Mulberry trees produce flavorful berries that are enjoyed around the world and often deemed superfoods due to their concentration of vitamins, minerals, and powerful plant compounds.

However, the fruit isn’t the only part of the mulberry tree that may offer health benefits. For centuries, its leaves have been used in traditional medicine as a natural treatment for a variety of conditions.

In fact, the leaves are highly nutritious. They’re loaded with powerful plant compounds like polyphenol antioxidants, as well as vitamin C, zinc, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium (2, 3, 4).

This article reviews mulberry leaf, examining its uses, benefits, and potential side effects.

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Mulberry (Morus) belongs to the Moraceae plant family and includes several species, such as the black mulberry (M. nigra), red mulberry (M. rubra), and white mulberry (M. alba) (1).

Native to China, this tree is now cultivated in many regions, including the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Mulberry leaves have a variety of culinary, medicinal, and industrial applications.

The leaves and other parts of the tree contain a milky white sap called latex, which is mildly toxic to humans and may result in symptoms like an upset stomach if ingested or skin irritation if touched (5, 6).

Yet, many people consume mulberry leaves without experiencing adverse effects.

They’re said to be very palatable and commonly used to make tinctures and herbal teas, which are a common health beverage in Asian countries. Young leaves can be eaten after cooking.

You can also take mulberry leaf supplements, which have become increasingly popular for their potential health benefits.

Additionally, these leaves are the sole food source of the silkworm — a caterpillar that produces silk — and sometimes used as feed for dairy animals (1).

SUMMARY

Mulberry leaves are commonly used to make tea in Asian countries, though they can be eaten as well. They’re likewise available as tinctures and herbal supplements.

Mulberry leaves may help lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and inflammation levels. These attributes may make them useful for fighting heart disease and diabetes (3).

May lower blood sugar and insulin

Mulberry leaves provide several compounds that may help combat diabetes.

These include 1-deoxynojirimycin (DNJ), which prevents the absorption of carbs in your gut (2, 7).

In particular, these leaves may reduce high levels of blood sugar and insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.

In one study, 37 adults ingested maltodextrin, a starchy powder that rapidly boosts blood sugar levels. They were then given mulberry leaf extract containing 5% DNJ.

Those who took either 250 or 500 mg of the extract experienced a significantly lower rise in blood sugar and insulin levels than the placebo group (2).

Also, in a 3-month study, people with type 2 diabetes who took 1,000 mg of mulberry leaf extract 3 times daily with meals experienced significant reductions in post-meal blood sugar levels, compared with a placebo group (8).

May promote heart health

Some research suggests that mulberry leaf extract may improve heart health by reducing cholesterol and blood pressure levels, decreasing inflammation, and preventing atherosclerosis — a buildup of plaque in your arteries that can lead to heart disease.

One study gave 23 people with high cholesterol 280 mg of mulberry leaf supplements 3 times per day. After 12 weeks, their LDL (bad) cholesterol dropped by 5.6% while their HDL (good) cholesterol increased by 19.7% (9).

Another 12-week study noted that 10 people with high triglycerides who took daily mulberry leaf supplements containing 36 mg of DNJ reduced their levels of this marker by 50 mg/dL, on average (10).

Additionally, animal studies indicate that this leaf may prevent atherosclerosis and reduce cellular damage and high blood pressure levels, all of which are risk factors for heart disease (11, 12, 13).

May reduce inflammation

Mulberry leaf contains numerous anti-inflammatory compounds, including flavonoid antioxidants.

Some research suggests that mulberry leaf may combat inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are linked to chronic disease (14).

Studies in mice on high fat diets demonstrate that supplements from this leaf reduced inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein, as well as oxidative stress markers like superoxide dismutase (15, 16).

A test-tube study in human white blood cells likewise revealed that extracts of mulberry leaf and its tea not only reduced inflammatory proteins but also significantly lowered DNA damage caused by oxidative stress (17).

Although these results are encouraging, human studies are needed.

Other potential health benefits

Although research is limited, mulberry leaf may offer several other health benefits. These include:

  • Anticancer effects. Some test-tube research links this leaf to anticancer activity against human cervical and liver cancer cells (13, 18).
  • Liver health. Test-tube and animal studies have determined that mulberry leaf extract may protect liver cells from damage and reduce liver inflammation (13).
  • Weight loss. Rodent studies note that these leaves may increase fat burning and promote weight loss (19).
  • Consistent skin tone. Some test-tube research suggests that mulberry leaf extract may prevent hyperpigmentation — or patches of dark skin — and naturally lighten skin tone (20).
SUMMARY

Research suggests that mulberry leaf promotes heart health, reduces inflammation, and combats diabetes. It may provide other benefits as well, but human studies are needed.

Although mulberry leaf has largely been shown to be safe in both human and animal studies, it may lead to side effects in some people (21).

For example, some people have reported adverse effects, such as diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, bloating, and constipation, when taking supplements (9).

Additionally, individuals taking diabetes medications should consult a health professional before trying mulberry leaf due to its effects on blood sugar (13).

What’s more, further human studies are needed to establish this leaf’s safety when taken over long periods. Children and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid it due to insufficient safety research.

It’s always a good idea to consult your healthcare provider before using any herbal supplement, especially if you take medications or have a health condition.

SUMMARY

While it’s widely considered safe, mulberry leaf may cause side effects like diarrhea and bloating. Children and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid it due to a lack of research on its safety.

Mulberry leaves have long been used in traditional medicine and are associated with several impressive health benefits.

This unique tree leaf may combat inflammation and improve various risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. All the same, further human research is needed.

You can take it as a supplement or eat cooked, immature leaves. Still, due to its potential side effects, you may want to consult your healthcare provider before adding mulberry leaves to your routine.