Evidence Based
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13 Benefits of White Mulberry (Morus Alba)

Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Last updated:

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White Mulberry
Morus alba has many claimed benefits, including lowering blood sugar and fat levels, supporting brain function, and preventing bone loss. In addition, the herb has few reported side effects. Read this post to learn about all its potential health benefits and mechanisms.

What Is White Mulberry (Morus alba)?

White mulberry (Morus alba) is a small tree native to northern China. During ancient times its primary uses were to feed silkworms and treat various illnesses.

White mulberry contains many unique active compounds and flavonoids that confer a broad range of potential benefits.

Its leaves and roots can be prepared in a tea, while its berries can be eaten whole or made into wine.

Constituents

White mulberry contains many natural polyphenols and flavonoids, which have potential antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antibacterial properties [1, 2].

Compared to the stems and fruits, the leaves contain more phenolic compounds and flavonoids [3].

Some of the compounds in white mulberry include [1, 4, 5, 2, 6]:

Additionally, white mulberry contains many constituents that are unique to the plant:

  • Moracin has potential anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer properties [2]
  • Albanol A is toxic to cancer cells [9]
  • Albosteroid has antioxidant and anti-ulcer properties [10]

Snapshot

Proponents

  • May lower blood sugar
  • May reduce the risk of heart disease
  • May help lose weight
  • May support brain function
  • Few mild adverse effects reported

Skeptics

  • Insufficient evidence for most benefits
  • May interact with antidiabetic and immunosuppressant medication

Health Benefits

Possibly Effective for:

Diabetes

In 4 clinical trials on 101 healthy people, white mulberry leaf extract reduced carbohydrate digestion and absorption, resulting in decreased blood sugar and insulin spikes after meals [11, 12, 13, 14].

Similarly, the extract reduced fasting sugar levels and sugar and insulin spikes after meals in 3 clinical trials on 84 people with type 2 diabetes or at risk of developing this condition [15, 16, 17].

A nutraceutical complex with white mulberry extract, red yeast rice, and berberine lowered fasting glucose, blood insulin, and hemoglobin bound to sugar (glycated hemoglobin) in 2 trials on almost 400 people with high blood fat levels, possibly reducing their risk of developing type 2 diabetes [18, 19].

White mulberry leaf extract also improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance in obese mice. In cels, it decreased glucose levels by increasing the production of its transporter GLUT4 [20, 21].

White mulberry extract may also help with diabetic complications. It improved the antioxidant status and blood fat profile in a clinical trial on 60 diabetic people with kidney damage, possibly slowing the progression of the disease. In diabetic mice, its antioxidant and sugar-lowering activity protected the eyes against cell death [22, 23].

All in all, the evidence suggests that white mulberry may help lower blood sugar levels. You may discuss with your doctor if it may be helpful in your case. Importantly, never take white mulberry supplements in place of the antidiabetic medication prescribed by your doctor.

Insufficient Evidence for:

1) Preventing Heart Disease

In 2 clinical trials on 48 people with high blood fat levels, white mulberry extract lowered triglycerides, total cholesterol, “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, and markers of inflammation (CRP) and oxidative damage (8-isoprostane), while increasing “good” (HDL) cholesterol [24, 25].

Similarly, a nutraceutical complex with white mulberry, red yeast rice, and berberine lowered total and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure in 2 trials on almost 400 people with this condition [19, 18]

White mulberry extract also decreased fat buildup in the blood vessels and lowered blood pressure in animal studies [26, 27, 28].

Although the results are promising, only 4 clinical trials have been carried out (two of which combined white mulberry extract with other compounds that may lower cholesterol and blood pressure). Larger, more robust clinical trials are needed to confirm these preliminary results.

2) Improving Memory and Learning

In a study of 60 adults, 1-2.1 grams per day of white mulberry leaf extract enhanced brain function and memory [29].

In mice, white mulberry extract increased NGF levels, leading to increased brain cell growth. The mice then had enhanced learning and memory (as seen by their improved retention and object recognition time) [30].

In another study, rats treated with white mulberry extract showed improved memory, as well as increased brain cell density and reduced oxidative stress in the brain [31].

A single clinical trial and some animal research cannot be considered sufficient evidence to claim that white mulberry improves memory and learning. Further clinical research is required.

