White mulberry (Morus Alba) is a shorter tree than its red relative and can reach a height of 10-20 meters. It has a shorter lifespan and grows faster than its counterpart. Native from Northern China, the tree has many uses and has been introduced all around the world. Today it is cultivated in USA, Europe, Australia, Mexico, South America, Kyrgyzstan, etc.
The white mulberry loses its leaves in winter in temperate regions but can be green all year in tropical areas. The size and shape of the leaves depends on the tree age. On mature trees, the leaves have serrated edges, are not lobed, with a length of 5 to 15 cm, cordate at the base and rounded at the top. On young trees, especially the vigorous shoots, leaves can grow to 30 cm in length and have rounded and very intricate lobes. The flowers can only have one sex, female catkins are 1-2 cm long while males ones are longer and can reach 2 to 3.5 cm. While a single tree can have both male and female flowers, they are usually found on separate trees. The fruit is very sweet but the taste lacks the very strong flavour of red or black mulberries and can be bland. White mulberry fruits have a length between 1 and 2.5 cm and their color varies depending on where they grow. Generally, cultivated trees produce white or pink fruits, while wild ones can have a strong purple pigment. Many species of birds eat the fruits and disperse the seeds in their droppings.
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The white mulberry is widely cultivated because its leaves are eaten by the silkworms that produce the very valuable silk. The fast and vigorous growth of the tree produces a lot of leaves for this purpose. Other animals can also be fed using the leaves, young shoots and bark of white mulberry. Traditionally, ancient Chinese medicine has also used the fruit for the treatment of many diseases. It is a popular and widespread ornamental tree, providing shade in parks and gardens.
The ancient Chinese considered the white mulberry to be an essential ingredient of their medicine. The fruits in particular have important benefits, due to the very high concentration of antioxidants, vitamins and essential minerals. However, the Chinese believe that all the parts of the tree contribute to optimum health.
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Just like its red counterpart, the white mulberry fruits contain strong antioxidants, among which the rare resveratrol as well as anthocyanins and other phenolic compounds. One of the main benefits of antioxidants is the delay in the process of aging. This is most visible in the skin, which looks younger and doesn't form wrinkles, dark lines or spots and other signs of aging and is shielded from the negative effects of sun exposure. Scientists have proven that antioxidants in white mulberries prevent heart diseases and especially cancer. This is because they neutralize the free radicals and prevent damage to tissues and cells.
Traditionally, white mulberries have been known to boost the response of the immune system. Researchers have discovered that alkaloids in the fruits activate the macrophages in the blood. Macrophages are one of the key components of our immune system and the body's first line of defence against germs. They are a special white blood cells which digest bacteria, germs and any foreign particles in the blood stream responsible for causing different diseases.
In addition, the fruits contain compounds that are very effective killers of bacteria. Several strains of bacteria are harmful for our body, such as Streptococcus aureus, Streptococcus sanguis, Porpyromonas gingivalis, Streptococcus sobrinus, Streptococcus faecalis, Mycobacterium smegmatis, but also molds of various types. The active compounds are named phytochemicals and studies have revealed their strong anti-bacterial effects. A large quantity of vitamin C can also be found in the fruits. This is an essential and very powerful antioxidant that strengthens immunity and can usually prevent common problems like flu, minor infections or cold.
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Analysis of white mulberry leaves have revealed an intriguing bioactive substance named 1-deoxynojirimycin (DNJ). It appears to limit the digestion of sugar, which causes most of it to be excreted and not reach the flux of the blood. As a result, the fruits might be very effective in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. It has been proven that DNJ also stops any sudden spikes in the levels of sugar and glucose in the blood. The easiest way to consume the leaves and benefit from these properties is to prepare them as a tea and drink it often, which can greatly reduce the chance of diabetes and keep the sugar in the blood at a low level.
