Monday, March 18, 2019 3:00 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)
Excerpt from "A City Herbal"

by Maida Silverman

Part Two ...

Historical Lore, Legends, and Uses: The word bramble is said to be derived from the Old English word brymble, meaning prickly, and bramble can also mean any thorny bush. Another source explains the word as coming from the Anglo-Saxon the ART of KATYA SANNAword bramel, itself derived from an older word, brom, meaning broom. In earlier times, the thorny branches of the Blackberry tied to a stick were used to make a broom for sweeping. In England, the word bramble is used as a verb; the expression going brambling means going Blackberry picking.

The Blackberry has long been appreciated for the taste of the ripe fruit and valued for its medicinal properties. Many writers did not even bother with a botanical description of the plant, saying instead that it is so well known it needs no description, or it grows in almost every hedge. It is difficult to overestimate the faith people once had in the healing powers of this plant. The astringent and binding properties were familiar to all who wrote about Blackberries and all parts of the plant leaves, roots, flowers, and ripe and unripe berries were used.

Preparations containing Blackberry were used to treat diarrhea, dysentery (often called bloody flux ), various stomach disorders, and were believed valuable for healing irritations of the mouth and throat. Eating young shoots was even credited with fastening loose teeth in the gums! Infusions of the roots and leaves and syrups prepared from the berries added to wine were the usual methods of administering.

The Leechbook of Bald, a tenth-century Anglo-Saxon treatise on plants and herbal remedies, recommended preparations of Blackberry. For flux in women a tea was made from the berries and drunk for three days while fasting. For heart-ache the fresh leaves were pounded and laid over on the wound.

One Tudor herbalist recommended taking Blackberry juice mixed with wine and honey for the passions of the heart. He observed, The sweet ripe fruit is very effectual, besides the facility and pleasantness in taking. Another herbalist, Dr. William Coles, prescribed Blackberry as a remedy for heartburn, as some call it, which is a gnawing in the stomach from choler. ( Choler is an old word meaning anger. This particular write was apparently aware of the connection between emotions like anger and physical illness, especially stomach and digestive disorders. He noted that the distilled water of {Blackberry} branches, leaves, flowers and fruit is very pleasant in both taste and smell and is excellent for feverish persons.

At the end of his extensive treatise on the virtues of Blackberry, Dr. Coles decided to include the following homily: The people of Norway use their bramble against scurvy and other melancholy diseases, so that we may admire the wonderful wisdom of God, who has ordained to grow in every climate remedies for those diseases whereunto it is subject. The doctor was no doubt rebuking his fellow Englishmen and women, who at that time were abandoning their native medicines in favor of foreign imported herbs, which he believed were greatly inferior.

The young roots and the root bark of the older plants were most favored for medicinal use. These contained the greatest amounts of valuable tannic, malic, and citric acids, and thus produced the strongest tonic and astringent effect.

The dried or green leaves were used to prepare gargles and heal sores and irritations of the mouth and genitals. One seventeenth-century writer states that the powdered leaves strewn on running sores heals them. A decoction of the leaves was also valuable for treating stomach upsets and womens ailments. And infusion of the unripe berries was highly esteemed for curing vomiting and loose bowels. A wash for the hair (the leaves boiled in lye!) cured head sores and made the hair black.

Home remedies for the digestive ailment that frequently resulted from drinking unwholesome milk or water and eating tainted meats were kept on hand until well into the twentieth century, and this is still done in rural areas.the ART of KATYA SANNA Every kitchen has a supply of dried Blackberry leaves, roots, and berries on hand, as well as Blackberry jam, cordial, and syrup. The Pennsylvania Dutch used the leaves, roots, and fruit to ease indigestion, and preparations of the root were valued for treating diarrhea.

In China, several varieties of Blackberry were described and employed medicinally. The Chinese believed the fruit strengthens the virile powers and increases the yin principle, in addition to giving vigor to the whole body. Preparations of the young shoots were used to improve the complexion and treat colds and fevers.

Blackberry was a familiar medicinal plant to native Americans. The Cherokee Indians chewed the root to ease coughs and used cold poultices to relieve hemorrhoids. Delaware Indians made a tea from the roots, which they used to cure dysentery, and the Oneida, Catawba, and other tribes were familiar with the root and used it for similar diseases.

At one time, Blackberry root was an official drug listed in the United States Dispensatory. A fluid extract for treating diarrhea was listed as recently as 1955.

~ From the Recipe Box - Blackberry Vinegar ~


Paperback by Maida Silverman. 192 pp. The wild plants of the city are potent herbal medicines and nutritious wild edibles, as well as sources of comfort, fiber, and dyes. Learn to recognize and use 34 of them.
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