Raspberry: Fruits And Cordials

The fruit has been mentioned and the next section looks at usage of fruits. The Salernitan herbal describes the unripe blackberries as sour, firm, cold and dry, and thus strengthening to the stomach and intestine, ‘binding the belly’ and for dysentery, especially due to bilious humour. The Salernitan herbal discusses mulberries at more length but refers back to Galen as describing blackberries as restraining, dispersing and separating humours by their sharpness and acidity. Hildegard describes the fruit of blackberry as easily digested but not a medicine. Parkinson quotes Galen on the value of the unripe fruits as an astringent to the digestive tract. Bauhin gives a thorough overview of previous authors and recommends raspberry wine for all uses, especially the stomach and the mouth. He notes that the ancient authors were not referring to raspberries but that raspberries grow everywhere in Germany. He says that Galen found that overeating blackberries causes headaches but that he himself has often eaten many raspberries without harm, despite having a cold, damp and phlegmy stomach.

By the 18th century there is more direct reference to raspberry. Cullen, possibly because he was writing in Edinburgh, describes raspberries as tender, sweet and innocent. Miller describes the fruit as pleasant with a grateful smell and taste, and refers to the cordial as somewhat astringent, strengthening to the stomach and resisting vomiting. Quincy includes the raspberry fruit in Class 2 of the strengtheners, the astringents, and compares them to mulberries but finds them more fragrant, pleasant and cooling as a syrup in vomiting and loose bowels or as a gargle. Hill advises the juice of the ripe fruit, boiled with sugar for a syrup, which is agreeable to the stomach and good for sickness and retching.

Raspberry vinegar and raspberry cordial continue to be used as home remedies for digestive upsets and sore throats. Grieve advises the vinegar added to water as an excellent cooling drink in summer that is also suitable in fever and as a gargle for a relaxed, sore throat. The recipe given is for 2 lb of raspberries in 1 pint of white wine vinegar. Grieve also quotes a recipe from a cookery book where similar proportions are used but first 1 lb is added to the vinegar and then another 1 lb after 24 hours’ maceration. The vinegar is then made into a syrup at the usual proportion of 1 lb sugar tol pint of liquid. The dosage given is a large spoonful or two in a tumbler of water, which makes a ‘refreshing beverage of singular efficacy in complaints of the chest’. Fox gives a recipe for raspberry syrup that is ‘particularly good’ for asthma, croup, whooping cough and dry coughs. Boil 8 oz of honey with a cup of water, remove the scum and pour boiling hot onto y2 oz lobelia Lobelia inflata herb and y2 oz cloves Syzygium aro-maticum. Mix, strain and add half a pint of raspberry vinegar. The dose is given as 1 teaspoonful or dessertspoonful, four times a day. This is an example of a traditional recipe where close attention to yield and thus dosage is required as it includes Lobelia inflata.

According to Ryan et al (2001), raspberries remain in usage in Australia. They investigated raspberry juice prepared from frozen raspberries and raspberry juice cordial as they are widely used to prevent gastroenteritis in humans, farm animals and caged birds. The in vitro study found that the 1:5 dilution juice and the cordial inhibited 11 bacteria, including Salmonella enteritidis, a common cause of diarrhoeal infections. The study found that raspberry leaf was inactive and it could be that this antibacterial activity is associated with the volatile components of the fruits. A study in Finland on eight berries found that raspberry and cloudberry were the best inhibitors of bacteria, and the ellagitannins inhibited Staphylococcus, whereas organic acids inhibited Salmonella enterica). Another in vitro study of the fruit found poor antibacterial activity but this did not include Salmonella.

There has been substantial research into the health benefits of berry fruits and this is considered to be associated with the concentration of phenolic compounds and thus antioxidant activity. Components in raspberry fruits are reviewed by Anttonen & Karjalainen (2005), who discuss the variation between cultivars and the effects of environment, storage and processing. Quercetin content ranged from 0.32 to 1.55 mg/100 g fresh weight, ellagic acid content was 38-118 mg/100 g and anthocyanin concentration was 0-51 mg/100 g. The highest total phenolic concentration was in the cultivar Gatineau and the lowest was in yellow fruits.

Beekwilder et al (2005b) compare different methods of analysis of antioxidants and argue that raspberry fruits are a rich dietary source of ellagitannins and thus antioxidants. In an earlier study, they found that ellagitannins, mainly sanguiin H6 and lambertianin C, were the dominant antioxidants in ripe fruits of 14 cultivars and contributed over 50% of total antioxidant activity. The degree of absorption and thus activity of ellagitannins is unclear, whereas the anthocyanins have been shown to be absorbed. The anthocyanins are mainly cyanidin glycosides and contribute about 25% of the oxidant activity. The other main antioxidants were vitamin C which contributed 20% of total capacity, and some minor proanthocyanidins. In another study, on cultivar Glen Ample, the authors note the contribution to the antioxidant activity of the full range of ellagitannins. Compounds isolated were high concentrations of ellagitannins, mainly sanguiin H-6 and lambertianin C, traces of ellagic acid and its sugar conjugates, 11 anthocyanins, including cyanidin and pelargonidin glycosides, and quercetin and kaemp-ferol glycosides. As Russell et al (2009) argue, it is easy to ignore the relative health benefits of fresh local Scottish produce over than imported fruits.