The thorny Blackberry vine is a familiar hedgerow plant - it is ubiquitous and scrambles just about everywhere. But who would have thought that it is not a British native? Although Blackberry is now a botanical pan-globalist they originally conquered the world from their homeland of Armenia. Rubus is a large genus with about 700 species, most of which have been popular as food and medicine since ancient times. Even now the berries are celebrated as a highly nutritious functional food, thanks to their abundance of micronutrients. Most of us simply love sweet juicy berries as a succulent summer treat and nibble them straight from the vine. The aromatic leaves are often included in herbal breakfast teas.
Blackberry leaves are strongly astringent. They are used for treating conditions such as dysentery and diarrhoea, especially in children as it is considered a very safe remedy (unless allergic to plants of the Rose family). Externally, a strong infusion of the leaves makes an effective gargle for inflammatory conditions such as a sore throat, inflammation of the mouth (stomatitis), or gums (gingivitis). It is also a safe ‘go-to’ remedy for eruptive skin conditions and can be used as a wash for psoriasis and dermatitis.
In magical herbalism, thorny plants such as Blackberry are considered protective. Like a dreamcatcher, a Blackberry bow is said to catch the demons of disease, the essence of an evil spell, or the mares of the night, which all get caught up in its barbs. To use the Blackberry bow in this way one had to crawl underneath it. Hung above the stable door the Blackberry bow was tasked with protecting the cattle against the evil doings of witches.