Extracts of white mulberry have been used in labs to modulate the activities of monoamine oxidase. This can be very useful to patients with Parkinson's disease, depression or dementia, since monoamine oxidase regulators are known to have a beneficial effects on such conditions. Most neurological problems appear when the gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) in the brain is depleted. This appears to be the main cause of serious conditions like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Ethanolic extracts prepared from white mulberries have been tested for their effect against the models of Parkinson's disease. It was discovered that the neurons were shielded from neurotoxins, no doubt because of the anti-apoptotic and antioxidant properties of the fruits. As for Alzheimer's disease, studies have revealed white mulberries are effective both to prevent and treat this disease, which is one of the most common neurodegenerative disorders. The leaves can be used to prevent it as well as treat it, since the extracts appear to stop the formation of amyloid beta-peptide fibril. Less-severe problems such as stress can also be treated with white mulberries. Many stress-induced disorders originate from oxidative problems and can be prevented by consuming white mulberries, due to the strong antioxidant properties of the fruits. This makes the plant a significant tool in fighting stress, with the potential for more research on its benefits in this field.
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Traditional Chinese doctors have known the benefits of white mulberry in the treatment of heart diseases. Many of these are caused by the accumulation of cholesterol in the blood and arteries. Consumption of white mulberries reduces the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood, thus preventing such problems. Other benefits are blood pressure regulation and vasodilatation, caused by the potassium content.
The betulinic acid found in white mulberry extracts is known to prevent darkening of the skin, because it inhibits the production of melanin. This makes the plant a very useful and common ingredient in natural cosmetic products for skin whitening, especially on Asian markets. However, the leaves also have positive effects on the skin, mainly by detoxifying it. This gives skin a glowing look and a soft feel. Leaves can also remove acne signs, balance and moisture dry skin, calm sensitive skins, clear blemishes and have an overall rejuvenating effect.
Other cosmetic uses of white mulberry are in hair products. The fruits limit hair loss and at the same time boost its growth, a double effect. An effective cure for hair loss is to apply the fruit juice straight on the scalp. Both red and white mulberries are known to be effective in the prevention of grey hair. Overall, fruit consumption makes the hair stronger and more resilient.
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The high quantity of iron in the white mulberries makes it a very effective cure for anemia, especially for women who need more of this essential mineral than men. Weakness, fatigue or dizziness have been traditionally treated in Chinese medicine by drinking mulberry juice. Normally, anemia is caused by a diet without enough iron needed by our body, so eating foods with a higher iron content is the most effective way to solve this problem.
In addition, drinking mulberry juice is known to enhance the circulation of blood. The antioxidants in the fruit contribute to the prevention of eye diseases by protecting them from the devastating effects of free radicals. Consumption of mulberry juice makes the eyes healthier, improves vision at both short and long distances and limits the macular degeneration associated with aging. Being a rich source of vitamin A, white mulberry juice is very valuable for the health of our eyes.
The fruits are usually eaten raw but can also be prepared in several ways. Adding them to pudding, cookies, pies or even bread can give them an exotic taste. They can be preserved as jams, jellies or used as a substitute for raisins. White mulberry fruits are also used as an ingredient in making mulberry wine.
White mulberry is an amazing source of fibers and as low as 1/3 of a cup of fruits provides no less than 20% of the fiber needs of the body. In addition, it provides 4 grams of pure protein, which makes it a great vegetal source. The fiber regulates digestion and cleans the bowels but also reduces the levels of sugar in the blood and lowers cholesterol. It contains several minerals, with significant quantities of potassium, manganese, magnesium and iron. Other beneficial bioactive compounds in the fruits are lutein, α-carotene, beta-carotene, resveratrol, anthocyanins, zeaxanthin and other polyphenolic flavonoid antioxidants. It is rich in riboflavin, niacin and folic acid. Eating the fruits daily provides most of the daily needs of B complex vitamins such as vitamin B6, as well as vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E.
White mulberries reduce blood sugar levels and can't be eaten in big quantities by people with low blood sugar, to prevent it falling to a dangerous level. It is also advised to be avoided by lactating women and pregnant ones, because its effects have not been properly investigated.
Otherwise, white mulberry is safe to eat and has no other known adverse effects, other than digestive disorders from eating too many fruits or unripe ones.
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