Blackberry (Rubus fructicosus)
As I am about to write the words "berries are herbs," a strange panorama stirs across my mind and I am returned to a vignette of childhood. I remember my mother asking me to walk down the road from our Long Pond summer cottage to pick some blackberries, although I often ate more than I brought back home. Of course, we usually used these berries for dessert, but on occasion I recall my mother saying, "This batch is for the vinegar," or "this batch is for the powder." Both were extraordinarily effective, medicines.
Diarrhea The powder that I am speaking of was made from fresh whole, dried blackberries. After washing them, mother dried and heated them in the sun or in a moderately hot oven until the berries were dry and could be powdered. This powder was put away in a tightly shut jar labeled "D." I somehow thought the "D" meant Dincin, but when I was about six I learned it actually meant diarrhea. Blackberries in all forms are a resource against the runs!
In addition to this marvelous storable powder which can be stored away, fresh blackberries, blackberry bark, blackberry leaves, and even blackberry root are effective herbal medicine for what those old herbalists called "relaxed bowels." The powder is taken in teaspoon doses with a small amount of water, but tea made from the leaves (pour boiling water over the leaves and steep them for five minutes) or the water from the simmered bark or root can be used in cup doses several times a day. In addition you can use the fresh blackberries when on a backpacking trip. You can obtain blackberry leaves from many health food stores, or you can dry your own.
Cordial Restorative The London Pharmacopoeia of 1679 describes ripe blackberries as an excellent cordial and restorative. That means you can use blackberries to stimulate the body and the heart, and they can be used to good effect in overcoming an illness. A blackberry extract or concentrated blackberry juice is sometimes available in health food stores. Add a dash to any herbal tea such as chamomile or peppermint, for a lift, to cleanse the body of impurities.
Ulcers I found another blackberry cure in Cruso's 1771 Treasury of Easy Medicine, which I read in a British library. Here the author advises soaking blackberry leaves in a hot wine infusion and placing the hot leaves on ulcers every morning and evening. "Which will heal them, however difficult to be cured," he says.
Gargle The Cruso wine infusion would also be a fine gargle for a sore throat, but then any blackberry preparation helps with sore throat. We often use blackberry jelly added to a hot peppermint leaf tea for an instant gargle. We also use raspberry vinegar compresses on the throat. To do this, dip a cloth into the vinegar, wring it out, and wind it around the throat. Add a layer or two of dry cloths, or attach an old woolen sock. This helps relax the throat.
I should mention, too, that apple cider vinegar also works as a gargle and a sore throat aid and can be used in the very same way.
Swelling Blackberry jelly was also used by the country people of England for swelling of the limbs, particularly the kind that comes as a result of heart trouble.
To use, add the jelly to apple cider vinegar and apply it as a compress.
We used to make a stimulating blackberry cordial and a vinegar which seemed to meet many physical problems with quick and ready help.
To make this cordial, gather fresh blackberries and press out the juice. For every quart of this juice, add 1/2 ounce each of nutmeg and cloves and 2 pounds of sugar, or slightly less honey. Simmer these together for a short time until everything looks syrupy. Cool it and add brandy to taste.
A word about sugar. When used to excess it is a destructive substance. I now use a good uncooked honey for these and other recipes. While it is hard to be accurate about the replacement of honey in recipes, I usually replace with an equal weight of sugar to light honey. This works out to2/3of a cup of liquefied honey to I cup of dry sugar. However, in general, remember that you also have to deduct 3 tablespoons of any other liquid from the recipe for each cup of honey you use. If the honey gets stiff, warm it up with a little warm water first. Unfortunately, honey syrup does not keep as well as the sugar syrup, and it may ferment if unrefrigerated.
Blackberry Vinegar This vinegar mixed with water will quench the thirst when all other beverages have failed.
It can be given to patients with fever.
It is a cordial for those who have a cold with fever.
The ancient herbals state that when you add this vinegar to distilled water, the combination eases and dissolves the. deposits of gout and arthritis.
Gather the berries and take them off the stalks. Place the berries in malt or apple cider vinegar in a covered ceramic, stainless, cast iron, nonaluminum pot. Let the mixture stand for three days to draw the berry juices into the vinegar, then allow the berries to drip all day through a strainer. Measure the juice. Add about a pound of honey for each pint of juice. Simmer gently for five minutes or so. Remove any scum as it appears, then set the blackberry vinegar aside to cool. Bottle and label it correctly and close it with a tight lid or cork. (Note my comments under Red Raspberry for a shortcut.
Blackberry Glycerite This compound is another blackberry medicinal.
You make this in the same way as vinegar, except that instead of adding honey to the strained blackberry vinegar juice, you add 8 ounces of glycerine to each pint of juice. Boil this together and skim. When it is cool, bottle and label it and keep it in a cool place. Glycerine is an excellent preservative.
Both the vinegar and the glycerite can be used as external compresses on swollen arthritic joints.
The red raspberry can be used in many of the same ways as the blackberry. It, too, may be effective with sore throat, especially one associated with a bad cold or flu. And a drink of red raspberry vinegar and water will also bring down a fever.
Vinegar There is a shortcut in making either blackberry or red raspberry vinegar. Add hot vinegar to a raspberry jelly, or to syrup. Blackberry or raspberry syrup can help you to dissolve the tartar on your teeth. But the mouth must be rinsed immediately, as this mixture has a high sugar content.
Mouth Blisters Raspberry or blackberry shoots may be boiled in water and the cooled water rinsed through the mouth to reduce mouth blisters.
Red raspberry leaf is an important woman's herb. An experienced midwife told me she always used red raspberry leaf tea to reduce bleeding during childbirth. She also suggests it for morning sickness and during delivery. Patients are to use it warm and in huge quantities. Red raspberry tea also can help where there is a too profuse menstrual flow. It is soothing and nonstimulating and can slowly decrease the flow. Combine it with cinnamon bark or cinnamon powder.