3) Whitening the Skin

Both white mulberry root bark and leaves can whiten the skin, suggesting their potential application in skin-lightening cosmetics [29+].

A 75% white mulberry oil reduced skin pigmentation in a clinical trial on 50 people with a condition that causes dark patches on the skin (melasma) [32].

Mulberroside F is likely responsible for this effect. In mouse cells, it inhibited melanin formation and tyrosinase activity [33].

Again, only one clinical trial is insufficient to support this potential use of white mulberry. More clinical trials on larger populations are needed.

4) Obesity

In a clinical trial on 46 overweight people eating a low-calorie, balanced diet, supplementation with white mulberry extract enhanced weight loss by approximately 3x (10 kg versus 3.2 kg in the placebo group) [34].

The combination of white mulberry with other plant extracts suppressed appetite and lowered fat levels in mice [35, 36].

White mulberry may also protect against obesity-related diseases. In mice, its leaf extract kept Nrf2 levels at a balance. This may balance fat production, produce antioxidant enzymes, and prevent obesity-related fatty liver diseases [37].

Once again, only a small clinical trial and some animal research support the use of white mulberry to reduce obesity and its complications. More clinical research is needed.

5) Bone Loss

A combination o white mulberry and Vietnamese coriander (Polygonum odoratum) extracts (1500 mg/day) increased two bone formation markers (blood osteocalcin and alkaline phosphatase) and reduced a marker of bone loss (CTX) in a clinical trial on 45 postmenopausal women [38].

A single clinical trial combining white mulberry with another herbal extract is clearly insufficient to back its role in preventing bone loss. More clinical trials using white mulberry alone are needed.

Animal and Cell Research (Lack of Evidence)

No clinical evidence supports the use of white mulberry for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

Anti-Inflammatory

Oxyresveratrol is an active component of white mulberry. It exerts an anti-inflammatory effect by suppressing various compounds and pathways (iNOS/nitric oxide production, PGE2 synthesis, and NFkB activation) [39].

It also inhibits MEK/ERK pathway activation, which stops white blood cells from building up in the tissues and causing inflammation [40].

Moracin M inhibits PDE4 enzyme activity, which increases cAMP levels and lowers the inflammatory response [41].

A combination of white mulberry leaf and fruit extracts improved obesity-related inflammation in mice. It also lowered inflammatory marker levels (TNF-a, CRP, IL-1, and iNOS) [42].

Additionally, white mulberry root bark lowered inflammation in mouse cells [6].

Immunity Boost

White mulberry fruits have compounds that increase the activity of macrophages and enhance the immune response [43].

In cells, their extract stimulated the activity of some pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-10) and messengers (NO and PGE2) [44].

Anxiety

White mulberry extract increased GABA and reduced dopamine in mice, thus reducing stress-induced behaviors and producing anti-anxiety effects [45, 46, 47].

Depression

Sanggenon G, an active compound of white mulberry root bark, had antidepressant effects in rats. Treatment with this compound reduced HPA axis activity and depressive behaviors [48].

White mulberry leaf tea also reduced depressive behavior in mice. However, it also decreased muscle strength and coordination [49].

Stress Response

White mulberry may help the body deal with stress by normalizing cortisol levels. Mice exposed to chronic stress for 21 days showed fewer impairments in brain function, mood, hormonal balance, and blood sugar balance when treated with white mulberry root extract [50].

Fatigue

Scientists isolated the neurotransmitter GABA from white mulberry leaves. It increased endurance in mice during exercise, as well as improving several biological indicators of fatigue (such as glycogen and hormone levels) [51].

Antimicrobial

White mulberry leaves contain several antimicrobial flavonoids, alkaloids, and stilbenoids [29].

Their extract also showed antimicrobial activity in mice (against Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Candida albicans, Candida krusei, Candida tropicalis, and Aspergillus flavus) [52].

Kuwanon G from white mulberry root bark significantly inhibited the growth of bacteria that may cause cavities and gum disease (Streptococcus mutans, S. sobrinus, S. sanguis, and Porpyromonas gingivalis) in test tubes [53].

Cancer

Below, we will discuss some preliminary research on white mulberry’s potential anticancer effects. It’s still in the animal and cell stage and further clinical studies have yet to determine if its extract may be useful in cancer therapies.

