You've likely seen mulberry listed as a flavor before but never thought much about the fruit itself. You might be surprised to learn that there is more to this plant than meets the eye and that it can prove to be beneficial to you when it comes to your health.
As it turns out, there are three main varieties of mulberry to consider. These variants have different traits and qualities beyond simple coloration, but keeping track of these differences can be troublesome. We hope to enlighten you on the different kinds of mulberry and how they can benefit your health with this post.
The three types of mulberry are red, white, and black. What's the difference? Read on to find out.
Morus rubra, otherwise known as red mulberry, is in an interesting situation. While it grows prominently in North America and is extremely common in the United States of America, it is currently considered an endangered species in Canada due to its susceptibility to hybridization with other plants. While red mulberry's endangered status might make it seem as though the fruit is an issue in some ways, it does not impede most people from getting a supply.
The main detail that sets red mulberry trees and their fruit apart, aside from the bright red coloration, is that the trees of Morus rubraare the tallest of all the variants. On average, red mulberry trees grow to over 40 feet tall, which begin fruiting in the spring and are generally found in areas with moist soil. The red mulberry fruit possesses a sweet flavor that also has a counterbalancing tartness so that the sweetness does not overpower the palate.
Over the years, red mulberry has enjoyed many uses for the Native Americans and the English colonists who came to America's shore in 1607. The primary use of red mulberry was nutritional. The berries that grow on the trees are edible and, due to their flavor, were extremely popular with those who had access to it.
Contemporarily, red mulberry fruits are used to fill pastries, fermented into wine, or are eaten raw just as they were over 400 years ago. However, the trees themselves also have a practical use. For example, the bark can be dried and used in smoking meats, and the Choctaw tribe would weave clothing from the inner bark of juvenile trees.
As for medicinal use, the red mulberry has fallen out of favor in modern times but was once relied on by the Native Americans for day-to-day supplementary use. Red mulberry was primarily used as a remedy for dysentery, an issue that plagued many when food preparation was not as well-regulated as it is today. Red mulberry also saw use as a laxative and as an emetic, which means that it was used to induce vomiting when a fellow member of the tribe ingested something toxic.
Red mulberry is a relatively tasty and popular treat, though its medicinal uses have fallen by the wayside. Its uses have been replaced pharmacologically and by other natural supplements. While red mulberry is likely not ideal for bolstering your overall health, that does not mean mulberry, in general, should be written off.
Morus nigra, commonly known as black mulberry, grows on a tree found in southwestern Asia. However, black mulberry has recently been planted and cultivated in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, India, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Turkey, making it a ubiquitous sight in the Middle East and Asia.
One issue the black mulberry has faced is that other mulberry species are often confused for black mulberry, making it difficult to distinguish from its cousins. One of the most reliable methods for determining whether the berry you have is Morus nigra is to feel the underside of the tree leaves. If it feels hairy, you are dealing with a black mulberry tree. Otherwise, it is one of the other variants.
There are other factors involved in differentiating black mulberry from the others, such as the fact that black mulberry trees are the shortest of the three, growing only between 20 to 30 feet tall. In addition, black mulberry does not fruit until summer and must be hand-picked. The black mulberry fruit clings to the branches of the tree and will not shake loose or fall.
The uses of black mulberry are, like red mulberry, primarily food-based due to the popular tart flavor of the fruit with a light sweet foil. In the Middle East, black mulberry fruit is often made into jam or sherbet. Once upon a time, an attempt was made to use black mulberry trees to attract and cultivate silkworms; however, this failed due to the silkworms preferring the fruit of the white mulberry tree.
Black mulberry was once used prominently in folk medicine, specifically in treating ringworm. However, black mulberry is no longer used due to superior treatments and the more prominent benefits associated with other variants.
Black mulberry's strengths lie primarily in its taste rather than any medicinal use. That is not to discount that it has some natural ability to aid in certain treatments, but it falls behind the available alternatives.
Morus alba, known by its common name as white mulberry, is a tree that originates in China and has a considerably short lifespan for a tree of its nature. However, white mulberry is now widely cultivated in the United States of America, Mexico, Australia, Kyrgyzstan, Argentina, Turkey, Iran, and India.
While white mulberry fruit has the distinctive white color it is named for, it can still be mistaken for black mulberry due to some of the fruits growing darker in rare circumstances. Another method for telling white mulberry from the other variants is to consider the time of year, as white mulberry trees only fruit in spring. In addition, the fruits themselves bear a single-note sweet flavor that makes them unpopular with most people.
White mulberry's uses are extensive, seeing use where the black mulberry tree failed in cultivating silkworms and the fruits being used to feed livestock, and the leaves being used to brew tea. However, the main use for white mulberry is medicinal.
