Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) Overview

Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) other names: Blackthorn Berry, Blackthorn Flower, Blackthorn Fruit, Buisson Noir, Créquier, Endrino, Épine Noire, Épinette, Fourdinier, Mère-du-Bois, Pélosse, Pélossier, Prunellier, Pruni Spinosae Flos, Pruni Spinosae Fructus, Prunier Sauvage, Prunus spinosa, Sloe, Sloe Berry, Sloe Flower, Wild Plum Flower.

Blackthorn is a plant. The berry and dried flower are used as medicine.

Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa L.) is a thorny shrub native to Eurasia that usually grows up to a height of 4 meters. The branches of this woody shrub are very thorny and protected with hairs like velvet when they are young. The shrub bears pale green leaves, white flowers and bluish-black round-shaped fruits. The ovate leaves are small and grow alternately on the branches. They are very much serrated and the veins on the underside are hairy to some extent. The shrub bears abundance of flowers that appear singularly as well as in pairs along the thorny branches. The fruits usually ripen in October and are coarse and caustic growing up to approximately half an inch in diameter.

Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) fruit

Basically, the blackthorn is known to be a Eurasian species. The shrub is indigenous to several regions, including Europe, western Asia as well as North Africa where the most common species is P. spinosa. In eastern regions of Europe, the shrub and its products are harvested from the wild.

The shrub is generally grown for decorative reasons. In nature, blackthorn grows untamed in cleaned lands, in the midst of hedges, along the periphery of woodlands, sunlit mountain slopes, on moorlands and in meadows where the soil contains sufficient lime. To thrive well, the blackthorn needs a well-drained soil that is capable of retaining moisture. The shrub grows best in clay soil as well as limestone. Although the blackthorn has a preference for some pigment in the soil, presence of it in excess may render the shrub weak or sickly.

The blackthorn blooms during March and April and the seeds of the berries mature sometime during October. The flowers of the shrub are hermaphrodite having both sex organs and are generally fertilized by insects. The flowers of the blackthorn are susceptible to frost and are sometimes damaged by late frosting. Hence, it is natural that the flowers of the blackthorn are an attraction for the wildlife. In fact, the blackthorn serves as a significant food plant for the caterpillars of many different butterfly species, particularly the black and brown hairstreak butterflies. The shrub is also a fine bee plant. As the shrub suckers freely, it forms an excellent nesting place for different birds, particularly the nightingale.

The blackthorn reproduces by means of its seeds. The seeds germinate fast and better if they are sown in a cold frame immediately after they are mature. 

Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) Health Benefits

Despite safety concerns, people take blackthorn flower to treat colds, breathing conditions, cough, fluid retention, general exhaustion, upset stomach, kidney and bladder problems, and constipation; and to treat and prevent stomach spasms. Some people use it to cause sweating. Blackthorn flower is also an ingredient in some “blood cleansing” teas.

Nearly all parts of the blackthorn shrub are medicinally useful. The leaves, flowers, fruits and even the bark of this woody shrub possess purgative, astringent, purifying, diaphoretic, laxative, disinfectant and diuretic properties and they are beneficial for the stomach. A tea prepared with the blackthorn flowers is a safe and consistent purgative and is useful for the stomach and, at the same time, increases craving for food. Herbal medical practitioners prescribe this tea to treat minor gallbladder problems, skin complaints, catarrh, stone formations and cramps in the stomach. It is especially useful in treating diarrhea among children and also for curing kidney problems. 

Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) image

The blackthorn berries are usually more pleasant to eat when they are collected after going through 2 or 3 nights of frost. The juice extracted from the blackthorn fruits or berries is useful in curing swelling and irritation in the mouth, gum and throat. On the other hand, a decoction prepared with the shrub's bark helps to lower fever. However, the flowers of the shrub seem to possess the most therapeutic value. Traditionally, herbal medical practitioners have attributed numerous medicinal features, such as expectorant, diuretic, gentle laxative and diaphoretic, to the blackthorn flowers.

The bark of the blackthorn is also of multiple uses. For instance, it is not only an excellent resource for natural tannin, but is also used widely in preparing ink. When the bark of blackthorn is boiled in an alkali it yields a yellow colorant. Even the juice extracted from the unripe blackthorn berries is made use of by the washer men to mark the clothes as it is more or less difficult to erase. The soft tissues or pulp from the ripened berries are utilized for cosmetic purposes, such as preparing astringent facial masks. 

On the other hand, the green leaves of the shrub serve to prepare a green colorant, while the fruit may be used to obtain a colorant that varies in hue from deep gray to green. A significant aspect of the blackthorn is that the shrub is resilient to marine conditions and bears secondary shoots for rapid growth and expansion. If enclosures made with blackthorn shrubs are properly conserved they are able to resist harsh weather conditions. However, the hedge lies bare during the winter months owing to shedding of leaves by the shrub and unless it is quite extensive, it does not provide adequate shelter during this season. The suckering nature or the inclination of giving rise to secondary shoots, the blackthorn is able to overrun agricultural lands and develops conditions that are suitable for the restoration of woods. The blackthorn grows quickly even after being chopped down or destroyed by rapidly spreading forest fires. The suckering nature of the shrub enables it to develop secondary shoots from below the ground and regenerate rapidly creating dense thickets. These species of Prunus are remarkably unaffected by honey fungus.

Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) flower

Blackthorn wood: The woody stems of the blackthorn shrubs are so tough that they are generally made use of to manufacture  turnery (machines for lathe workshop), the teeth of rakes or hoes and several similar hardy items. The right branches of the blackthorn are used to manufacture walking sticks and they are extremely appreciated for this use owing to their entwined and attractive forms.

The syrup and wine of the blackthorn berry are used for emptying the bowels and increasing urine production to relieve fluid retention (as a diuretic). A marmalade made from the berry is used for upset stomach.

Some people apply blackthorn flower directly to the skin for rashes, “skin impurities,” and “blood purification.”

In foods, blackthorn flower is used in herbal teas as a coloring agent.

Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) Side effects

Blackthorn might be unsafe when swallowed. Blackthorn contains poisonous chemicals.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It’s unsafe for anyone to take blackthorn by mouth because it contains poisonous chemicals. But it is especially important for pregnant women to avoid using blackthorn because it contains chemicals that can cause birth defects.