Health benefits of blackberry include better digestive health, strengthened immune defense, healthy functioning of the heart, prevention of cancer, and relief from endothelial dysfunction. Blackberry provides cognitive benefits and aids in enhancing memory, weight management, keeping the bones strong, skin care, improving vision and keeping disease-free eyes, normal blood clotting, and may also serve as a valuable food during pregnancy owing to an impressive gamut of nutrients.
Table of Contents
- What is Blackberry?
- Nutritional Value of Blackberry
- Health Benefits of Blackberry
- Use of Blackberry Leaves
- How to Select & Store Blackberry?
- Side Effects of Blackberry
What is Blackberry?
Blackberry is a delicious and versatile fruit, belonging to the Rubus genus in the Rosaceae family which also includes raspberry and dewberry. Native to the Northern temperate areas of the globe, blackberry has been honored as the official fruit of the state of Alabama and is found copiously in North America and Pacific coast. Ancient cultures perceived blackberry plant as a weed or a wild plant, yet its medicinal history spans back to more than 2000 years. History reveals the traditional usage of blackberry fruit, leaf, bark, and roots by the Romans and Greeks for healing numerous health conditions ranging from a mild infection to venomous bites. In fact, during the 18th century, the Greek cure of using blackberry for treating gout was so influential in Europe that it was famously known as the ‘gout berry’. Recent scientific pieces of evidence have contributed extensively in unearthing the therapeutic potential of blackberries and its worldwide consumption.
Blackberry plant has a biennial erect or partially erect stem with sharp spikes and dark green leaves with clusters of pinkish-white blossoms. It yields purple black aggregate fruit which comprises of multiple smaller fleshy segments or drupelets. Blackberries have a fragile and smooth skin with a greenish core which lengthens nearly to the base of the berry. Immature blackberries are generally red or green and hard to touch and later turn into a black, soft, juicy, and glossy fruits on ripening.
Nutritional Value of Blackberry
Blackberries are tasty and nutrient dense fruits which store a fine range of nourishing components. Vitamins provided by blackberries include vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) and vitamin K (phylloquinone). The mineral wealth of blackberries include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc. Blackberries are also a good source of amino acids and essential dietary fiber, without containing any harmful cholesterol.
Health Benefits of Blackberry
Benefits of blackberry which provides respite in various health conditions have been discussed as under:
Blackberries contain a profuse amount of powerful antioxidants which protect the body in multiple ways. Components such as phenolic acids, flavonoids, and flavonols, particularly anthocyanosides, present in blackberries work against the harmful oxygen free molecules and counteract their action. This protective radical scavenging activity protects the body from a range of diseases caused as consequence of oxidative damage which may be the underlying cause of many fatal conditions.
Blackberry fruit is effective against the development of cancer including lung cancer, colon cancer, and esophageal cancer. The micro-nutrients present in blackberries exert chemo-preventive effect and prevent the proliferation of malignant cells. Various scientific research conducted on blackberries have advocated this fact and have attributed the anti-cancer activity to the abundance of anthocyanins and other phytochemicals, such as ellagic acid and cyaniding-3-glucoside, which inhibit tumor growth and metastasis.
Prevents Endothelial Dysfunction
Blackberries provide protection against the endothelial dysfunction which is characterized by the abnormal functioning of the inner lining of blood vessels. As suggested by scientific studies, they contain useful components such as cyaniding-3-O-glucoside, which fight the oxidative activity and help in the normalizing multiple critical factors implicated in such conditions. It helps in reducing DNA damage and guards against vascular failure.
Blackberry also extends its beneficial effect in improving the cognitive functions of the body. Studies have suggested that polyphenolic components present in blackberries help retard the age-related decline in motor and cognitive activity attributing to their super antioxidant power. Regular consumption of blackberries may prove useful in enhancing the memory performance and improves behavioral and neuronal functions.
Blackberries are a source of both insoluble and soluble fiber essential for the optimum functioning of digestive system. Insoluble fiber in blackberries encourages easy and better absorption of water in the large intestine and adds bulk to the stools. This aids in regular bowel movements, freedom from constipation, and apt digestive health.
The richness of flavonols such as anthocyanins in blackberry makes it a heart-friendly fruit. Other useful components such as magnesium and fiber present in blackberries prevent the arteries from getting blocked and stimulate a smooth flow of blood. This reduces the risk of various heart diseases such as stroke, atherosclerosis, and maintains cardiovascular health. Magnesium in blackberries also helps in regulating the blood pressure and prevents cardiac arrhythmia and irregular contraction.
Blackberries help in improving the immune system of the body, due to the presence of phytoestrogens, vitamins, and minerals. Regular consumption of blackberries helps to fight various pathogens and protects the body from infections and other fatal illnesses.
Aids in Weight Management
Attributing to very low amounts of sugar, blackberries assist in healthy weight management. Effective cleaning of the bowels owing to the fiber content in blackberries and very few amounts of calories make it an excellent snack during weight loss attempts.
Blackberry contains vital minerals such as magnesium and calcium which are essential for maintaining healthy bones. Calcium strengthens the bones and magnesium content in the blackberries facilitates the absorption of calcium and potassium into the body. In addition to this, phosphorus present in blackberries aids in the regulation of calcium assisting in building strong bones, and also contributing to proper cellular functioning.
