I’m on a mission to reintroduce mulberry trees (Morus alba) – in backyards that are big enough or in large pots. They are fantastic permaculture plants, with many uses, including a providing outdoor fun for local kids!
Here, I’m just going to focus on their nutritional and medicinal value. Read on if you’d like to know more.
I hadn’t realised just how healthy mulberries are for us until I did some Google research and reviewed reports in scientific publications. They have been shown to be a valuable source of food nutrients and natural antioxidants (Imran etal, 2010) with medicinal value (Wang etal, 2012).
Nutritionally, they provide protein, fibre, vitamin C (think collagen synthesis for healthy cartilage and skin), vitamin K (think healthy bones and blood clotting), riboflavin aka vitamin B2 (think healthy red blood cells, energy metabolism) and iron (think oxygen transport and healthy white blood cells).
Fibre helps stabilises blood sugar; promotes satiety; helps alleviate constipation – and can be a delicious contribution to a calorie controlled diet for weight loss.
A food-grade mulberry leaf powder has shown potential as a dietary supplement for preventing diabetes mellitus by suppressing elevation of blood glucose and insulin (Kimura etal, 2007).
However, this doesn’t mean it’s safe to casually eat the leaves. “Wild Man” naturalist, Steve Brill, provides advice here about which leaves to collect and how to prepare them.
Other studies have validated the safe use of leaves, fruit and roots of the mulberry tree (and many other plants) as a traditional medicine for diabetes and other health conditions, including hypertension, jaundice (liver disease) (Lans, 2006) and inflammatory lung disorders like bronchitis (Lim etal, 2013). The work of Pirvulescu etal (2011) demonstrates the anti-inflammatory potential protection against cardiovascular disease.
Mulberries are also a valuable source of the polyphenol, resveratrol (usually the excuse for drinking more red wine and eating more red grapes), a phytochemical shown to have diverse biochemical activity as an antioxidant that reduces free radical damage. This can help protect us against cancer, heart disease, inflammation and viral infections (Shankar, Singh and Srivastava, 2007).
The leaves are potentially a significant protein source and have been assessed as such for their value as a feed supplement for sheep (Kandylis, Hadjigeorgiou and Harizanis, 2009). Foraging for human consumption however is NOT recommended, given the advice above from Steve Brill.
Kim etal (2013) also describe how alkaloids in mulberries activate macrophages, white blood cells that stimulate the immune system and Kaewkaen etal (2012) report on research suggesting that active ingredients in mulberries have potential neuroprotective properties.
What’s not to love about mulberries – medicine that tastes so good!
The photo above shows my neighbour's kids scrambling through my mulberry tree to collect enough to make mulberry pie. I like to eat them simply fresh with some cream. Smoothies are a treat too. Just Google for mulberry recipes (desserts, jam, jelly). Ideally keep the added sugar as low as possible.
Mulberry trees are moreover very easy to propagate from cuttings, to grow and to maintain – provided you prune them annually to keep their growth under control.
If you live close to me, contact me to arrange to get some cuttings for a gold coin donation or Google to find nurseries that sell established trees.
Imran M etal, 2010, “Chemical composition and antioxidant activity of certain Morus species”, J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2010 Dec;11(12, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21121077>, viewed 15 October 2017.
Kaewkaen P etal, 2012, “Mulberry Fruit Extract Protects against Memory Impairment and Hippocampal Damage in Animal Model of Vascular Dementia”, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:263520, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22952555>, viewed 15 October 2017.
Kandylis K, Hadjigeorgiou I and Harizanis P, 2009, “The nutritive value of mulberry leaves (Morus alba) as a feed supplement for sheep”, Trop Anim Health Prod. 2009 Jan;41(1):17-24, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19052898>, viewed 15 October 2017.
Kim SB etal, 2013, “Macrophage activating activity of pyrrole alkaloids from Morus alba fruits”, J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Jan 9;145(1):393-6, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23164765>, viewed 15 October 2017.
Kimura T etal, 2007, “Food-grade mulberry powder enriched with 1-deoxynojirimycin suppresses the elevation of postprandial blood glucose in humans”, J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Jul 11;55(14):5869-74, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17555327>, viewed 15 October 2017.
Lans CA, 2006, “Ethnomedicines used in Trinidad and Tobago for urinary problems and diabetes mellitus’, J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2006 Oct 13;2:45, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17040567> , viewed 15 October 2017.
Lim HJ etal, 2013, “The root barks of Morus alba and the flavonoid constituents inhibit airway inflammation”, J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Aug 26;149(1):169-75, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23806866>, viewed 15 October 2017.
Shankar S, Singh G and Srivastava RK, 2007, “Chemoprevention by resveratrol: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential’, Front Biosci. 2007 Sep 1;12:4839-54. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17569614> , viewed 15 October 2017.
Tremblay S, 2017, Health Benefits of Mulberries, https://www.livestrong.com/article/408406-health-benefits-of-mulberries/, viewed 15 October 2017
Wang W etal, 2012, “In vitro antioxidant and antimicrobial activity of extracts from Morus alba L. leaves, stems and fruits”, Am J Chin Med. 2012;40(2):349-56, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22419428> , viewed 15 October 2017.