This is the well-known fruit of the Common Bramble (Rubus
fructicosus), which grows in every English hedgerow, and which
belongs to the Rose order of plants. It has long been esteemed for
its bark and leaves as a  capital astringent, these containing
much tannin; also for its fruit, which is supplied with malic and
citric acids, pectin, and albumen. Blackberries go often by the
name of bumblekites, from bumble, the
cry of the bittern, and
kyte, a Scotch word for belly; the name bumblekite being applied,
says Dr. Prior, from the rumbling and bumbling caused in the
bellies of children who eat the fruit too greedily. Rubus is from
the Latin ruber, red.
The blackberry has likewise acquired the name of scaldberry, from
producing, as some say, the eruption known as scaldhead in
children who eat the fruit to excess; or, as others suppose, from the
curative effects of the leaves and berries in this malady of the
scalp; or, again, from the remedial effects of the leaves when
applied externally to scalds.
It has been said that the young shoots, eaten as a salad, will fasten
loose teeth. If the leaves are gathered in the Spring and dried, then,
when required, a handful of them may be infused in a pint of
boiling water, and the infusion, when cool, may be taken, a
teacupful at a time, to stay diarrhoea, and for some bleedings.
Similarly, if an ounce of the bruised root is boiled in three
half-pints of water, down to a pint, a teacupful of this may be given
every three or four hours. The decoction is also useful against
whooping-cough in its spasmodic stage. The bark contains tannin;
and if an ounce of the same be boiled in a pint and a half of water,
or of milk, down to a pint, half a teacupful of the decoction may be
given every hour or two for staying relaxed bowels. Likewise the
fruit, if desiccated in a moderately hot oven, and afterwards
reduced to powder (which should be kept ill a well corked bottle)
will prove an efficacious remedy for dysentery.
 Gerard says: Bramble leaves heal the eyes that hang out, and
stay the haemorrhoides [piles] if they can be laid thereunto. The
London Pharmacopoeia (1696) declared the ripe berries of the
bramble to be a great cordial, and to contain a notable restorative
spirit. In Cruso's Treasury of Easy Medicines (1771), it is
directed for old inveterate ulcers: Take a decoction of blackberry
leaves made in wine, and foment the ulcers with this whilst hot
each night and morning, which will heal them, however difficult to
be cured. The name of the bush is derived from brambel, or
brymbyll, signifying prickly; its blossom as well as the fruit, ripe
and unripe, in all stages, may be seen on the bush at the same time.
With the ancient Greeks Blackberries were a popular remedy for
As soon as blackberries are over-ripe, they become quite
indigestible. Country folk say in Somersetshire and Sussex: The
devil goes round on Old Michaelmas Day, October 11th, to spite
the Saint, and spits on the blackberries, so that they who eat them
after that date fall sick, or have trouble before the year is out.
Blackberry wine and blackberry jam are taken for sore throats in
many rustic homes. Blackberry jelly is useful for dropsy from
feeble ineffective circulation. To make blackberry cordial, the
juice should be expressed from the fresh ripe fruit, adding half a
pound of white sugar to each quart thereof, together with half an
ounce of both nutmeg and cloves; then boil these together for a
short time, and add a little brandy to the mixture when cold.
In Devonshire the peasantry still think that if anyone is troubled
with blackheads, i.e., small pimples, or boils, he may be cured
by creeping from East to West on the hands and knees nine times
beneath an arched  bramble bush. This is evidently a relic of
an old Dryad superstition when the angry deities who inhabited
particular trees had to be appeased before the special diseases
which they inflicted could be cured. It is worthy of remark that the
Bramble forms the subject of the oldest known apologue. When
Jonathan upbraided the men of Shechem for their base ingratitude
to his father's house, he related to them the parable of the trees
choosing a king, by whom the Bramble was finally elected, after
the olive, the fig tree, and the vine had excused themselves from
accepting this dignity.
In the Roxburghe Ballad of The Children in the Wood, occurs
Their pretty lips with Blackberries
Were all besmeared and dyed;
And when they saw the darksome night
They sat them down, and cryed.
The French name for blackberries is mures sauvages, also
mures de haie; and in some of our provincial districts they are
known as winterpicks, growing on the Blag.
Blackberry wine, which is a trustworthy cordial astringent remedy
for looseness of the bowels, may be made thus: Measure your
berries, and bruise them, and to every gallon of the fruit add a
quart of boiling water. Let the mixture stand for twenty-four hours,
occasionally stirring; then strain off the liquid, adding to every
gallon a couple of pounds of refined sugar, and keep it in a cask
tightly corked till the following October, when it will be ripe and
A noted hair-dye is said to be made by boiling the leaves of the
bramble in strong lye, which then imparts permanently to the hair
a soft, black colour. Tom Hood, in his humorous way, described a
negro funeral  as going a black burying. An American poet
graphically tell us:--
Earth's full of Heaven,
And every common bush afire with God!
But only they who see take off their shoes;
The rest sit round it, and--pluck blackberries.