Blackberry can serve as a delicious aid in maintaining beautiful skin. It is packed with multiple skin-friendly nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, and other potent antioxidants. Vitamin E present in blackberry helps in maintaining the health of skin fats and prevents the skin from wrinkles. Apart from protecting the skin from oxidative damage, vitamin C present in blackberry is also responsible for the formation and strengthening of collagen structure which is the basis of connective tissue and aids in keeping the skin toned and tightened.
Blackberry is useful for maintaining healthy eyes. Regular consumption of blackberries helps in protecting the eyes from ultra-violet radiations, attributing to the presence of lutein. Lutein forms protective pigment in the area behind the retina, also known as macula and prevents it from the damage caused by oxidative stress and high wavelength light radiations. Furthermore, anthocyanosides and vitamins present in blackberries enhance the vision and protect the eyes from various diseases such as macular degeneration, cataract and night blindness.
Normal Blood Clotting
Blackberries contain a good amount of vitamin K, which helps in normal clotting of blood. It also helps in preventing excessive bleeding from slight injuries and aids in healing wounds. Vitamin K present in blackberries is also essential for protein modification and plays an important role in protecting bones from osteoporosis.
Useful in Pregnancy
Blackberry may prove beneficial for pregnant women. As a source of natural folate, blackberry contributes in the optimum growth of the cells and tissues and helps reduce the risk of birth defects in babies. Folate is anyway a critical nutrient required for better cellular functioning in all age groups. Vitamin C and other antioxidants help to boost the disease-fighting power of the expectant mother, and presence of essential minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorous in blackberry strengthens bones and contribute to keeping her healthy. Besides, it has a refreshing taste which makes it a healthy option for a quick snack during pregnancy.
Blackberry can be added to fresh fruit salads, baked goods such as tarts, cakes, and pies or used to prepare jellies or preserves. They can also be combined with other fruits to prepare fruit salsa which can be served with crisps and chips. Blackberry serves as a delicious topping over various desserts including ice creams. Blackberries are also used in the preparation of wines and are available in canned and dried form as well.
Use of Blackberry Leaves
Leaves of blackberry plant have been found effective in curing diarrhea and dysentery since early times, and have also been a topic of interest for modern research. This is attributed to the abundance of astringent tannins in the herb, which helps control such conditions in the digestive tract. Another benefit of astringent tannins in blackberry leaves is their healing effect on wounds. External application of tincture or infusion made from blackberry leaves helps in the constriction of blood vessels and cure small injuries. The astringent qualities of blackberry leaf may also prove useful in the soothing a sore throat and treating hemorrhoids.
How to Select & Store Blackberry?
Pick fresh, aromatic blackberries, devoid of any mushiness. Generally, the perfectly ripe blackberries which are ready to eat, have a deep black color, while the ones that are not fully ripe may have dark red or purple color. When buying blackberries packaged in a box, look for any visible stickiness between the blackberries. Blackberries sticking to one another or inclining to the container may indicate budding spoilage. Blackberries perish quickly and should ideally be consumed within 3-4 days. They may be kept in a shallow vessel without making multiple layers or placing them on one another, and refrigerated to avoid decay by covering the container with a loose plastic wrap. For further usage, blackberries may be frozen by arranging them in a baking tray with a rim, again in a solo layer. Once the blackberries are frozen, they may be shifted to a zipper freezer bag, sealed and put back into the freezer again. As these frozen berries may become soggy when defrosted, they may be apt for cooking purposes.
Side Effects of Blackberry
If you are not allergic to berries, then blackberries are the fruit for you and are safe for general consumption. However, some pieces of evidence have shown that the presence of tannins in blackberry may contribute to the development of tumors if consumed in high concentrations. The good news is that blackberry fruit have very small quantities of tannins which have not shown any such detrimental effects.
Black tea leaf: Extra caution is advised regarding the intake of blackberry leaf tea or decoction. Consumption of large quantities of blackberry leaf tea elevates a number of tannins in the body tremendously and may cause stomach complications such as nausea and vomiting. Experts generally recommend the usage of milk in the preparation of blackberry leaf tea to neutralize the effect of tannins. People already suffering from cancer or have the previous history of such diseases should avoid the usage of tea made from blackberry leaf.
Blackberry root: Blackberry root is also a profuse source of tannins and is not recommended for individuals suffering from chronic gastrointestinal problems such as colitis.
Pregnancy and children: Pregnant and lactating mothers may eat blackberry fruit in normal amounts but should avoid the usage of blackberry leaf tea. Children under 24 months should not be given blackberry leaf tea. For older children and very old people with age more than 65 years, medical advice is recommended to prescribe the correct dose of the blackberry leaf tea.
Blackberry leaf may result in allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe, so an opinion from a medical expert is always recommended to discuss an individual’s existing symptoms, correct dosage, and potential risks before considering blackberry leaf tea for therapeutic purposes to avoid any undesirable conditions. In case you notice any allergic reactions post the consumption of blackberry or blackberry leaf tea, consult a healthcare professional immediately.
Blackberry is a multipurpose plant with its usage varying from food to major medicinal benefits. It is even used as a natural dye and food colorant, owing to the presence of anthocyanins which gives color to the blackberries. Traditional usage of blackberries, its roots, stems, and leaves for therapeutic purposes and its unique and refreshing taste have been drawing a great deal of attention from consumers and medical researchers for further investigation. So don’t forget to pick up some blackberries to accentuate the taste and health factor of the next pie you are going to bake or the regular fruit salad you eat every day.