Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer Weed of the Moment: Mulberry

Mulberry may not be the the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a weed, after all it is a tree. However I know from experience of collecting discarded mulberry branches that it is considered a nuisance by many home owners and renters due to its prolific foliage output in spring and summer. Mulberry is worth mentioning during the summer, because this is your last chance to harvest the leaves until next spring if you live in Central Florida. As summer progresses, the leaves will toughen up and discolor slightly. With cooler autumn weather the leaves will start to discolor significantly and then drop. Morus alba is the Chinese White mulberry which is the official herb used in Chinese medicine, also known as Sang Ye. Morus rubra is also common in Central Florida. As far as a understand at this moment, I have been using both of these leaves interchangeably with the same results that you would expect of Morus alba based on the Chinese herbal lore. Paper Mulberry, or Morus papyrifera, I avoid all together.

Mulberry leaves make a great food or beverage. The leaves are protein rich, not surprisingly as the Morus alba is the food source for silk worms. Young tender Mulberry leaves are cooked and eaten by nursing mothers in China. I prefer to wait for larger leaves to dry and use for infusions or decoctions for internal use. Michael Tierra suggests 8 oz of dried leaves in standard brews for adults. I generally prune my trees taking long branches to hang upside down in the house. Then I simply strip the dried leaves from 3 or four branches into a pot to simmer for about a half hour. Morus alba leaves are used in Chinese medicine for treating colds characterized by fever, rapid floating pulse, cough, sore throat, and thin yellow tongue coating. I use them more often for nourishing my lungs. They make an excellent beverage for persons with over exposure to smoke from fires forest fires, or exposure to tobacco. I would also suggest these leaves to people who have lost their voice or have to talk or sing a lot in their profession. Other people who can benefit from this plant are menopausal women or those with dry itchy eyes.

If you don't want to try Mulberry internally that is okay, we can also use it externally. You can collect leaves instead to use for external beauty care. Mulberry leaves are the main ingredient in many Chinese 'ancient secret beauty formulas' for hair and beauty care. Collect some mulberry leaves and experiment. You could make a mulberry decoction for a clarifying hair rinse. Actulaly, Mulberry leaf decoction is precisely the Empress Dowager CiXi's Shampoo Formula from the Qing Dynasty. It was said to strengthen hair and promote hair growth. Make an mulberry leaf infused oil for a lotion or salve base. I've used it in the past in my skin soothing salve. Or you can make a mulberry infused Apple Cider Vinegar for body care. Herbal vinegar diluted 1:1 with water would make a great toner or the vinegar could be added to the bath. I have a nice Rose Geranium Hair Rinse that I make and next will be putting one up with the Lemongrass and Mulberry leaves that are ready to harvest.

Enjoy, and cheers to you as I sip my Mulberry leaf brew.

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