What Is It?
The prickly stemmed, flowering blackberry bushes that grow wild across parts of Europe and North America yield plump, blue-black berries for eating as well as for healing. Ancient Greeks called the plant “goutberry” because it was relied upon to lessen gout-related joint pain. Traveling salesmen of yore were known to tuck a flask of blackberry brandy into their bags to treat the loose stools that often occurred after eating unfamiliar foods. Today, blackberry is probably best known for this very use–as a soothing remedy for diarrhea.
The key to blackberry’s diarrhea-dampening ability is tannin, an astringent substance present in particularly high concentrations in the plant’s leaves and roots. Tannin tightens mucous membrane tissue along the intestinal tract, minimizing the risk for watery stools that can cause such discomfort and pain. (Sipping blackberry tea during a bout of diarrhea also helps to prevent dehydration by replenishing lost fluids.)
This same astringent quality makes cooled blackberry tea useful as a gargle for inflamed sore throats or applied directly in the form of a compress to varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
In addition, the berries are a fine source of antioxidants. Eating them regularly can help to scavenge the dangerous free-radical molecules associated with the development of a variety of ailments, including heart disease and cancer.
There are many kinds of instant blackberry tea on the market. Always check the label carefully because some are simply flavored with blackberry and contain none of the plant’s therapeutic tannins. If you can’t find a good-quality blackberry tea, raspberry tea (also high in tannins) probably works just as well.
There are several species of blackberry; Rubus canadensis is probably the most popular for herbal remedies in North America, while Europeans tend to use Rubus fruticosus.
There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with blackberry.
Avoid blackberry remedies if you suffer from Crohn’s disease or any another chronic gastrointestinal disease.
Diarrhea can cause serious problems if it persists for more than three or four days, so be sure to consult your doctor if this happens. Ailments Dosage Diarrhea Drink 1 cup tea up to 6 times a day. Use 1 tbsp. leaves per cup hot water and steep for 15 minutes.
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David Edelberg, MD