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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MANAGEMENT OF TEMPERATE FRUIT NUT AND SPECIALTY CROP GENETIC RESOURCES

Location: National Clonal Germplasm Repository (Corvallis, Oregon)

Title: Rubus Pharmocology: Antiquity to the Present

Author
item Hummer, Kim

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 20, 2009
Publication Date: July 20, 2009
Citation: Hummer, K.E. 2009. Rubus Pharmocology: Antiquity to the Present. HortScience. 44(4):985.

Interpretive Summary: Blackberries, raspberries and their hybrids are commonly referred to as brambles or briers. These species were a food and medicinal source for native peoples soon after the ice age. Medicinal uses for brambles were documented in the writings of the Ancient Greeks, Ancient Romans, and Asians. Although in modern times these berries are grown for their delicious and vitamin-rich fruit for fresh and processed products, the ancients used the whole plant and its parts. Stems, branches, roots, leaves, and flowers were used in different ways to stop diarrhea, dye hair, prevent vaginal discharge, and as an anti-venom for snake bites. Leaves were chewed to strengthen gums and plastered to constrain shingles, head scurf, prolapsed eyes, and hemorrhoids. Flowers in oil reduced eye inflammations and cooled skin rashes; infusions with water or wine aided stomach ailments. Greeks and Romans recorded female applications, while the Chinese described uses in male disorders. Fruit of the Chinese raspberry is combined in a tonic, called "overturned fruit bowl" and prescribed for infertility, impotence, low backache, poor eyesight, and bedwetting or frequent urination. One old English herbal described its use against dysentery combining ancient medicinal knowledge with pagan superstition. Medicinal properties of these berries continue in Renaissance and modern herbals, sanctioning leaf infusions as a gargle for sore mouth, throat cankers, and as a wash for wounds; the bark containing tannin, was a tonic for diarrhea; root extract a cathartic and emetic. Recent research has measured high antioxidant content in these fruits. Fruit extracts have long been used as colorants, and are now being tested as anti-carcinogenic, anti-viral, anti-allergenic, and cosmetic moisturizing compounds. From ancient traditions, through conventional folk medicines to the scientific confirmation of health promoting compounds, these berry plants are reported for many medicinal uses.

Technical Abstract: The genus Rubus L., indigenous to six continents, includes blackberries, raspberries and their hybrids, and is commonly referred to as brambles or briers. Rubus species were a food and medicinal source for native peoples soon after the ice age. Medicinal uses for brambles were documented in the writings of the Greeks: Aeschylus Hippocrates, Krataeus, Dioscorides, and Galen; Romans: Cato, Ovid, and Pliny the Elder; and Asian medicinal texts. Although in modern times Rubus is grown for its delicious and vitamin-rich fruit for fresh and processed product consumption, the ancients used the whole plant and its parts. Stems, branches, roots, leaves, and flowers were used in decoctions, infusions, plasters, oil or wine extractions, and condensates. Decoctions of branches were applied to stop diarrhea, dye hair, prevent vaginal discharge, and as an anti-venom for snake bites. Leaves were chewed to strengthen gums and plastered to constrain shingles, head scurf, prolapsed eyes, and hemorrhoids. Flowers triturated with oil reduced eye inflammations and cooled skin rashes; infusions with water or wine aided stomach ailments. Greeks and Romans recorded female applications, while the Chinese described uses in male disorders. The fruits of R. chingii, is combined in a yang tonic, called fu pen zi, "overturned fruit bowl" and prescribed for infertility, impotence, low backache, poor eyesight, and bedwetting or frequent urination. The Leech Book of Bald described its use against dysentery combining ancient medicinal knowledge with pagan superstition and herb lore. Medicinal properties of Rubus continue in Renaissance and modern herbals, sanctioning leaf infusions as a gargle for sore mouth, throat cankers, and as a wash for wounds; the bark containing tannin, was a tonic for diarrhea; root extract a cathartic and emetic. Recent research has measured high ellagic acid, anthocyanin, total phenolics, and total antioxidant content in Rubus fruits. Fruit extracts have long been used as colorants, and are now being tested as anti-carcinogenic, anti-viral, anti-allergenic, and cosmetic moisturizing compounds. From ancient traditions, through conventional folk medicines to the scientific confirmation of health promoting compounds, Rubus is reported as a panacea of pharmacology.

Last Modified: 8/21/2014
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