Blackberries are sweet, tart, juicy fruits also known as cloudberries in parts of Europe and dewberries in parts of the United States. If you grew up in the British countryside then you probably have fond memories of blackberry picking when you were younger, but there is more to the rubus fructicosus plant than its fruits. The leaves can also be picked and made into a tea, which is said to possess a number of health benefits.
But before you rush off to grab a handful of bramble leaves, take a look at the following health benefits and side effects of blackberry leaf tea.
Health Benefits of Blackberry Leaf Tea
Blackberry leaf tea may provide the following health benefits when consumed in moderation.
1. They Can Fight Bacteria
A lot of herbs and other natural compounds have antibacterial properties, from spearmint oil to thyme, which contains a substance used in mouthwash. However, many of these can only kill bacteria in direct contact and when using concentrated extractions of key compounds. In other words, they won’t benefit you when consumed as a tea unless you make it super strong and swish it around your mouth.
It’s a different story with blackberry leaf tea, though, as antimicrobial testing has suggested it can fight against H. pylori bacteria and may therefore be beneficial when consumed as opposed to simply used topically. (1)
If this interests you, be sure to read our guide on the miraculous and unique Greek resin mastic, as it has many similar properties and has proven to be very effective in fighting common bacteria.
2. It is Loaded with Antioxidants
Blackberry leaf tea contains a wealth of healthy antioxidants that could improve overall health and wellbeing. This is pretty much a given with all herbs and herbal teas, from the super-potent dandelion leaf right on through to cistus tea, which could prove effective at treating lyme disease, but it’s still noteworthy. (2)
Antioxidants in their natural form can significantly reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, and while blackberry leaf hasn’t been as extensively studied as other herbs, the polyphenols it contains have been. This includes kaempferol, which has been at the heart of many interesting cancer studies, including an 8-year study that discovered it could reduce pancreatic cancer risk in smokers when consumed with two other antioxidants, and gallic acid.
3. It Could Protect Against Heart Disease
Antioxidants can protect against more than cancer and may also reduce the risk of heart disease. That doesn’t mean that they can negate the damage done by an unhealthy lifestyle (a cup of tea isn’t going to offset a pack of cigarettes), but as part of a healthy lifestyle, they can be very beneficial. (3)
Tannins may play a significant role in reducing this risk. These compounds are abundant in red wine and black tea, but they can also be found in high doses in blackberry leaf tea, suggesting it could provide some of the same benefits.
Other Health Benefits
Antioxidants can work wonders for your health. In addition to some of the benefits discussed above, they may also reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, skin disorders, and digestive issues, but there isn’t a great deal of research to back up these claims. As far as micronutrients go, some claims state these leaves are loaded with all kinds of healthy vitamins, but it seems these claims are confusing the blackberry leaf with the blackberry fruit.
There isn’t much in the way of micro- or macronutrients here—all the goodness comes from the antioxidant compounds discussed above.
Side Effects of Blackberry Leaf Tea
Everything can be harmful when consumed to excess, and blackberry leaf tea is no exception, as it can cause upset stomaches and other unpleasant side effects. Caution is advised for anyone suffering from medical conditions or anyone taking prescription medications—it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Caution is also advised during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. Again, it’s not that it has been proven to cause harm under these conditions, but rather that it hasn’t been proven not to. Moderate doses are well tolerated and should not cause any ill effects, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Blackberries in Folklore
Blackberries have a long history of use in the United Kingdom. They have been linked with the occult and even with Satan himself, and as a result, it’s thought to be bad luck to pick them after Michaelmas Day (29th September). On the flip side, they are also said to help ward off evil, including vampires.
People in the middle ages apparently believed that placing a bramble bush outside your house would keep vampires away because they would get too engrossed in counting the berries that they would forget what they were there for. We haven’t seen this claim verified by a legitimate source as of yet, but it has been spread as fact on blogs and in books (a craft beer has even been named after this myth) and we really hope it’s true. The idea that Dracula himself could be duped by obsessively counting berries makes for a hilarious mental image.
Many British herbs have interesting folkloric roots, something we have also discussed with the practice of burning sage, but a lot of what is said about blackberries seems a little hard to believe and somewhat contradictory. That doesn’t mean it’s not true, though—maybe our ancestors were just insane and, like the vampires they were scared of, a little absentminded.
What Does it Taste Like?
Unfortunately, blackberry leaf tea tastes nothing like blackberries, although that probably won’t come as much of a surprise. The fruit and the leaf may come from the same plant, but they are composed of entirely different compounds, with one a sugar-filled, nutrient-dense treat and the other, well, less so.
It’s not bad as far as herbal teas go, but it lacks the fragrant rich taste of Greek mountain tea or the subtle citrus taste of lemon verbena. It’s quite bitter, but not necessarily to the point where it becomes unbearable. Just add a little honey or sugar to sweeten it up but give the milk a miss.