White Mulberry

White Mulberry

Sang ye cha; 桑
Morus alba

There is a lot more to the mulberry tree than “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” and “Pop Goes the Weasel”: in fact it has been long used for medicinal purposes throughout the world for centuries. The three main species of mulberry trees (black, red and white) are grown in North America, Europe and Asia with many varieties and cultivars in between. So sweet and delicious are the berries that when they are ripe, they often fall to the ground, staining sidewalks (as well as the hands and mouths of those lucky enough to stumble across a tree) deep purple. They make delicious additions to pies, wine and jams although importation and exportation is quite limited since the fruits bruise easily and do not travel well. In parts of Asia where the silk trade is a major industry white mulberry trees are cultivated since the leaves provide nourishment for silk worms. They also appear to be quite nourishing for humans too, making a pleasant and refreshing cup of tea.

Mulberry leaves have garnered quite a bit of attention in the natural health and medicine field when the owner of a Norwegian health food store purportedly recommended mulberry tablets to several of his diabetic customers. Many apparently found that their once out-of-control blood sugar was put in check along with the added benefit of losing weight. Although this caused quite a stir, white mulberry leaf has been known for these affects by the Chinese for thousands of years (and interestingly enough, it is also a common folk treatment for diabetes in Trinidad and Tobago). More recent studies show that in mice with induced diabetes, the compound 2,5-dihydroxy-4,3 '-di(beta D-glucopyranosyloxy)-trans-stilbene (DGTS) extracted from mulberry leaves actually helped to prevent atrophy of the beta-pancreatic cells (which are normally destroyed as a result of long-term diabetes) and slowed vascular degeneration. Thus mulberry may be helpful in the treatment of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

In another study using diabetes-induced rats, it was fount that when white mulberry leaf was given, Nitric Oxide Synthase (NOS) was inhibited, thus the neurotransmitter nitric oxide was not produced and food cravings were. Another animal study found that treatment with white mulberry leaf had the potential to increase new cell proliferation in the Central Nervous System (this is important as cell are actually destroyed in the CNS due to diabetes).White mulberry leaf also reduces fasting blood glucose, high blood pressure and increased the reactivity of vascular tissues in diabetes-induced rats in another recent study. Rats fed a high-fat diet supplemented with white mulberry experienced significantly lower levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol that one wants to be low), increased HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol that should be present in higher ratios than the LDL cholesterol), lower serum and liver triglyceride levels and finally, a decrease in the artherogenic index. In the same study it was found that even the animals fed a normal diet supplemented with mulberry experienced improved blood and liver antioxidant levels. It is no surprise then, that mulberry leaves also show some weight loss potential for diet-induced obesity. The root has also been proven to be effective for inducing apoptotic cell death and exerting some cytotoxic effects on lung, colon, stomach, ovarian, glioma, human leukemia and human melanoma cells — thus it is also being investigated for its potential in cancer treatments. Cosmetic use of white mulberry is being investigated and it was found that the extract acts as a skin lightener via the inhibition of melanogenesis. Mulberry leaves contain appreciable amounts of protein (9.96% according to one study), crude fibre, anthocyanins, beta-carotene, calcium (found in greater amounts than a glass of milk), iron, zinc, ascorbic acid (all found in greater amounts than spinach), and vitamins B1, B2 and B6 while also acting as an antioxidant….making this a very nutritious leafy green or cup of tea. Traditional uses extend to drinking the tea to break of phlegm during coughs and colds, to the promotion of sweating, improving one’s eyesight and according to some, the secret to long life.

To brew a cup of this nourishing tea, take about one teaspoon of leaves per cup and quickly rinse with cool water to remove the dust (the leaves are seldom washed after harvesting as this tends to degrade them at a much faster rate). Pour hot water (but not boiling water as this tends to make the tea quite bitter) in the cup or teapot, then add the leaves and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes, depending on your taste. The leaves can be re-used several times throughout the day (1-4 cups per day is recommended) but they do not keep well for a second day. White mulberry leaf also makes a refreshing iced tea. The dried leaves can be added to baking, soups, stir-frys etc to increase the anti-oxidant value and promote improved glucose metabolism post-meal.


For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Canadian Food & Drug Administration.

