Health benefits of blackberry include better digestive health, strengthened immune defense, healthy functioning of heart, prevention of cancer and relief from endothelial dysfunction. Blackberry provides cognitive benefits and aids in enhancing memory, weight management, keeping the bones strong, healthy skin, improved vision and disease-free eyes, normal blood clotting and may also serve as a valuable food during pregnancy owing to an impressive gamut of healthful nutrients.
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 evidences 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 somewhat greenish core which lengthens nearly to the base of the berry. Immature blackberries are generally red or green and hard to touch which later turns into black, soft, juicy and glossy fruit on ripening.
Blackberries are tasty and nutrient dense fruit which stores 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). 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 offering any harmful cholesterol.
Health Benefits of Blackberry
Benefits of blackberry which provides respite in various health conditions have been discussed as under:
Antioxidant potential: Blackberries contain a profuse amount of powerful antioxidant which protects 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.
Anti-cancer properties: Blackberry fruit is effective against the development of cancer including lung cancer, colon cancer and esophageal cancer. The micronutrients present in blackberries exert chemopreventive effect and prevents 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 inhibits tumor growth and metastasis.
Defense against endothelial dysfunction: Blackberries provides protection against the endothelial dysfunction which is characterized by the abnormal functioning of inner lining of blood vessels. As suggested by scientific studies, it contains useful components such as cyaniding-3-O-glucoside which fights the oxidative activity and helps in the normalizing multiple critical factors implicated in such conditions. It helps in reducing the DNA damage and guards against vascular failure.
Cognitive benefits: Blackberry also extends its beneficial effect in improving the cognitive functions of the body. Research 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 blackberry may prove useful in enhancing the memory performance and improves behavioral and neuronal functions.
Improved digestive health: 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.
Healthy heart: Richness of flavonols such as anthocyanins in blackberries makes it a heart friendly fruit. Other useful components such as magnesium and fiber content present in blackberries prevent the arteries from getting blocked and stimulates smooth blow of blood. This reduces the risk of various heart diseases such as stroke, atherosclerosis and maintains cardiovascular health. Magnesium content in blackberries also helps in regulating the blood pressure and prevents cardiac arrhythmia and irregular contraction.
Immunity booster: Blackberries help in improving the immune system of the body attributing to the presence of phytoestrogens, vitamins and minerals. Regular consumption of blackberries helps fight various pathogens and protects from body from infections and other fatal illnesses.
Aids in weight management: Owing 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 makes it an excellent snack during the weight loss attempts.
Healthy bones: Blackberry contains vital minerals such as magnesium and calcium which are essential for maintain healthy bones. Calcium strengthens the bones and magnesium content in the blackberries facilitates the absorption of calcium and potassium in the body. In addition to this, phosphorus mineral present in blackberries aids in regulation of calcium and assists in building strong bones and contributes in proper cellular functioning.
Skin care: Blackberry can serve you 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.
Healthy eyes: 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 vitamin content present in blackberries enhances the vision and protect the eyes from various diseases such as macular degeneration, cataract and night blindness.
Normal blood clotting: Blackberries contains good amount of vitamin K which helps in normal clotting of blood. It helps in preventing excessive bleeding from even 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 helpful for pregnant women. As a source of natural folate, blackberry contributes in optimum growth of the cells and tissues and helps reduce the risk of birth defects in the babies. Folate is anyway a critical nutrient required for better cellular functioning for all age groups. Vitamin C and other antioxidants help boost the disease fighting power of the expectant mother and presence of essential minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorous in blackberry strengthens the bones and contribute in keeping her healthy. Besides it has a refreshing taste which makes it a healthy option for a quick snack during pregnancy.
Culinary usage: Blackberry can be added to fresh fruit salads, baked goods such as tarts, cakes and pies or 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.
Usage of blackberry leaves: Leaves of blackberry plant have been found effective in curing diarrhea and dysentery since the earlier times and also have been a topic of interest for modern research. This attributes 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 effecting on the 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 soothing sore throat and treating hemorrhoids.
Blackberry: Tips to select and store
Pick up fresh aromatic blackberries devoid of any mushiness. Generally, the perfectly ripe blackberries which are ready to eat, have deep black color while the ones that are not fully ripen 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 on inclining 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 later usage, blackberries may be frozen by arranging them in baking tray with a rim again in solo layer. Once the blackberries are frozen, they made be shifted into a zipper freezer bag, sealed and again put back into the freezer. As these frozen berries may become soggy when defrosted, they may be apt only for cooking purposes.
Blackberry: word of caution
If you are not allergic to berries then, blackberries are the fruit for you and are safe for general consumption. However, some evidences have shown that the presence of tannins in blackberry may contribute in 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 the amount of tannins in the body tremendously and may cause serious 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 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. Small 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 to 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 fatal conditions. In case you notice any allergic reactions post the consumption of blackberry or blackberry leaf tea, consult a health care 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 also gives the 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 the consumers and medical researchers for further investigations. 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.