History, Identification, & Uses of Black Raspberry

Black raspberries aren’t as popular as red raspberries but they too have edible and medicinal properties.

Black raspberries are different from both red raspberries and blackberries. They have a history of medicinal uses and are being study for cancer treatment today.

Black raspberries are related to red raspberries but they are two separate species. Both are native to North America but red raspberries are more well known for their fruit and medicinal qualities. You can find black raspberries growing in the wild and if you’re lucky, you may even find them for sale at farmers markets.

The berries from the black raspberry bushes have been used for food and medicine for as long as people have been in North America. Native Americans would preserve the berries for winter to provide them with nutrients that could not find during the winter months. They would also use the roots to treat stomach and intestinal issues as well as a leaf tea for dysentery and a wash for sores and wounds. Today black raspberries are being studied for their role in treating cancer. The Ohio State University found that mice with colon tumors saw a 60-80% tumor reduction while on a diet containing black raspberries. Mice with esophageal cancers also saw an 80% reduction on a diet containing 5-10% black raspberries. Human trials have started and hopefully will provide good results.

The berries are ready to pick during the summer but you have to act fast and get to them before the birds do! Black raspberry and red raspberry are easily confused. Black raspberries root tip but raspberries do not. Black raspberry stems are smooth with hooked thorns and a white glaucus coating. Red raspberries are prickly and o does not have a glaucus coating. Bring a field guide with you to be sure but both berries are safe to eat.

Profile

Common Name: Black Raspberry
Scientific Name: Rubus occidentalis
Identification:
Biannual
Leaves- alternate, palmately compound, 3-5 leaflets, white/silver undersides, serrated, 3-5 inches long
Flower- small, greenish-white
Twig- purple-red, white glaucous coating, smooth, hooked thorns, root tips
Fruit- drupes, purple-black, white hair between druplets
Harvest Time: April-September
Parts Edible: Leaves, Roots, Fruits
Found: Native to Eastern North America; forest edges, forests, meadows, and fields

Historic Uses

-Root tea was once used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, stomach pain, gonorrhea, and back pain
-An infusion of the root was once used to treat sore eyes
-Chewing the root was said to relieve a toothache and coughs
-An infusion of black raspberry root and St. John’s wort was once used to treat the beginning stages of tuberculosis
-Leaf tea has been used as a wash for sores, ulcers, and boils
-The tea is used in Europe to treat diarrhea and inflammation of the mouth and throat
-A decoction of the leaves, roots, and stem was once used to treat whooping cough
-A purple-blue dye can be made with the berries

Vitamins, Minerals, & More

Fruit

-High levels of antioxidant
-Ellagic acid
-Vitamins A & C
-Calcium
-Iron

Properties: anticarcinogen, anti-viral, anti-bacterial

Leaves

Properties: astringent, ophthalmic

Roots

Properties: cathartic, astringent, ophthalmic, pectoral

Preparations

-Fruit made into jams, jellies, desserts, preserves, eaten fresh, or dried
-Young shoots can be cooked like rhubarb
-Leaves and roots can be used to make a tea

Precautions

-No known side effects or interactions
-Considered safe when used as food
-Considered safe when used as food while pregnant or breastfeeding. However, it is not recommended for medicinal use while pregnant or breastfeeding due to lack of research.

Root Tipping

Harvest

-Harvest early spring shoots as they emerge
-Leaves are best harvested during the spring and early summer (April-July)
-Fruit ripens and is ready to pick during the summer (July-September)

Recipes

Black Raspberry Pie
Black Raspberry Kvass
Black Raspberry Jam
Black Raspberry Ice Cream
Black Raspberry Muffins

Practicing Sustainable Wild Harvesting

  1. Only harvest plants you know are safe and can identify
  2. Only harvest plants in safe areas that are not contaminated or polluted
  3. Do not harvest on private property without permission
  4. Harvest no more than 10% or use the method: take 1 leave 2
  5. Know how to handle and prepare the plants you are harvesting
  6. Always check the legal status of the plant you want to harvest (is it endangered?)


Sources

Virginia Tech Dendrology Black Raspberry
Go Botany Black Raspberry
PFAF Black Raspberry
WebMD Black Raspberry
Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere: Black Raspberry
Black Raspberry Health and Healing Fact Sheets

Disclaimer: All information on Not Your Typical Hippie is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor, veterinarian, dietician, or health expert. If you wish to have advice on a medical problem, please consult a doctor. I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for every person. Please consult a doctor before making any health changes. I am not liable for any choices you make based on the information provided on this website. (Learn more here)