Growing Blackberries as a Medicinal Herb
From the Rubus genus in the Rosaceae family, blackberries are low in calories (just 62 calories per cup), provides 50% of the minimum daily requirement of the vitamin C, and eight grams of dietary fiber along with traces of magnesium, calcium and iron. Not only do blackberries taste good and are good for you, but you can also use them medicinally to treat common maladies.
Blackberries are easy to grow. Many different varieties of this fruit grow throughout Europe and North America. This bramble requires full sun for optimal food production. Even though blackberries will grow well in many types of soil like most cultivated plants, they do best in well-drained loam or sandy loam soils with 5.5-7.0 ph. The soil should be at least two foot deep and if hardpan is present or soil is compacted, soil does better if double dug down to two feet. If the soil is poorly drained, the plants do well planted in a raised bed. The raised bed should be high enough to increase soil depth to 2 foot above compacted or hardpan. This type of bed should also be about three feet wide and can be however long you want. Incorporate well-composted organic material throughout the bed.
Plant your blackberries during the winter months after the first of the year before spring growth begins to occur. Dig your planting hole, prune damaged roots, and spread roots in hole. Plant to the same depth that they were planted at the nursery. Cover soil over the roots and tamp down firmly to stabilize plant. Water thoroughly then cover with a thick layer of mulch. I recommend using sawdust or wood chips. Space the plants three to four feet apart in the row, and 8 to 10 feet between rows. Cut canes to six inches at this time so that the plants can focus on setting down roots. Some types of blackberries require a trellis while others will grow without support. In either case, trellising can make harvesting easier. Any trellises should be installed at planting time.
Do not expect any berries the first year because the plants will be growing new canes from the plant crowns and not setting fruit. During the first growing season, you will need to irrigate your blackberries as you do your annual garden at a rate of one inch per week, but during subsequent seasons, you will no longer need to do that except during the fruiting season if drought coincides with the fruiting season. During the second year, the plants produce fruit. At the end of the fruiting season, remove mulch then apply a layer of compost or manure and replenish mulch by replacing the sawdust. Autumn fall leaves can also be used.
In ancient times, blackberries were supposed to give protection against all 'evil runes,' if they were gathered under the right moon sign. Greek physicians prescribed the leaves, roots, and berries for gout. Native Americans made fiber from the stems to make a strong twine. Villages used blackberry briars to protect the village from both four legged and two legged invaders. The fruit was often used to obtain a purple to dull blue dye.
The leaves, roots, and blackberry fruit are all used for medicinal purposes. Blackberry fruits are high in antioxidants because it contains anthocyanin. Anthrocyanin is a bioflavonoid found in cocoa, nuts, tea, wines, and many types of fruits. It prevents free radical damage in the body. It helps improve vision, reduce hypertension, and enhances liver function. It also helps increase memory and mental acuity.
The roots contain tannins that produce an astringent effect particularly of the mucous membranes of the digestive tract. Blackberry root tea or tincture can be used to treat dysentery, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and other disorders of the digestive tract. If gastrointestinal conditions last longer than a week or are severely intensive, consult your physician before using any herbal remedy.
Dried blackberry root, leaves and berries can be used in a gargle to treat sore throat, swollen gums and mouth sores. Mild cases of thrush of the mouth of young children can also be treated with this gargle.
A poultice of blackberry leaves can be applied to cuts and scrapes to decrease the risk of infection. This will also help with the control of minor bleeding.
How to Preserve
Blackberry fruit canned, made into jellies, jams or wine can all be used as ways of preserving the fruit for use later in the season.
In addition, you can dry green leaves at any time during the growing season. You can use a dehydrator, a solar drier, or other drying technique. The blackberries should be dried
Medicinal herb tea can be made from one ounce dried leaves and root bark and added to one pint of boiling water. Steep for ten minutes. Drink while still hot or in the summer it can be made into an iced tea.
Blackberry tincture can be made by filling a quart jar with blackberries and blackberry leaves, then adding 4 ounces of vodka. Cover jar tightly and put into dark cabinet at room temperature. Shake contents several times a day for about 2 weeks. At the end of the 2 weeks strain the leaves and berries from the steeped vodka. Place into brown dropper bottle. Use 1-2 droppers full every few hours until symptoms subside.
© 2013 Donna Brown
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