Blackberry bushes supply us with medicinal leaves, bark, roots, and berries. Blackberry leaves make an astringent tea (or wash), the roots (and bark) are made into decoctions, and all parts are used in tinctures and tonics.
These preparations are good when used internally for sore throat, cough, fevers, mouth sores, indigestion, rheumatism, gum disease, gout, kidney problems, urinary problems, prostate problems, menstrual cramps, and diarrhea.
Use externally for sores, bug bites, eczema, swelling, burns, scalds, wounds, anemia, hemorrhoids, and as skin toner. Teas may also be used as gargles and are especially effective for sore throats and laryngitis.
The berries are diuretic, laxative, and cleansing. Blackberries are a great source of nutrients including Vitamin C, Vitamin K, manganese, and dietary fiber. Of course, blackberries also make great pies, jellies, vinegars, and wines.
Blackberry vinegar is great for coughs due to colds and flu. Cover a quart of berries with red vinegar and steep for a week in a cool, dark place. Check daily and gently push berries down into liquid to prevent mold (throw away the whole batch if mold appears). Strain and keep your blackberry vinegar in the refrigerator until needed. To treat coughs and sore throats, mix with honey and other herbal expectorants.
Blackberry wine is an old time favorite and is easy to make. Crush fruit; measure and add 1 quart boiling water to each gallon of fruit; let stand 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain and add 2 lbs sugar to each gallon of liquid; keep tightly corked for 3 months.
Blackberry bushes, native to eastern North America, are thorny brambles (and are kin to roses). New, first year canes will not bear fruit until the second year. Blackberries grow in meadows, clearings, fence rows, and along roadsides. They prefer moist, well-drained soil. Blackberries are perennials that spread by creeping suckers. In the North Georgia Mountains blackberries begin blooming in May. Blackberry winter occurs at this time when temperatures drop suddenly into the 50’s or 60’s. After highs in the 80’s and 90’s, everyone is freezing and wishing the winter clothes weren't packed away.
Leaves should be harvested and dried for winter use before fruit ripens. Blackberries begin to ripen in late June or early July and continue producing for several weeks. It takes about 3 quarts of berries to make a run (7 to 8 half-pints) of jelly.
*Dewberry and raspberry plants may be substituted for blackberries as they contain the same healing properties. Diabetics should know that strong infusions (teas) made from blackberry leaves can lower blood sugar levels. Never use blackberries that have been sprayed or exposed to traffic exhaust fumes. Blackberry leaves are a strong stimulant and can bring about uterine contractions – never drink blackberry leaf tea when pregnant or when trying to become pregnant. (Raspberry leaf tea may be safely used during labor as a uterine tonic.) Blackberry leaf tea may cause nausea in some cases. If so, discontinue use. Always consult with your healthcare professional before using any herbal remedy especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking other medications.
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