White mulberry tree, is also known as Morus alba, is a species in Family Moraceae that grows more rapidly but has a shorter lifespan, compared to black mulberry tree and red mulberry tree. It is native to northern China and long ago has been cultivated as an important feed of sericulture and silk craftsmanship there. In addition, its fruits can be used for making wine and bark for producing handmade paper. Medicinally, its main medicinal parts include mulberry leaf (Sang Ye), mulberry bark (Sang Bai Pi), mulberry fruit (Sang Shen), and mulberry twig (Sang Zhi). In this article, the medicinal uses of its twig are going to be the focus.
What is white mulberry?
Morus alba L. is one of deciduous shrubs or small trees, 3 to 15 meters in height. Trunk bark is gray and with shallow grooves; root bark is fibrous and yellow-brown or reddish yellow. The leaves are alternate and simple; petiole is 1 to 2.5cm in length; blade is ovate or broadly ovate, 5 to 20cm long, 4 to 10cm wide, and with acute or acuminate apex, rounded or heart-shaped base, coarsely serrated or crenate edge, sometimes irregular lobes, hairless and shiny upper surface, and velutionous lower surface; stipules are lanceolate and caducous. Unisexual flowers are dioecious; female and male inflorescences are axillary and arranged in a spike-like catkins; female inflorescence is pubescent, 1 to 2cm in length, and with 5 to 10mm peduncle; male inflorescence is sagging, slightly pubescent, and 1 to 2.5cm in length; male flowers are with tepals 4, stamens 4, and a sterile pistil in middle; female flowers are with tepals 4, gamogenic base, and 2-lobed stigma. Many achenes densely gather into an oval or oblong aggregate fruit, which is l to 2.5cm long, green at first, fleshy, dark purple or red when ripe. Seeds are small. Bloom time is from April to May and fruiting time is from May to June. Habitats include hills, slopes, area near the villages, fields, etc. Most of them are now cultivated.
The dried twigs of Morus alba, also called Ramulus Mori, are often used as medicine. It is produced across China and usually harvested at the end of spring and the beginning of summer. And the next procedures are to remove the leaves, dry them in the sun, or slice when they are still fresh before the drying. It is used raw or fried medicinally. And the preferred one is stout, young, dry, and with yellowish white section.
Mulberry twig contains tannin, sucrose, fructose, stachyose, glucose, maltose, raffinose, arabinose, xylose, etc.; stems contain flavonoids: mulberrin, mulberrochromene, cyclomulberrin, cyclomulberrochromene, etc.; wood contains morin, cudranin, 2,4,4′,6-tetrahydroxybenzophnone, 2,3′,4,4′,6-tetrahydroxybenzophnone (maclurin), etc.; heartwood contains dihydromorin, dihydro kaempferol, 2,3′,4,5′-Tetrahydroxystilbene, alboctalol, and so on.
White mulberry health benefits
Since white mulberry trees are the most common species grown in China, it is the main medicinal plant source. Therefore, mulberry mentioned in all medical book means Morus alba unless otherwise stated. Mulberry twig is known for its excellent healing properties on rheumatic arthralgia, in particular upper extremity joint pain. And its modern pharmacology has indicated that its twig has strong anti-inflammatory activity, which can improve human lymphocyte transformation rate (LTR), and thereby enhance immunity.
Medicinal properties of white mulberries
From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), different parts of mulberry plant possess different properties and indications. And here are the details for your reference.
1) White mulberry leaves. It is bitter and sweet in flavor and cold in nature and good at dispelling wind, reducing heat, clearing liver, and improving vision. And it can treat diabetes, help weight loss, lower blood sugar, reduce cholesterol, and more;
2) White mulberry fruits. It is sweet and sour in flavor and cold in nature. It is good at nourishing yin and supplementing blood. So, it treats insomnia, habitual constipation, palpitations, dizziness, tinnitus, and so on;
3) white mulberry roots’ bark. It is sweet in flavor and cold in nature and good at relieving cough and asthma and inducing diuresis to alleviate edema;
As for the medicinal properties of its twig, it is bitter in flavor and neutral in nature. It goes to liver meridian. Prime functions include expelling wind-damp, dredging blocked channels, and removing edema. Basic white mulberry uses and indications are numbness or tingling in rheumatoid arthritis, hemiplegia in stroke, edema and beriberi, and pruritus. Recommended white mulberry dosage is from 15 to 30 grams in decoction. In addition, other products, like white mulberry tea, supplement, juice, and extract, are also available.
Sample white mulberry recipes on herbal remedies
1) Sang Zhi Tang from Tai Ping Sheng Hui Fang (Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief). It is combined with Liu Zhi (willow twigs), Shan Zhi (Cedar twigs), Huai Zhi (Sophora japonica twigs), etc. to externally treat numbness of the skin and achy pain in hands and feet due to wind-pathogen attack.
2) Shuang Sang Jiang Ya Tang from Liao Ning ZHONG CAO YAO XIN YI LIAO FA ZHAN LAN HUI ZI LIAO XUAN BIAN (Chinese herbal medicine and new medical exhibition information Selected). It is formulated with mulberry leaf and Chong Wei Zi (Semen leonuri) to lower high blood pressure.
3) Sang Zhi Jian from Taiping Holy Prescriptions for Universal Relief. It is coupled with Yi Mu Cao (Leonorus) to cure lichen planus.
Since this herb is able to dispel the wind, dredge collaterals, and relieve joint pain, the older twigs can be used in large dose alone or in combination with other herbs to treat painful red swollen and hot joints and other arthralgia due to heat-toxicity. And here are some regular combinations for your reference.
1) In the case of numbness arms and fingers in rheumatism, it can be matched with Wei Ling Xian (Clematis), Han Fang Ji (Stephania Tetrandra), Dang Gui (Dong Quai), etc.;
2) If it is a cold pattern, adding Gui Zhi (Ramulus Cinnamomi) is a must in order to increase the efficiency of warming meridians;
3) If it is a hot pattern, adding Luo Shi Teng (Star Jasmine Vine) and Ren Dong Teng (Honeysuckle Vine) is a good idea to clear heat;
4) In the case of deficiency of qi-blood, adding Huang Qi (Astragalus Root), Ji Xue Teng (Evergreen Wisteria), etc. to replenish qi and enrich the blood;
5) In terms of itching all over body, dry skin, and lichen planus due to wind-heat attacking ying blood, combining with Bu Gu Zhi (Psoralea), He Shou Wu (Fo-Ti Root), Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia), or others could be a plausible way to cool and nourish blood while dispelling wind;
6) As for dispersion-thirst disease, it can be decocted alone since it can help promote the secretion of saliva or body fluid;
7) In the case of edema, it is ideal to work with Chi Xiao Dou (Adzuki Beans) to reduce edema.
White mulberry side effects and contraindications
Twigs of White mulberry are normally considered an edible herb. But TCM wise, care should be taken in the case of yin deficiency. Except for the mentioned contraindication, there are no other side effects mentioned or reported up to the minute this article is being written.