The blackberry is an edible fruit produced by any of several species in the Rubus genus of the Rosaceae family. The fruit is not a true berry; botanically it is termed an aggregate fruit. The plants typically have biennial canes and perennial roots. Blackberries and raspberries are also called caneberries or brambles. It is a widespread, and well known group of over 375 species, many of which are closely related apomictic microspecies native throughout the temperate northern hemisphere and South America.

The blackberry fruit is particularly abundant in eastern North America and on the Pacific coast; in the British Isles and Western Europe. The bush is characterized by its usually prickly, erect, or trailing stems. The leaves usually have three or five oval coarsely toothed, stalked leaflets, many of which persist through the winter.

The blackberry fruit is an aggregate fruit that is composed of many smaller fruits called drupes. A drupe is a type of fruit in which the outer fleshy part surrounds a seed. Another example of a drupe is the peach.

There are two types of blackberries, erect and trailing. The primary difference is the growth habit of their canes. Erect blackberry fruit types have stiff, arching canes that are somewhat self-supporting. Trailing blackberries, also called dewberries in the East, have canes that are not self-supporting.

Erect blackberries are more cold-hardy than trailing types. However, you can grow trailing types in colder areas if you leave the canes on the ground in the winter. All blackberries plants are perennial, with roots living for many years.

Blackberry blooms from mid to late June. Blackberry fruit start ripening toward the middle of July. They are small, green, hard, and sour at first, becoming larger, and when fully ripe, juicy and sweet. Ripe and unripe berries frequently appear on the plants at the same time. Everyone loves the delicious blackberry fruit, and blackberries of one kind or another can be found throughout the United States.

Health Benefits of Blackberries

New research is under way on the health benefits of blackberries. The blackberry fruit is known to contain polyphenol antioxidants. A polyphenol antioxidant is a type of antioxidant characterized by the presence of several phenoll functional groups. In human health these compounds, numbering over 4000 distinct species, are thought to be instrumental in combating oxidative stress, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

New research shows that blackberries (also known as black raspberries) reduce the risk of esophageal cancer. Ohio State University researchers found blackberries may protect against esophageal cancer by reducing the oxidative stress that results from Barrett's esophagus, a precancerous condition usually caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease.

The team gave 32 grams to 45 grams of black raspberries daily for six months to 20 patients with Barrett's esophagus. They analyzed changes in blood, urine and tissue before, during and after the treatment, and found lower levels of some of the chemical markers of oxidative stress in both urine and tissue samples.

Black raspberries previously have been shown to reduce the risk of oral, esophageal and colon cancer in animal models, according to the researchers, who called for further study in humans.

The U.S. Department of Agricultures chief scientific research facility and the National Institute for Occupational Study collaborated on a study of cyanidin-3-glucoside, a compound found in blackberries. The compound inhibited tumors from growing and spreading when used in animal test models. Cyanidin-3-glucoside may one day become a key natural ingredient in new products formulated for their anti-cancer properties.

For the study, the researchers tested mice that had skin tumors. In one group, they found a significant reduction in the number and size of skin tumors among the mice that had been supplemented with the compound, when compared to those that had not been supplemented.

In another experimental model with immune-system-suppressed mice, the researchers studied lung cancer cells because of their relatively high tendency to spread to other organs. They found that the health benefits of blackberries compound not only significantly reduced the amount of cancer cell growth in the mice, but also inhibited the spread of the cancer cells to other organs.

The findings indicate a promising direction for understanding the molecular mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects of plant chemicals on human health.

Polyphenol antioxidants are found in a wide array of fruits such as apples, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, grapes, and raspberries. They are also found in vegetables such as, broccoli, cabbage, and parsley.

The principal benefit of ingestion of antioxidants seems to stem from the consumption of a wide array of phytonutrients. This is why whole food supplements that contain a combination of plant compounds acting together may provide more benefits than individual components alone.

Whole food supplements are created by dehydrating and concentrating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and then encapsulating them.

They may be an option for people who would like to take advantage of the health benefits of blackberries. Different fruits, vegetables and whole grains provide different health benefits and it is not always possible to include each one in the daily diet.

Whole food supplements, like the one we personally take daily, contains blackberries and could fill in the dietary gaps for those who find it difficult to eat the recommended daily amount of fruit.


European blackberry juice was used to treat infections of the mouth and eyes until the 16th century. In the Pacific Northwest, the powdered bark of blackberry brambles was used for toothache relief. A tea made from blackberry leaves is said to aid digestion or arrest vomiting according to First Nations tribes in Washington State and British Columbia. Blackberry root concoctions have been used to remedy dysentery.

Blackberries contain relatively high quantities of ellagic acid, tannins and cyanidin glycosides. These are antioxidant phenolics that have a wide range of potential health benefits under current research.

The following anti-disease properties have been isolated in experimental models during studies specifically on blackberries. With their close relatives — red or black raspberry and boysenberry — medical research among all the Rubus species likely applies to one another. Accordingly, see this section in other essays on the red raspberry and black raspberry.

Although there are no clinical studies to date proving these effects below in humans, medical research shows likely benefit of regularly consuming blackberries against:

    * pleurisy and lung inflammation

    * anti-thrombosis (inhibition of blood clotting)

    * several types of cancer

    * endotoxin shock

    * cardiovascular diseases

    * diabetes

    * age-related cognitive decline.

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