It turns out that apart from being widely cultivated to feed the silkworms employed in the commercial production of silk, the plant has analgesic, emollient and sedative properties and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries as a remedy for surprisingly wide range of conditions: the fruit — to treat prematurely grey hair, constipation, diabetes, to "tonify" the blood; the bark — to treat cough, wheezing, edema, fever, headache, red dry and sore eyes, and to promote urination.
Extracts of the plant possess antibacterial and fungicidal properties. The root bark, for example, exhibits antibacterial activity against food poisoning micro-organisms, is antitussive, diuretic, expectorant and hypotensive. The roots are harvested in the winter and dried for later use.
The leaf extract has been studied against the Indian Vipera/Daboia russelii venom induced local and systemic effects. The leaves are antibacterial, astringent, diaphoretic (increasing perspiration), hypoglycaemic, odontalgic and ophthalmic, they are taken internally in the treatment of colds, influenza, eye infections and nosebleeds. The leaves are collected after the first frosts of autumn and can be used fresh but are generally dried.
The stems are anti-rheumatic, diuretic, hypotensive and pectoral. A tincture of the bark is used to relieve toothache. The branches are harvested in late spring or early summer and are dried for later use.
The fruit has a tonic effect on kidney energy and is used internally in the treatment of asthma, coughs, bronchitis, oedema, hypertension and diabetes.
Almost all parts of the plant are used in one way or another: recent research has shown improvements in elephantiasis when treated with leaf extract injections and in tetanus following oral doses of the sap mixed with sugar. Finally, it's not widely known that in some Central Asian countries a spirit (a kind of vodka or strong liquor) is distilled from mulberry fruits.
However, the fresh fruits are seldom available at the greengrocer's (probably due to their high perishability). So enjoy this wonder of Nature, even if just in pictures.
|White Mulberry (Morus alba) fruit. (© LightColourShade. All rights reserved)|