The common wild blackberry has a rich magical and medicinal history
including use by the ancient Greeks as a remedy for gout. Chinese
herbalists use the unripe berries to treat kidney problems, incontinence
and impotence. Italian herbalists suggest chewing blackberry leaves and
root bark to improve oral health.
Blackberry’s leaves and root bark are high in tannins and other valuable
astringents. To help dry up diarrhea and dysentery, I use a cup of infusion
of the dried leaf and/or root bark or 20-30 drops of tincture of fresh
leaf/root bark as often as necessary. I use a blackberry sitz bath or wash
to help heal and shrink hemorrhoids or heal perineal tears.
This astringent, drying quality also makes blackberry a good choice to
constrict blood vessels and halt minor bleeding. I’ve stopped a nosebleed
with 20 drops of tincture under the tongue. The same amount of tincture
in half a cup of water, used as a wash, helps stem blood flow from a
child’s cut or scrape. A mouth rinse of the dried leaf infusion, or tincture
in water, heals bleeding gums and canker sores.
Since before the time of our grandmothers’ grandmothers, blackberry
was used to remedy poisonous bites and to clear up long-standing skin
problems such as psoriasis and eczema. A poultice or infused oil (made
from fresh blackberry leaves and/or root bark) was used externally and
two cups of the dried plant infusion drunk daily.
Cherokee use blackberry to ease rheumatism and sore throat;
Appalachians use the berry juice or wine against diarrhea; and, the
Rappahannock and Oneida use the roots to treat dysentery.
Rubus ulmifolius is the variety of blackberry commonly found growing in
Southern Italia. Rovo comune is the common name and just like
blackberries everywhere else, it’s abundant in hedgerows and scrubland.
All parts of the plant - roots, leaves and fruits, are valued for their
astringency. The fruit is especially appreciated for its benefits to the
intestinal tract. The berry juice is used as a rinse or gargle for the
treatment of inflamed mucus membranes. The leaves, rich in tannins, are
used to prepare an infusion to stop diarrhea and to calm intestinal
inflammation, and also to alleviate a sore throat. Leaves coated in oil and
gently cooked are traditionally applied as poultices to carbuncles,
abscesses and any type of skin inflammation.
The annals of the Aragonese Court record that a doctor and Chief Medical Examiner from Benevento, Carlo di Leo, professor at the University of Naples and court physician, used blackberries in 1489 to cure the future King of Naples -
Alphonse II of Aragon - of indispositio corporis. (Annoyance, discomfort, irritation.)
Blackberry fruits are beneficial to the entire body. They contain malic
acid, citric acid, pectin, albumen, flavonoids and vitamins A and C. The
bitter purple-colored flavonoid in blackberry, anthocyanidin, is the
compound responsible for much of the fruit’s medicinal action.
Anthocyanidin acts as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger; it also
increases peripheral circulation and helps reduce inflammation.
Anthocyanidin is found in herbs and foods used to treat such conditions
as poor night vision, periodontal disease, arthritis and gout.
A 15-year-old student from Co Cork, Simon Meehan, was recently
awarded the top prize at the 54th BT Young Scientist & Technology
Exhibition for discovering a non-toxic, natural antibiotic in the
blackberry plant. The student, whose grandfather is an herbalist, made an
alcohol extract of the root and aerial parts of the plant and demonstrated
its effectiveness in eliminating both Staphylococcus aureus, which has
become increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment, and Pseudomonas
aeruginosa, a potentially deadly bug for those with cystic fibrosis.
Spring shoots are used to make a gemmotherapy elixir. Indications for
use include the easing of chronic obstructive respiratory disorders. It
stimulates the osteoblasts and slows the osteoclasts, so is useful in
preventing osteoporosis, for the relief of pain in bones and joints and for
the treatment of chronic nephritis.
Flower Essence - Blackberry flower essence helps one translate thoughts
into actions and manifest ideas in the physical world. I use it for
overcoming inertia or when feeling stuck.
Magical Lore - In ancient times, crawling under a bramble bush (another
of blackberry’s names) was believed to act as a charm against
rheumatism, boils and blackheads. Blackberries gathered on the full
moon were believed to protect against evil runes - more so if kept in a
special bag or sewn into an amulet.
Culture - Blackberry bushes grow wildly in the disturbed places of the world,
growing most prolifically in Australia. Blackberry’s five-foot-high thorny
brambles grow in hedgerows, at woods’ edge or in rich, open fields. In spring,
the bushes flower with beautiful white five-petaled blooms, which become the
nourishing, delicious berries. Be careful picking blackberries, the thorns are very
sharp! We have a blackberry patch on the hillside above our gardens and love eating the berries fresh off the bushes. I think of them as a late summer tonic. Seeing my grandchildren’s hands and faces stained purple-red reminds me that
summer will soon be drawing to a close. Blackberry leaves are most
potent in the spring before flowers emerge, but medicinally active
throughout their growing season, so wildgather any time they are green
and vibrant. I harvest the astringent root bark in early spring or late
autumn. I dry blackberry leaves and root bark on screens, and tincture
fresh in alcohol or vinegar. Gather the berries when they are plump,
juicy, dark purple and fall easily into the hand.
Opening This week leading up to the full moon in August is an ancient time of celebrating the harvest and honoring the goddesses who were most familiar with the generative mysteries of life/death/rebirth – Diana, the huntress, Hecate, Mother of the Crossroads, Ceres, Mother of Grain and Cybele, Mistress of wild nature, the personification of Mother Earth and the mother of all gods, humans, plants and animals. Today, these festivals have been renamed the Assumption/Dormition and the Coronation of Mary. Diana, Hekate, Ceres, Cybele, Maria…Diana, Hekate, Ceres, Cybele, Maria…we remember you, we honor you, we ask for your blessing. Amen
The week leading up to the full moon in August is the traditional time of blessing herbs for the entire year. Be sure to gather up a small bouquet at some point during this week to keep in your home for special blessing and protection.
This is the traditional Blessing Prayer:
Oh Creator, who by your word alone brought into being the heavens, earth, sea, things seen and things unseen, and garnished the earth with plants and trees for the use of all; who appointed each species to bring forth fruit in its kind, not only for the food of living creatures, but for the healing of sick bodies as well; we call on you in your great kindness to bless these herbs and fruits of the earth, thus increasing their natural powers with the newly given grace of your blessing. May they keep away disease and adversity from all who use them in your name; May the Mother Virgin most Holy, Assumed and crowned in heaven, shower blessings in abundance upon us and upon these bundles of grain, herbs, and assorted gifts of the earth, which we gratefully offer. Grant that all creatures find in them a remedy against sickness, pestilence, sores, injuries, spells, against the fangs of serpents or poisonous creatures. May these blessed objects be a protection against diabolical mockery, cunning, and deception wherever they are kept, carried, or otherwise used. Lastly, through the merits of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose Assumption and Coronation we are celebrating, may we all, laden with the sheaves of good works, reap our just rewards. Amen
Ending Blessing: Epitaph of Seikilos:
As long as you live, shine, be radiant!
Let nothing grieve you beyond measure.
For your life is only too short and time will call for you. Amen
© 2022, Gail Faith Edwards