Recent studies have determined that white mulberry might help combat cancer by slowing the growth of cancerous cells in the body. This is due to the high concentration of flavonoids, alkaloids, and phenolic acids found in the fruit. For example, in a study conducted on mice, subjects were given white mulberry compounds and saw the reduction of breast cancer cells.
Another study conducted via test tube found that the extract from the white mulberry tree's root bark blocked the division of colorectal cancer cells and even killed some of the cells off. Further test tube studies even found that mulberry can mitigate the effects of cervical and colon cancer as well.
Bear in mind that while test tube and mouse studies can be promising, they do not guarantee that an actual treatment can be made. Some effects cannot be translated to humans, and others are sub-therapeutic levels. White mulberry on its own will not treat or cure cancer but may help reduce your chances of developing it.
Another medicinal benefit of white mulberry is its potential ability to improve cardiovascular health by reducing your overall cholesterol levels. Studies conducted on mice and rats found that the compounds in white mulberry release triglycerides. These triglycerides, in turn, lowered the concentration of LDL in the subjects. Cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease, one of the most common causes of death in the modern world, so reducing them is a great benefit.
Finally, some studies indicate white mulberry may improve blood sugar levels, which can help in managing diabetes. For example, a study conducted on a group of 24 individuals, all suffering from type 2 diabetes, were given 1,000 mg of white mulberry leaf extract three times a day for three months. Those being given the white mulberry saw reduced levels of blood sugar when compared to the control group. This same study also found that the white mulberry increased the concentration of hemoglobin A1C, which is responsible for measuring long-term blood sugar. However, it's worth noting that this increase was statistically insignificant compared to the other effects.
To cement this information, another study was conducted on 12 healthy adults who were given a compound extracted from white mulberry leaves. This helped them to improve their regulation of blood sugar after only 12 weeks.
Finally, another animal study was conducted on mice who were fed white mulberry leaf extract. As a result, it was observed that the extract helped maintain the function of pancreatic beta cells, improving insulin production in the subjects.
The medicinal benefits of white mulberry far exceed those of both the red and black variants and have a great deal of growth potential nutritionally. However, even with all of these benefits, there are a few details to keep in mind regarding your intake of white mulberry.
Although white mulberry has the lion's share of the medicinal and health benefits out of the three variants, all of them share a few health effects. All three variants of mulberry contain antioxidants, which can be beneficial for reducing inflammation and provide a generally healthier disposition.
In addition, all forms of mulberry contain flavonoids. These same flavonoids might be beneficial in helping to mitigate age-related vision issues that plague virtually every human in recent days.
Finally, mulberry, in general, is rich in vitamin C. While the compounds in white mulberry are superior, high concentrations of vitamin C can be highly beneficial in limiting the risk of developing a form of cancer.
These general health benefits are not as powerful as the more potent effects previously discussed. Still, these minor benefits should not be discounted if you are considering adding mulberry to your diet.
Dosage and Side Effects
In addition to the actual fruit, countless supplements containing white mulberry can provide you with health benefits. However, as with any supplement, it is recommended not to consume too much white mulberry in one sitting. There are no official dosage recommendations for mulberry of any kind; however, we advise consuming no less than 1,000 mg and no more than 3,000 mg a day to ensure the best possible results.
Fortunately, most supplements provide this dosage by default, so all that needs to be done is purchase them. We even offer a supplement of our own that leans heavily into the alkaloid concentration to maximize the beneficial effects of the white mulberry concentration. As a bonus, we have even had reports of our supplements having the added effect of helping with weight management.
When it comes to side effects, there are no significant side effects associated with mulberry, and it can be readily enjoyed and ingested by most people without an issue. However, this is not necessarily true for a small fraction of the population. If you suffer from an allergy to birch pollen, you should avoid all forms of mulberry due to cross-reactivity.
This cross-reactivity between mulberry and birch results from an IgE-mediated response, which is a specific form antibody that can be triggered by something related in some way to a diagnosed trigger. Such reactions are particularly rare and will more likely not be an issue for you. However, take care to be aware of all of your allergies before pursuing mulberry as a supplement.
As always, we recommend that you consult with your physician before committing to any supplement to ensure you are in the best possible state to do so and are not at any significant risk.
The different kinds of mulberry all have their strengths, weaknesses, and traits. While not all of them are quite as effective as the others, they all have merit by themselves for their more renowned uses.
While red and black mulberry are both known for their superior tastes, white mulberry takes the lead in holistic medicinal and nutritional benefits.
Have any comments, questions, or concerns regarding mulberry? Feel free to reach out at any time!