Plant Spotlight: Blueberry
A Native American species, the blueberry is believed to be one of the first edible fruit bearing plants discovered by early man after the ice age. Currently North America is the world’s leading blueberry producer, accounting for about 90% of the world’s population. We may think of this plump beautiful berry as nothing more than a nice treat or part of our culinary palate, but the blueberry has a long history and provides more than just food – this plant been used as medicine for centuries.
FOLKLORE & HISTORY
The blossom end of each blueberry (the calyx) forms the shape of a perfect five-pointed star. Native American elders told of how the Great Spirit sent “star berries” to relieve the children’s hunger during famine.
Elizabethan apothecaries made a syrup of the berries with honey, called rob, used as a remedy for diarrhea.
It is believed that Native Americans gave blueberries to the pilgrims helping them through the first winter. During the civil war, a beverage made of blueberries was an important staple to the soldiers.
Blueberry dye has been used for baskets and cloth. The dried fruit has always been added to stews, soups and meats. The dried berries were also powdered and rubbed into meat for flavor.
Native Americans used the blueberries for medicine for centuries. The juice has been used for lingering coughs and tea made from the blueberry leaves is used as a tonic to help purify the blood. The leaves are also used as a remedy for diarrhea. The fruit is used for anemia, consumptive wasting, indigestion, and colitis. The roots are used for dropsy, and urinary stones. A strong decoction of the berries is said to be used for typhoid fever.
The berry is delicious and its rich color informs us of its high antioxidant capacity. Its phytonutrients provide an array of health benefits for many of our systems – urinary tract, cardiovascular, digestive, skin, brain and more. In fact, research has shown that blueberries can help with memory loss, and circulation which can help combat degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Eating fresh berries help regulate bowel action, stimulate appetite and relieves gas. Even externally the berries are used as a wash for skin problems, sores, wounds, ulcers, and burns.
HOW WE USED BLUEBERRIES
We eat them!