Now after discussing what bearberries are as well as its health benefits, lets proceed to beautyberries. Beautyberries or Callicarpa is a genus of shrubs that belong to the Lamiaceae family. Unlike bearberries which are predominantly found in Europe, beautyberries are found across all other regions of the world, expanding from its native place of origin, Southeast Asia, Australia, Indian Ocean to North and South America.
Interestingly, there are 165 different species of beautiberries found, but only 3 are “recognized” for wide usage. What are the 3 main species of beautyberry? And what are the health benefits of beautyberry?
The Three Main Species of Beautyberry
Here are the three main species of beautyberries;
- American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
The American beautyberry or the Callicarpa americana is a shrub species that is from the southern states of the USA, such as Maryland, Florida, Texas and Arkansas. Its distribution has also spread to neighbouring Carribbean nations such as Cuba, Mexico Bermuda and the Bahamas. This type of beautyberry has bright violet berries and are mainly used as an ornamental plant. Birds and deers make the berries as part of their diet, therefore distributing their seeds.
- Bodinier’s Beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri)
The Bodinier’s beautyberry or Callicarpa bodinieri has its roots in western and central China. The Bodinier’s beautyberry got its name from a 19th century French botanist and missionary named Émile-Marie Bodinier. Compared to the American beautyberry, Bodinier’s beautyberry resist the cold weather better.
Their growth can measure 3m x 2.5m (height x width) with leaves that can switch in between dark green and red by fall. The flowers themselves are also lilac in colour. Despite its berries aren’t toxic at all, however they taste very bitter, so bitter that animals don’t even bother to consume it unless there are no options available.
- Japanese Beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica)
There are several health benefits of beautyberry. The Callicarpa japonica or the Japanese beautyberry is a deciduous shrub known for producing purple coloured berries by autumn. The flowers’ colour can range anywhere from pink to white, similar to cherry blossoms. The berries themselves aren’t edible for human beings, however bears and deers feed on them regularly.
Just like its name suggests, Japanese beautyberries are common in Japan, its country of origin as well as other countries of the Far East such as Korea, China and Taiwan.
Due to its natural beauty, Japanese beautyberries are primarily cultivated as an ornamental plant or in other words for decoration and accessories. They are also commonly used as displays in gardens or parks too.
Is it Edible?
The primary consumers of beautyberries are mammals and birds, and even they will only consume it if there are no available choices. And ironically, the taste of beautyberries is the opposite of its name and appearance; or in other words it is bitter. Humans as well don’t eat them raw, but before consumption it is usually made into a product such as tea, jelly or wine at first place.
Since human consumption of beautyberries are pretty rare, there are no side affects or allergic reactions documented yet. There has also been reports of beautyberries causing nausea to people upon eating them, but perhaps it was more of a reaction caused by its flavour.
What are its Health Benefits?
Here are the health benefits of beautyberry:
- Beautyberries are all Antibacterial, Antifungal and Antiviral
- Beautyberries are Sources of Antioxidant
Chinese scientist once tested the potentials of beautyberries as an antioxidant in mice for diabetes and lung damage. For lung damage, scientists realized that the beautyberry extract from the Callicarpa longissima species was the best choice to treat damaged lungs.
The rats were fed with the extract for a week before being dissected for analysis. Observation suggested that the lungs treated with Callicarpa longissima extracts were less damaged compared to those who were not. It is somewhat similar to the health benefits of berry seeds.
In the mean time for their experiment in diabetic rats, phenolic and flavonoid extracted from the barks of beautyberry plants seemed to be helping. Extracts were taken precisely from the Japanese beautyberry and the Bodinier’s beautyberry, and with the help of cultured tissues, they carefully observed the leaf plus fruit extract against the oxidation of lipids in blood cells, brain tissue as well as other kinds of tissues. It is from there that strong antioxidant effects were discovered.
- Beautyberries Work as a Successful Insect Repellent
Beautyberries work as a successful insect repellent for both ants and mosquitos. Mosquitos can be driven away easily because they dislike a chemical inside beautyberries named callicarpenal.
Callicarpenal is able to repel Aedes aegypti and Anopheles stephensi mosquitos as well as fire ants. To a certain extent, it can also repel ticks. The function of callicarpenal is almost equivalent to that of DEET and has been patented by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service for its use as a mosquito repellent.
Other than callicarpenal, beautyberries also contain insect repelling substances such as borneol, intermedeol as well as spathulenol.
- Beautyberries Improve Memory
One species of beautyberry that is believed to hold this talent is the Callicarpa dichotoma that originates from the Far East, such as China, Japan and Korea. Korean researches discovered that the compound acteoside that are isolated from both of its leaves and twigs possess an anti-amnesic ability in mice that were tested with scopolamine, a medicine used to treat motion sickness, nausea and other related sicknesses.
The mice were given 0.1mg to 2.5mg per kg of weight at a dosage of once per day, and indeed the mice did an improved performance in memory tests. The test was to escape a maze. Graphics indicate if the mice took a bit more than 20 seconds to get out of a maze, the mice took under 20 seconds to find its way out of the maze when fed with acteoside extracted from beautyberries.
- Beautyberries Possess Skincare Capabilities
Just like the bearberry, beautyberry also has skincare capabilities. Beautyberries cure scars best by inhibiting the production of melanin on it. Otherwise, the scar marks would be permanently visible because it is darker than the rest of the skin. That’s all the health benefits of beautyberry!