The Health Benefits of White Mulberry

This natural remedy may improve diabetes and high blood pressure

white mulberries in a small pile

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White mulberry (Morus alba) is a tree whose root, leaves, bark, and fruit are used in herbal medicine. The species is native to China but is widely cultivated in many parts of the world, including the United States, Mexico, Australia, Turkey, Iran, and Argentina.

White mulberry is commonly used in alternative medicine as a laxative and antiseptic but is also believed to reduce cholesterol and provide better control of diabetes.

In traditional Chinese medicine, white mulberry is said to act on the meridians of the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, and spleen, aiding in the treatment of everything from anemia and constipation to the prevention of colds, flu, cavities, and premature gray hair.

Also Known As

  • Chinese mulberry
  • Egyptian mulberry
  • Mon tea
  • Russian mulberry
  • Sang Zhe (traditional Chinese medicine)

Health Benefits

Long used in herbal medicine, white mulberry is often touted as a natural remedy for a wide range of common and uncommon disorders, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Colds
  • Constipation
  • Cough
  • Dental caries (cavities)
  • Diabetes
  • Flu
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Sore throat
  • Tinnitus

White mulberry contains a variety of compounds thought to influence health. The fruit of the tree, for example, is rich in anthocyanins, a plant-based compound known to exert antioxidant effects.

The bark and roots contain a potent antibacterial compound known as kuwanon G unique to the white mulberry tree.

Whether these and other compounds have medicinal value is a subject of contention. In truth, there is not a lot of evidence to support the use of white mulberry in treating any medical condition.

With that being said, there is growing evidence that white mulberry extracts can aid in the treatment of certain metabolic and dental disorders.

Diabetes

Several animal-based studies suggest that white mulberry may help fight diabetes. These include a 2013 study published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine in which diabetic rats treated with white mulberry anthocyanins experienced a normalization in blood glucose levels.

Interestingly, the effect was more common at lower doses than higher ones. For reasons not entirely understood, white mulberry appears to slow the production of insulin with little to no side effects or impact on liver health.

A similar study in Advances in Medical Sciences reported that people who used low-fat milk infused with mulberry leaf extract had a slower absorption of simple carbohydrates (sugars and starch) than those given plain low-fat milk. This effect could explain how white mulberry extracts prevent blood sugar spikes following meals.

High Cholesterol

There is some evidence that white mulberry may help keep blood cholesterol in check. According to a 2011 study published in Phytotherapy Research, a white mulberry leaf extract taken three times daily before meals reduced total cholesterol, triglyceride, and "bad" LDL cholesterol levels in 23 adults with dyslipidemia (abnormal blood lipids).

The effect was often progressive. Triglycerides, for example, decreased from 10.2% at week 4 to 12.5% at week 8 and 14.1% by week 12. At the end of the 12-week study, total cholesterol dropped by an average of 4.9%, LDL cholesterol decreased by 5.6%, and "good" HDL cholesterol increased by an impressive 19.7%.

Similar results were seen in animal studies conducted in 2013 in which white mulberry extracts improved not only lipid and glucose levels but decreased body weight in obese mice fed a high-fat diet. This suggests that white mulberry may also aid in the treatment of obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Larger-scale human studies are needed to confirm these results.

Dental Care

The antimicrobial effects of white mulberry may aid in the prevention of cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis suggests a 2016 study in the International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences.

According to the researchers, white mulberry root extract was able to inhibit a number of bacteria commonly associated with gum disease (Streptococcus mutans, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Enterococcus faecalis). It appeared to do so not by killing them but by interfering with their replication cycle.

At higher concentrations, the extract was also able to inhibit Candida albicans, a fungus associated with oral thrush and vaginal yeast infection.

The results of the study were supported in part by a 2018 trial in the Journal of Biological Science in which scientists in Thailand developed a chewing gum infused with a white mulberry leaf extract.

According to the investigators, the chewing gum exerted potent antimicrobial action against S. mutans (a major cause of tooth decay), reducing not only the number of bacteria but also the acidity in saliva that contributes to the destruction of tooth enamel.

Possible Side Effects

Little is known about the long-term safety of white mulberry. Side effects are common with higher doses and may include mild diarrhea, dizziness, constipation, and bloating. Allergies are uncommon but can occur.

Because of its effect on blood glucose, white mulberry should be used with caution in people on diabetic medications, including insulin. The combined use may trigger a steep drop in blood sugar (hyperglycemia), characterized by shaking, dizziness, sweating, fatigue, lightheadedness, and fainting.

The same may apply to the combined use of white mulberry and anti-hypertensive drugs used to treat high blood pressure. Doing so may trigger hypotension in which the rapid drop in blood pressure can cause fatigue, lightheadedness, clammy skin, blurry vision, nausea, and fainting.

To avoid interactions, advise your doctor about any and all drugs you are taking, whether they are prescription, over-the-counter, nutritional, herbal, or recreational.

The safety of white mulberry in children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers has not been established. Given the lack of research, it is best to avoid the use of white mulberry products in any of these groups.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

White mulberry is typically sold as an oral supplement or dried powder. These can be readily sourced online or at natural food shop or stores that specialize in dietary supplements. Fresh and sundried white mulberry fruit can also be found through specialty growers. White mulberry teas and tea bags are also available.

There are no guidelines for the appropriate use of white mulberry for medicinal purposes. As a rule of thumb, never exceed the recommended dose on the product label. Doing so may increase the risk of side effects.

White mulberry powder can be mixed with milk, juice, yogurt, or protein shakes. Not surprisingly, the fruit extract has a pleasant nectary taste, while root and leaf powders have a slightly bitter, nutty flavor.

Dietary supplements are not strictly regulated in the United States. To ensure quality and safety, opt for products that have been certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Although white mulberry supplements, powders, and teas can be safely stored at room temperature, discard any product that has expired or has signs of spoilage or mold.

Other Questions

Can you get fresh white mulberry products?

With the exception of fresh ripe mulberries, freshly harvested parts of the white mulberry tree should be avoided. Mulberry trees contain a milky sap called latex which can cause stomach upset if eaten or contact dermatitis if applied to the skin. This is especially true if you have a known latex allergy. Even unripe white mulberries can cause indigestion, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea.

When picked at the peak ripeness, white mulberries are especially delicious. They range in color from white to a light purple and have a sweet, honey-like flavor. Once picked, the berries have a short shelf life (three to five days) and are best stored in the refrigerator loosely covered.

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Article Sources

  1. Jin SE, Ha H, Shin HK, et al. Anti-Allergic and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Kuwanon G and Morusin on MC/9 Mast Cells and HaCaT Keratinocytes. Molecules. 2019 Jan;24(2):265. doi:10.3390/molecules24020265.

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