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History and Origin

The blackberry is a perennial berry fruit that grows on a bramble bush and has been consumed by humans for over a thousand years. It is part of the genus Rubus in the rose (Rosaceae) family of plants and is native throughout the temperate Northern Hemisphere. In the US, most cultivation takes place in Oregon, and on a per acre basis, Oregon is the leading blackberry producer in the world. Historically, blackberry leaves were used for their astringent, anti-diarrhetic and hypoglycemic effects, and to treat inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat.4

Components and Activities

Blackberries contain numerous polyphenol antioxidants, such as ellagic acid, tannins (including gallic acid), ellagitannins, quercetin and anthocyanins.5,11-12 Blackberries are also notable for their high nutritional contents (vitamins C & K, B vitamins, folic acid and manganese). Leaves from both wild and cultivated blackberry plants are also a rich source of flavonoids, tannins and ellagic acid.4

Potential Skincare Application

Blackberry leaf extract reduces the formation of MMP-1 in human skin cells in vitro, regardless of whether or not they are exposed to UV radiation.6 Blackberry leaf extract also inhibits interleukin-1α, a cytokine known to induce MMP expression, and exhibits antioxidant activity similar to that of vitamin E.6

Tannins and flavonoids (mainly quercetin and kaempferol) are among the antioxidants contained in blackberry leaf extract.4 Tannins have been shown (in vivo) to protect skin against UVB sun damage.3 Laboratory tests have also shown that quercetin can protect the skin from UV damage and that it may directly inhibit MMP activity.2,7-8, 13


  1. Bogdan Allemann I, Baumann L. Antioxidants used in skin care formulations. Skin Therapy Lett 2008;13(7):5-9.
  2. Fahlman BM, Krol ES. Inhibition of UVA and UVB radiation-induced lipid oxidation by quercetin. J Agric Food Chem 2009;57(12):5301-5.
  3. Gali-Muhtasib HU, Perchellet JP, Khatib SH. Inhibitory effects of plant tannins on ultraviolet light-induced epidermal DNA synthesis in hairless mice. Photochem Photobiol 1998;67(6):663-8.
  4. Gudej J, Tomczyk M. Determination of flavonoids, tannins and ellagic acid in leaves from Rubus L. species. Arch Pharm Res 2004;27(11):1114-9.
  5. Hager TJ, Howard LR, Liyanage R, Lay JO, Prior RL. Ellagitannin composition of blackberry as determined by HPLC-ESI-MS and MALDI-TOF-MS. J Agric Food Chem 2008;56(3):661-9.
  6. Herrmann M, Grether-Beck S, Meyer I, et al. Blackberry leaf extract: a multifunctional anti-aging active. Int J Cosmet Sci 2007;29(5):411.
  7. Hwang MK, Song NR, Kang NJ, et al. Activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase is required for tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced urpregulation of matrix metalloproteinase-9: its direct inhibition by quercetin. Int J Biochem Cell Biol 2009;41(7):1592-600.
  8. Pastore S, Potapovich A, Kostyuk V, et al. Plant polyphenols effectively protect HaCaT cells from ultraviolet C-triggered necrosis and suppress inflammatory chemokine expression. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2009;1171:305-13.
  9. Pinnell SR. Cutaneous photodamage, oxidative stress, and topical antioxidant protection. J Am Acad Dermatol 2003;48(1):1-19.
  10. Sárdy M. Role of matrix metalloproteinases in skin ageing. Connect Tissue Res 2009;50(2):132-8.
  11. Seeram NP, Adams LS, Zhang Y, Lee R, et al. Blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, red raspberry, and strawberry extracts inhibit growth and stimulate apoptosis of human cancer cells in vitro. J Agric Food Chem 2006;54(25):9329-39.
  12. Vasco C, Riihinen K, Ruales J, Kamal-Eldin A. Phenolic compounds in Rosaceae fruits from Ecuador. J Agric Food Chem 2009;57(4):1204-12.
  13. Vicentini FT, Simi TR, Del Ciampo JO, et al. Quercetin in w/o microemulsion: in vitro and in vivo skin penetration and efficacy against UVB-induced skin damages evaluated in vivo. Eur J Pharm Biopharm 2008;69(3):948-57.
  14. Wang SY, Lin HS. Antioxidant activity in fruits and leaves of blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry varies with cultivar and developmental stage. J Agric Food Chem 2000;48(2):140-6.
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