Mulberry is a fantastic tree, not only for the fruit but also for the medicinal leaves!

Medicinal effects

Black mulberry leaves are antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, astringent, diaphoretic, hypoglycaemic. The black mulberry is rich in phenolic compounds including flavonoids and anthocyanins. The anti-oxidant effects are relevant to preventing diseases related to aging. The leaves contain sugar-mimicking alkaloids with hypoglycaemic properties and can affect the metabolism and transport of sugars in the body.  Black mulberry fruit has laxative and antipyretic properties. The fruit is a tonic used in urinary incontinence, tinnitus, premature greying of hair, constipation in the elderly. Black mulberry has attracted support for use in chronic disease as a nutraceutical especially due to its antioxidant activity – both fruit and leaf (Lim and Choi, 2019). It has also been suggested that the leaf could be of value in other cardiometabolic problems of blood pressure and blood fats (Thaipitakwong et al., 2018). Blood sugar reductions have been found in a trial with women with impaired glucose tolerance (Hwang et al., 2016). Mulberry leaves provide a possible treatment in diabetes due to their hypoglycaemic effects, and the leaves may have less side effects than drugs such as metformin which can affect the liver and cardiovascular system (Rodriguez et al., 2019).

Habitat and cultivation

Black mulberry is quite hardy and can be grown with protection in northern temperate climates. After rapid growth when young it is fairly slow-growing. It likes a moist but well-drained soil and grows best in full sun, although can grow in dappled shade. An annual mulch can be given. The tree can be grown in various forms as it tolerates pruning well: coppiced, pollarded as a tall standard, as a bush or fan-trained against a wall, or cultivated in a pot. It is best if the tree is pruned while it is dormant.

Harvesting

Fruit and leaves can all be used. Harvest the young leaves in June for immediate use or drying. Fruits are usually harvested in August-September when black and ripe, they may fall onto the ground.

 

young alder plant

Traditional use

The black mulberry has similar properties to the white mulberry which has a long history of use in China as a medicine and traditional uses include preventing liver and kidney diseases, joint damage, and anti-aging. Mulberries highly valued and were eaten at feasts in Roman times.

Ways to use

Tincture of mulberry leaf, 20-30 drops three times a day

The leaves can be taken internally for colds and influenza.

A leaf decoction can be gargled for sore throat and swollen vocal chords.

Mulberry leaf tea, 1 tsp in a cup of hot water, steep for 10 mins, drink up to three times per day.

Eat the fruits as they ripen as a tonic, laxative, and for infections.

Additional uses

The leaves are edible, tasting rather like runner beans.

The ripe fruit can be used to provide colouring in medicines. 

References

Hwang SH, Li HM, Lim SS, Wang Z, Hong JS and Huang B (2016) ‘Evaluation of a standardized extract from Morus albaagainst α-glucosidase inhibitory effect and postprandial antihyperglycemic in patients with impaired glucose tolerance: A randomized double-blind clinical trial’, Evid. Based Complement Altern Med 2016:  8983232.

Lim SH and Choi C (2019) ‘Pharmacological properties of Morus nigra L. (black Mulberry) as a promising nutraceutical resource’, Nutrients 11(2): 437.

Rodrigues EL, Marcelino G, Silva GT, Figueiredo PS, Garcez WS, Corsino J, Guimarães RCA and Freitas KC (2019) ‘Nutraceutical and medicinal potential of the Morus species in metabolic dysfunctions’, Int J Mol Sci 20(2): E301.

Thaipitakwong T, Numhom S and Aramwita P (2018) ‘Mulberry leaves and their potential effects against cardiometabolic risks: A review of chemical compositions, biological properties and clinical efficacy’,  Pharm Biol 56(1): 109-118.

Cautions

If you have a continuing or chronic complaint, it is best to check with a recognised medical or herbal practitioner about using herbs, to ensure you are getting the most appropriate treatment and advice on safe use alongside prescribed medications.

For more information about medicinal trees

See The Medicinal Forest Garden Handbook (2020) by Anne Stobart and read all about 40 medicinal trees and shrubs in detail, plus advice on design, harvest, maintenance and lots more. Published for £26 and available from our shop or from good booksellers.