Mulberry leaves

Chinese: 桑叶

Pinyin: Sāng Yè

Parts used: Dried leaves

TCM category: Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): BitterSweet

Meridian affinity: LiverLung

Scientific name: Morus alba

Use of mulberry leaves (Sāng Yè) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, cut in smaller pieces and dry

Dosage: 5 - 15 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Relieves the Exterior and clears Heat. Clears Heat in the Lung with associated Dryness. Clears the Liver for either Wind-Heat or Yin Deficient Heat. Cools the Blood.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which mulberry leaves may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Common cold Dry cough Headache Uveitis Impaired vision Sore throat Conjunctivitis

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those who have weakness and Cold in the Lungs.

Common TCM formulas in which mulberry leaves are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind mulberry leaves' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), mulberry leaves are plants that belong to the 'Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior' category. Herbs that release the Exterior aim to to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the throat or the skin. TCM believes that External diseases such as colds or allergies can only invade the body if the External environment overwhelms our Wei Qi (the TCM version of the immune system). In order to counteract this invasion Cool/Acrid herbs aim to induce sweating by dilating our capillary pores so that they release more sweat. The belief is that this will expel the disease from the body and stop it from invading further.

As suggested by its category mulberry leaves are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that mulberry leaves typically help people who have too much "heat" in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much heat in their body are said to either have a Yang excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition mulberry leaves can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Mulberry leaves also taste Bitter and Sweet. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like mulberry leaves tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing heat, drying dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements. On the other hand Sweet ingredients tend to slow down acute reactions and detoxify the body. They also have a tonic effect because they replenish Qi and Blood.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such mulberry leaves are thought to target the Liver and the Lung. In TCM the Liver is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body.

Research on mulberry leaves

Mulberry leaf powder exhibited antioxidant activity and mulberry leaf powder has potential to decrease serum triglyceride, low-density lipoprotein, and C-reactive protein levels in mild dyslipidemia patients without causing severe adverse reactions.1

An ethanolic extract of mulberry leaves had antihyperglycemic, antioxidant and antiglycation effects in chronic diabetic rats, which may suggest its utility as a food supplement for diabetics.2

Even though some patients experienced side effects such as mild diarrhea, dizziness or constipation and bloating, mulberry leaf tablet therapy is still capable and safe in reducing cholesterol levels in patients with mild dyslipidemia.3

Sources:

1. Aramwit P, Supasyndh O, Siritienthong T, Bang N. (2013). Mulberry leaf reduces oxidation and C-reactive protein level in patients with mild dyslipidemia. Biomed Res Int. , 2013:787981. doi: 10.1155/2013/787981. Epub 2013 Jan 15.

2. Antihyperglycemic, antioxidant and antiglycation activities of mulberry leaf extract in streptozotocin-induced chronic diabetic rats Naowaboot J., Pannangpetch P., Kukongviriyapan V., Kongyingyoes B., Kukongviriyapan U. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition 2009 64:2 (116-121)

3. Aramwit P, Petcharat K, Supasyndh O. (2011). Efficacy of mulberry leaf tablets in patients with mild dyslipidemia. Phytother Res. , 25(3):365-9. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3270.

Use of mulberry leaves as food

Mulberry leaves are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Stuffed Mulberry Leaves.