Do not under any circumstances attempt to replace conventional cancer therapies with white mulberry or any other supplements. If you want to use it as a supportive measure, talk to your doctor to avoid any unexpected interactions.

White mulberry extract prevented rats given a cancer-causing chemical (NDEA) from developing liver cancer [54].

A compound isolated from white mulberry fruits (cyanidin-3-glucoside) killed breast cancer cells in test tubes and reduced tumor growth in mice [55].

White mulberry bark extract stopped colorectal cancer cell growth and induced their death. It activated the production of a cell death protein (ATF3) while decreasing the levels of a protein required for cell growth and division (cyclin D1). Its compounds morusin and kuwanon C and G were possibly responsible for these effects [6].

Limitations & Caveats

Most of white mulberry’s potential health benefits have only been tested in animal and cell-based studies. More clinical trials are needed to confirm its effectiveness and safety for human use.

Side Effects & Precautions

Potential Side Effects

This list does not cover all possible side effects. Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you notice any other side effects.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. In the US, you may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch. In Canada, you may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.

Oral white mulberry extract was generally well-tolerated and only caused a few mild adverse effects such as [25, 24, 56, 13]:

  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Nausea
  • Gas and bloating
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Increased appetite
  • Dizziness

A topical oil with 75% mulberry extract caused mild itching in 6% of the people applying it on the skin to improve melasma [32].

Drug Interactions

Supplement/Herb/Nutrient-drug interactions can be dangerous and, in rare cases, even life-threatening. Always consult your doctor before supplementing and let them know about all drugs and supplements you are using or considering.

Because white mulberry can lower glucose levels. It can increase the risk of low blood sugar in people taking antidiabetic medication. People on this medication should avoid white mulberry supplements [57].

In rats, white mulberry also decreased the absorption and blood concentration of cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant drug used to avoid organ rejection in transplant patients. Talk to your doctor if you are taking this immunosuppressant and plan to use white mulberry supplements [58].

Gene Interactions

These gene interactions have only been observed in animal studies. It is unclear if the human equivalent of these genes is affected by white mulberry.

Glucose-Related Genes and Proteins

The gallic acid in white mulberry increased GLUT4 protein production in the membrane of rat fat cells, resulting in increased glucose uptake and decreased fasting blood glucose [21].

White mulberry leaf powder affected the production of various genes in mice. It increased SREBF-1, which plays a central role in maintaining energy balance and promotes glycolysis-related genes [20].

Conversely, the leaf powder decreased PDK4 production. PDK4 deficiency lowers blood glucose and improves insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance [20].

Other Genes

White mulberry leaf powder increased CYP7A1 enzyme activity. This lowered blood and kidney cholesterol in rats [20].

It also blocked the production of CDKN1A, HSPA1B, DEFB1, SPON2, and TRP53INP1, providing antioxidant effects [20].

In rats, white mulberry leaf powder increased the production of CPT1A, ACOX2, and PHYH, which help with fatty acid breakdown. It decreased DGAT2 protein production, which is needed for fat formation lipogenesis. These effects help lower fat levels [59].

Supplementation

Dose

Because white mulberry extract is not approved by the FDA for any conditions, there is no official dose. Users and supplement manufacturers have established unofficial doses based on trial and error. Discuss with your doctor if white mulberry may be useful as a complementary approach in your case and which dose you should take.

In a clinical trial, the daily administration of 1-2.1 grams had no toxic effects [29].

User Reviews

The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of white mulberry users, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare providers because of something you have read on SelfHacked. We understand that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.

Most users took in white mulberry extract to lower their blood sugar levels. Many of them were satisfied with the results and reported improved blood sugar control.

Bloating and constipation were the adverse effects most commonly reported among dissatisfied users.

About the Author

Carlos Tello

Carlos Tello

PhD (Molecular Biology)
Carlos received his PhD and MS from the Universidad de Sevilla.
Carlos spent 9 years in the laboratory investigating mineral transport in plants. He then started working as a freelancer, mainly in science writing, editing, and consulting. Carlos is passionate about learning the mechanisms behind biological processes and communicating science to both academic and non-academic audiences. He strongly believes that scientific literacy is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid falling for scams.

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