract, the other the fake extract. After eating the same meals and doing the same things, the study showed that the mulberry extract showed an dramatic lowering to their blood sugar.
In western style medicine, mulberry is highly used in our pharmaceutical industry. A few of its constituents, such as Albanol and Hydroxymoricin, play a key role in many medications. Albanol, found in the root bark of the plant, may interfere with chemotherapy negatively as it brings about apoptosis of the cells. This means that old cells die to make room for new cells. Though that's good in the fight against cancer, it doesn't pair well with chemotherapy treatment.
There can be many benefits from the use of mulberry, if we were to incorporate it into our daily lives. The berry, more tart than sweet (to me), is high in antioxidants, potassium, and vitamins, while the leaves contain sugars, amino acids, and even more complex vitamins. It would be a great addition to any diet; the proper snack you need rather than junk that weighs you down (or possibly turns rats diabetic). The antioxidants help eat away toxins in the GI tract. They also eat away at free radicals that target the body's cells, protecting against cell damage. In that, it plays an important role in cancer prevention.
Mulberry also contains a high number of flavonoids, phenolic compounds, and may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Flavonoids provide anti-inflammatory properties, anti-viral, and anti-carcinogenic properties as well. In all of this, they help support the immune system.
You can make many things with mulberries, such as jams and jellies, pies and more. I made a spread for toast by mashing the berries and putting them in the crock pot to cook over night. This made the spread thick and good for toast. You can make a tea from the leaves, a decoction from the bark, and simply eat the berries for supporting your health in ways mentioned above. Apply the decoction to your skin for anti-inflammatory aid. When using the berries, pick the ripe ones as shown down below:
Quick Tip: My husband and I have found that the best way to gather the berries is to place a large piece of cloth on the ground and shake the limbs so that the berries fall. This is much easier and less time consuming, especially if you're hungry for a snack.
Warning: The unripe fruit and shoots are known to contain hallucinogens! Try to avoid the unripe fruit, or at least do not eat it in large doses.
Also, be careful when taking this herb, as it may lower your blood sugar. If you are taking medications or insulin for diabetes, consult a doctor prior to use so you can adjust them accordingly.
Not much has been reported on whether you should take mulberry while pregnant or nursing. If you are unsure whether it would be safe for you to partake in this herb, then it is best to avoid it completely or at least talk with a physician first.
For those with kidney problems, such as kidney disease, it is best to not use mulberry because of the high amounts of potassium in it.
So if you're out and about and find this tree, maybe grab a few berries and even some leaves. Perhaps even think about planting a mulberry tree in your very own yard. To be able to grow your own food and your own medicine, is a joy I wish for everyone to experience. Get your hands dirty (or stained, such as in my case), and go wildcrafting!
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Murthy, D. (n.d.). Antioxidant and Medicinal properties of Mulberry (Morus sp.): A Review. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from https://www.academia.edu/10096416/Antioxidant_and_Medicinal_properties_of_Mulberry_Morus_sp._A_Review
Bajpai, S. (n.d.). History and active pharmacokinetic principles of mulberry: a review. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from https://www.academia.edu/2153761/
Mudra, M., Ercan-Fang, N., Zhong, L., Furne, J., & Levitt, M. (2015, December 28). Influence of mulberry leaf extract on the blood glucose and breath hydrogen response to ingestion of 75 g sucrose by type 2 diabetic and control subjects. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from https://experts.umn.edu/en/publications/influence-of-mulberry-leaf-extract-on-the-blood-glucose-and-breat
Phytochemical Profiles of Different Mulberry (Morus sp.) Species from China. (n.d.). Retrieved June 02, 2017, from http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf9022228?journalCode=jafcau
Mulberry Tea Side Effects. (n.d.). Retrieved June 02, 2017, from http://www.mulberrytea.org/effects/mulberry-tea-side-effects.html
Author: Tina Potter
Master Herbalist, I've graduated as an American Healthcare College Alumnus, I've become a member of American Herbalist Guild and author of survivalist series Survival Ember co-authored by professional survivalist Kenny Dietrich of Ashland, KY. I've been beyond blessed with the constant desire to learn and teach.
COMMON SENSE NOTICE: I do not claim to diagnose, treat, or cure disease. What you do with the information I post is up to you, but it is advised to consult with a doctor before acting on alternative methods of medicine. I wish you all the best!