This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. www.distinctlytea.com 519-578-2010 distinctlytea@rogers.com

Research compiled and summarized by Keila McCullough BHSc, ND (cand.) Distinctly Tea Inc.

“Administration of Folium mori extract decreases nitric oxide synthase expression in the hypothalamus of streptozotocininduced diabetic rats”. Jang MH, Kim H, Shin MC, Lim BV, Lee TH, Jung SB, Kim CJ, Kim EH. Jpn J Pharmacol. 2002 Oct;90(2):189-92.

“Albanol A from the root bark of Morus alba L. induces apoptotic cell death in HL60 human leukemia cell line”. Kikuchi T, Nihei M, Nagai H, Fukushi H, Tabata K, Suzuki T, Akihisa T. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2010;58(4):568-71.

“Antidiabetic Properties of 2,5-Dihydroxy-4,3'-Di(beta-D-Glucopyranosyloxy) trans-Stilbene from Mulberry (Morus bombycis Koidzumi) Root in Streptozotocin Induced Diabetic Rats”. Heo SI; Jin YS; Jung MJ;Wang MH. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2007 Dec 1;10(4): 602-7. [abstract].

“Biological screening of 100 plant extracts for cosmetic use (I): inhibitory activities of tyrosinase and DOPA autooxidation”. Lee KT, Kim BJ, Kim JH, Heo MY, Kim HP. Int J Cosmet Sci. 1997 Dec;19(6):291-8. [abstract].

“Ethnomedicines used in Trinidad and Tobago for urinary problems and diabetes mellitus”. Lans CA. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2006 Oct 13;2:45.

“Folium mori increases cell proliferation and neuropeptide Y expression in dentate gyrus of streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats”. Kim H, Jang MH, Shin MC, Chang HK, Lee TH, Lim BV, Jung CY, Lee CY, Kim EH, Kim CJ. Biol Pharm Bull. 2003 Apr;26(4):434-7.

“Hypolipidemic and antioxidant effects of mulberry (Morus alba L.) fruit in hyperlipidaemia rats”. Yang X, Yang L, Zheng H. Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 Aug-Sep;48(8-9):2374-9.

“Influence of mulberry leaf extract on the blood glucose and breath hydrogen response to ingestion of 75 g sucrose by type 2 diabetic and control subjects”. Mudra M, Ercan-Fang N, Zhong L, Furne J, Levitt M. Diabetes Care. 2007 May;30 (5):1272-4.

“Melanin-concentrating hormone-1 receptor antagonism and anti-obesity effects of ethanolic extract from Morus alba leaves in diet-induced obese mice”. Oh KS, Ryu SY, Lee S, Seo HW, Oh BK, Kim YS, Lee BH. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Mar 18;122(2):216-20. [abstract].

“Mulberry fruit (Moris fructus) extracts induce human glioma cell death in vitro through ROS-dependent mitochondrial pathway and inhibits glioma tumor growth in vivo”. Jeong JC, Jang SW, Kim TH, Kwon CH, Kim YK. Nutr Cancer. 2010 Apr;62(3):402-12.

“Mulberry leaf ameliorates the expression profile of adipocytokines by inhibiting oxidative stress in white adipose tissue in db/db mice”. Sugimoto M, Arai H, Tamura Y, Murayama T, Khaengkhan P, Nishio T, Ono K, Ariyasu H, Akamizu T, Ueda Y, Kita T, Harada S, Kamei K, Yokode M. Atherosclerosis. 2009 Jun;204(2):388-94. [abstract].

“Mulberry leaf extract restores arterial pressure in streptozotocin-induced chronic diabetic rats”. Naowaboot J, Pannangpetch P, Kukongviriyapan V, Kukongviriyapan U, Nakmareong S, Itharat A. Nutr Res. 2009 Aug;29(8):602-8. [abstract].

“Nutritional quality of leaves of some genotypes of mulberry (Morus alba)”. Srivastava S; Kapoor R; Thathola A; Srivastava RP. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition..2006 May 1; 57(5): 305-13.

Research compiled and summarized by Keila McCullough BHSc, ND (cand.)

Photo Credit: By Alborzagros - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43322647


Leave a Comment