It’s well known that blueberries—loaded with antioxidants and nutrients—are particularly good for you. But what about their leaves?
One study indicates that blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry leaves contain more antioxidants than the berries!
Granted, I don’t know if this would be true outside a lab setting, or if you’d have to eat the leaves rather than brew them.Still, this finding has encouraged additional research because various industries are interested in finding natural sources of antioxidants. Didn’t know that we use synthetic sources? Neither did I, but apparently we do!
Back in 2003, scientists studied the leaves—a byproduct of mechanical harvesting—from wild blueberry plants to determine if the leaves could be a source of natural antioxidants.
They concluded that, yes, the leaves could serve that purpose.
After extracting crude polyphenolics from the leaves, they tested for antioxidant activity, or for the ability of these extracts to scavenge free radicals and convert them to more stable compounds and for their ability to bind to metal ions. Concluding that “crude extracts of phenolics of wild blueberry leaves exhibited strong antioxidant properties,” Naczk and colleagues (2003:169) helped set the foundation for further research.
Others have begun to tease out exactly what parts of the extract might be responsible for the antioxidant activity, and to determine which cultivars are the most promising.
In 2014, Xiaoyong and Luming identified polyphenol components in blueberry leaves and concluded that “blueberry leaves are good source of polyphenols and could be used as [a] natural antioxidant and antimicrobial agent.”
Wang and team (2015) looked at over a hundred cultivars. They firmly identified eight constituents of phenolic compounds and found that “rabbiteye blueberry cultivars had higher antioxidant activity than most northern and southern highbush ones.”
The importance of this work and others like it?
As Wang et al. (2015) put it, their study, like other ongoing research:
► “contributes to current knowledge on the composition of phenolic compounds in blueberry leaves”
► “identifies specific cultivars which may be potential resources for tea making and food additive.”
Because what good are leaves if they can’t be brewed into tea? Well, technically a tisane in this case. But whatever! Blueberry leaves make a wonderful drink!
As seen in the above photos, after processing, the long, dark, hand-rolled Caucasus Blueberry Leaves are remarkably similar to classic black tea (Camellia sinensis) leaves. They brew into a lighter coppery cup, again akin to a black tea.
Lisa of TeaHaus notes that the liquor is comparable to a classic Ceylon, with the initial fruity and sweet followed by a classic black maltiness.
But unlike black tea, these leaves are very forgiving—you really can’t overbrew them. That being said, if you let the leaves sit for a very long time (I tried letting them brew for a couple of hours), the tea becomes a very dark coppery brown color and much more of the sweet fruitiness comes out, quite overpowering the malty note.
So next time when you really are craving a classic black but can’t do the caffeine, pull out your teapot anyway—blueberry leaves may be just the thing!
And all those antioxidants are a bonus!
–Naczk, M., et al., “Antioxidant activity of crude phenolic extracts from wild blueberry leaves,” Polish Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences 12/53:166–69. 2003.
–Wang, L. J., “Composition of phenolic compounds and antioxidant activity in the leaves of blueberry cultivars,” Journal of Functional Foods 16:295–304. June 2015.
–Xiaoyong, S., and C. Luming, “Phenolic constituents, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of blueberry leaves, Journal of Food and Nutrition Research 2(12):973–79. 2014.