Mulberries are filled with nutrients that are important for our body, including iron, riboflavin, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, phosphorous, and calcium, as well as a significant amount of dietary fiber and a wide range of organic compounds, including phytonutrients, zea-xanthin, resveratrol, anthocyanins, lutein, and various other polyphenolic compounds.
All parts of the plant from root to tip can be used medicinally, though these days we tend to concentrate only on the fruit and leaves, which are high in antioxidant anthocyanins as well as cancer-fighting resveratrol and vitamin C.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice has used mulberry trees for thousands of years to treat diseases like heart disease, diabetes, anemia and arthritis
Although there are many different types of mulberries, there are three main species that you will see in health stores and supermarkets:
- White mulberry (Morus alba) is native to China and the preferred food of silkworms. The leaves are antibacterial and antidiabetic; the fruits have a neuroprotective effect in humans.
- Red mulberry (Morus rubra) is native to American soil that has antibacterial properties and can help fight urinary infections.
- Black mulberry (Morus nigra) is a Western Asian variety transplanted to Europe. These dark berries have antiviral properties that show effectiveness against the HIV virus.
The leaves of the mulberry tree are also traditionally used to strengthen the liver and lungs, treat fevers and cold and eye infections. They also have important antidiabetic properties which modern science is beginning to acknowledge.
Mulberry leaf tea’s health benefits are attributed to its naturally occurring compound, 1-deoxynojirimycin, or DNJ, which is responsible for its antidiabetic effects. Like the fruit, the leaves also have powerful antioxidant properties and has been found to lower cholesterol and triglycerides and reduce inflammation.
Health Benefits of Mulberries
1. Source of Antioxidants
Antioxidants help lessen the damage caused by free radicals and the entire mulberry plant- leaves, stems, and fruit, contains antioxidants. One antioxidant in particular, resveratrol, has gotten much attention. Research published by the University of Texas Health Science Center credits resveratrol for positive effects on age and longevity.
2. Lower Cholesterol
Cholesterol is an important fatty molecule that is present in every cell in the body. However, elevated cholesterol in the blood is also linked to increased risk of heart disease.
Animal studies show that mulberries and mulberry extracts can reduce excess fat and lower cholesterol levels. They may also improve the ratio between LDL („bad“) and HDL („good“) cholesterol.
Some test-tube experiments also show that they reduce the formation of fat in the liver, potentially helping to prevent fatty liver disease.
3. Improve Blood Sugar Control
Diabetics are sensitive to rapid changes in blood sugar, and need to be careful when they eat carbs.
Mulberries contain a compound called DNJ (1-deoxynojirimycin), which inhibits an enzyme in the gut that breaks down carbohydrates.
DNJ is therefore considered to be beneficial against diabetes, by slowing down the increase in blood sugar after meals
4. Reduce Cancer Risk
Increased stress in the body has been shown to induce oxidative damage in cells and tissues, and is associated with increased risk of cancer.
For hundreds of years, mulberries have been part of traditional Chinese medicine as a remedy against cancer.
Some researchers now believe that these reputed cancer-preventive effects may actually have a scientific basis. Animal studies indicate that antioxidants in mulberry juice can decrease oxidative stress, potentially reducing the risk of cancer.
5. Immune System Support
Mulberries contain alkaloids that activate macrophages. Macrophages are white blood cells that stimulate the immune system, putting it on high active alert against health threat.
This is the mulberry + orange + apple + lemon + raw honey smoothie that I made for our girls. I get my mulberries from a farmer who plants pesticide-free vegetables and fruits.
In addition to mulberry fruits, I also drink organic mulberry leaves powder regularly.
Adverse Effects and Individual Concerns
Allergy to mulberries is rare, but pollen from mulberry trees has been reported to cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
Individuals who are sensitive to birch pollen may also react to mulberries, as a result of cross-reactivity.