Among various broad-leaved tree species in Kashmir valley, there are several which have vital medicinal values. These tree species flourish under high temperatures i.e., more than 40°C in various parts of the country, but on the other hand these species are able to tolerate below-freezing point temperatures of the Kashmir valley. Some tree species with such peculiarity are Morus alba, Ficus carica, Prunus armeniaca, etc. Mulberry, Morus alba, commonly known as tul or shahtul, is the best known representative of the family Moracea.
Morus alba is a short-lived, fast-growing, small to medium-size mulberry tree which grows upto 10-20 m in height. They are native to warm temperate and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa and America, with the majority of species native to Asia.
Kashmir valley is home to different varieties of mulberry. A number of mulberry varieties such as Shahtul, Chatatul, Zagtul, Robesh sernal, Botatul, Brentul Kashmir, Chinese white, Gosherami, Ichinose, Kokuso, Kanva and Rokokuyaso are found throughout Kashmir.
Mulberry is recognised as “Kalpa Vruksha” (Wish-fulfilling tree) in India. It produces large amount of renewable biomass in the form of branches, shoots, leaves and fruits. In sericulture it is widely used for its foliage, constituting the sole feed for silkworm, Bombyx mori. In most European countries, mulberry fruits are used for human consumption either in raw form or in the form of various confectionary products such as Jams, Pulp, Juice, and Wine. Mulberry has been extensively used in conventional Chinese medicine. This species is reported to have neuro protective, skin tonic, antioxidant, anti hyperglycemic, antibacterial, antihypertensive and anti-hyperlipidemic activities.
Mulberries are filled with nutrients that are important for our body, including iron, riboflavin, vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. They also contain a significant amount of dietary fiber and a wide range of organic compounds, including phytonutrients, zeaxanthin, resveratrol, anthocyanins, lutein, and various polyphenolic compounds. Raw mulberry fruits of about 100 g are able to provide 180 kJ (43 kcal), 44% of the Daily Value for vitamin C, and 14% of the DV for iron, and other nutrients. The health benefits of mulberry include their ability to improve digestion, lower cholesterol, help in weight loss, increase blood circulation, build bone tissues, and boost the immune system.
The fruit of mulberry also helps prevent certain cancers, slows down the aging process, lowers blood pressure, protects eyes, and improves the overall body metabolism. This plant has remarkable effects in lowering serum glucose and blood cholesterol levels. Mulberry also contains several anticancer compounds. Fruits of mulberry decrease the blood glucose levels to inhibit hepatic glycogen loss, and prevent potential histopathological alterations in the pancreas and kidneys.
The leaves of mulberry have diaphoretic and emollient effects and are used for making a decoction that can be used as a gargle that soothes throat inflammation. Besides its use in sericulture, mulberry also has various medicinal properties that can be used as an immunity booster.
—Jauhar Rafeeq is a PhD scholar at Faculty of Forestry SKUAST-K; Zahoor Manzoor Parray is studying for a Masters degree in EVS at Punjabi University Patiala.