Feeding Berry Vines and Leaves to Rabbits

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Dec 6, 2013
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Piney Flats ,Tn.
Using berry plants as food
I have been researching things on the internet.
One of the things I was looking for was the nutritional value of the berry leaves and vines, I prune off the plants. [I plan to plant a lot of plants this year]
When I have had a lot of berry, and grape plants, the huge volume of pruned vines was a problem to be rid of. They do not lend well to compost piles, or running through a chipper [maybe modern chippers would not get vines wound around the drum]
I have also been researching the possibility of drying the leaves for marketing, or for feeding them to rabbits.
Rabbits do like berry vines, especially the leaves.., but I have not had rabbits in cages with mangers, when I had a lot of berry plants.
If I was to be able to control aphids and beetles with "natural" bug sprays [not toxic to me or rabbits] - I could feed the majority of the vines to rabbits, turning them "almost instantly" into an easy to handle manure, that could be carried right back to the growing areas. [ And of course rabbit meat, and pelts ]...all of that soil nutrition would not be "exported", or left in a pile out of the way somewhere to burn, or rot "eventually" ..

I also found that the leaves of several "berries", have a lot more good nutritional values than the fruit. Amazing..
Berry leaves could easily be dried, powdered, and used as a "super-food" for humans, or just dried and used as a high nutrition animal food.

Red Raspberry Leaf
Typical Analysis: [in English]

• Crude Protein 14.8 %
• Crude Fat min. 1.7%
• Crude Fiber max. 8.2%
• Moisture max. 6.7%
• Calcium 12.10 mg/g
• Potassium 13.40 mg/g
• Vitamin A 189.6 IU/g
• Vitamin C 9.67 mg/g
[values extracted from article linked at the bottom of this post]

[The rest of this post …is for “nerdy” folks, like me]
Berry Leaves: An Alternative Source of Bioactive Natural Products of Nutritional and Medicinal Value†
Anastasia-Varvara Ferlemi and Fotini N. Lamari*
Dorothy Klimis-Zacas, Academic Editor

3. Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) Leaves
Blackberries are perennial shrubs, lasting for three seasons or more. The upper side of the leaves is dark green, while the underside is lighter green. Short prickles cover the stalks and veins of the leaves [25].
Many phytochemical investigations have proven the presence of diverse secondary metabolites in blackberry leaves. In general, they are rich in tannins and they, also, contain a notable amount of flavonoids, phenolic acids, triterpenes, mineral salts, and vitamin C [22,23,25]. More specifically, phenolic acids like ellagic (3), gallic (2), caffeic (1), and p-coumaric (7) acids, flavonoids, such as quercetin (14), hyperoside, kaempferol (15), myricitin, (+)-catechin (19), (−)-epicatechin (20), epicatechin gallate, and proanthocyanidin B1 have been identified in the leaves of R. fruticosus, as well as in the fruit [25]. The HPLC analysis of a hydrolyzed methanolic extract of blackberry leaves showed that total flavonoids, expressed as quercetin equivalents, range from 0.14% to 0.31% of dry weight, while total ellagic acid ranges from 2.93% to 4.32% of dry weight [24].
In 2015, Ozmianki et al. [22] extensively analyzed the phenolic composition of twenty-six different wild blackberry leaf samples by LC/MS QTOF; 33 compounds were detected in the respective methanolic extracts, i.e., 15 flavonols, 13 hydroxycinnamic acids, three ellagic acid derivatives, and two flavones. The total content of phenolic compounds extracted from the leaves of wild blackberries, calculated as the sum of compounds resulting from UPLC-PDA analysis, was highly diverse and ranged from 83.02 mg/g dry matter for R. austroslovacus to 334.24 mg/g dry matter for R. perrobustus. The largest group of phenolic compounds was that of ellagitannins (51.59–251.01 mg/g dry matter), as in blackberry fruits [52]; the most abundant ellagitannins in the wild blackberry leaves were sanguiin H-6 (13) (range 0–73.92 mg/g dry matter), lambertianin C (range 16.75–123.41 mg/g dry matter), and casuarinin (34.47–117.86 mg/g dry matter). In the same study, the second group of bioactive compounds in the leaves of wild blackberries was that of derivatives of quercetin (14), kaempferol (15), luteolin (18), and apigenin (17) (average content 35.17 mg/g dry matter); kaempferol-3-O-glucuronide and quercetin-3-O-glucuronide (9.23 and 7 mg/g dry matter, respectively) were the most abundant compounds. The next group of compounds in blackberry leaves is composed of phenolic acids, especially derivatives of caffeic acid (1), p-coumaric acid (7), and ellagic acid (3) (average content 28.74 mg/g dry matter); p-coumaric acid derivatives and neo-chlorogenic acid (11) were found in notable amounts in blackberry leaf extracts [22].
Robinson et al. [26], in 1931, reported the presence of cyanidin-3-O-saccharide in blackberry leaves. Almost 40 years ago, two triperpene acids were isolated from R. fruticosus leaves, rubusic (21) and rubinic acids; 2-a-hydroxyursolic acid and β-amyrin (23) were also detected [18,27].
Health-promoting effects and immunity-boosting properties have been attributed to blackberry leaves since long ago. Hippocrates recommended blackberry stems and leaves soaked in white wine for facilitating childbirth [16]. Zia-UI-Haq et al. [25], in their review of the traditional uses of Rubus fruticosus leaves, reported that the decoction of the leaves has been used as tonic and a mouthwash; gargles help treating thrush, gum inflammation, sore throat, and mouth ulcers. The leaves are also chewed in order to strengthen the gums and to cure thrush. A poultice of the leaves is applied to abscesses and skin ulcers as an astringent. In addition, blackberry leaves and roots are a long-standing home remedy for anemia and menses, diarrhea, dysentery, cystitis, and hemorrhoids. Finally, they have traditionally been used against several respiratory problems [19].
Indeed, it has been demonstrated that the leaves of blackberry possess significant antimicrobial activity, higher than the fruit, against several bacterial strains, such as Salmonella typhi, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Micrococcus luteus, Proteus mirabilis, Bacillus subtilis, Citrobacteri sp., and Pseudomonas aeruginosa [25]. In contrast, when the methanolic extracts of blackberry leaves were tested for their antifungal potential against nine pathogenic fungal strains (Yersinia aldovae, Aspergillus parasiticus, Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger, Aspergillus effusus, Macrophomina phaseolina, Fusarium solani, Trichophyton rubrum, Saccharomyses cerevisiae) they did not have any biological activity [17].
Several studies point out the anti-diabetic effect of blackberry leaf extracts; water and butanol extracts were reported to be active in non-insulin dependent diabetes and had significant hypoglycemic effect in normal rats [58]. Similar results were obtained for the infusion of blackberry leaves in alloxan-diabetic rabbits [59]. Moreover, a tea made from R. fruticosus leaves decreased diabetic symptoms (hyperglycemia), a property partly attributed to their content in chromium and zinc [60]. Finally, the antioxidant and angiogenic activities of different extracts of blackberry leaves have also been recorded in several studies [22,28,29].

4. Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) Leaves
The green leaves of Rubus idaeus have been included in British Pharmacopoeia since 1983 [30] and in 2012 the European Medicines Agency issued a community herbal monograph on red raspberry leaves [13].
The beneficial medicinal properties are attributed to the bioactive compounds of the leaves, which are mainly hydrolysable tannins [21]. Gudej [24] reported that tannin concentration in the dried raspberry leaf ranges from 2.6% to 6.9% (w/w) and that the principle compounds are ellagic acids. Additional ellagitannins that have been identified in these leaves are the dimers sanguiin H-6 (13) and H-10, and the trimers lambertianin D and lambertianin C, as well as methyl gallate [19,21]. The second most abundant group in raspberry leaves is flavonoids. The quantity of flavonoids in the leaves of R. idaeus is significantly higher than that in the fruits where flavonoids compose only a very small fraction of the bioactive compounds; leaf flavonoids range from 0.46% to 1.05% (w/w) [31]. In the study of Ozmianski et al. [19] the flavonoid fraction was the main phenolic group, constituting almost 11% of leaf extract powder weight.
Phenolic acids, other than ellagic acid (3), have been found in very small amounts, mainly caffeic (0.55 mg/g dried leaf) (1) and chlorogenic acid (0.70 mg/g dried leaf) (9) [61]. Moreover, p-coumaric (7), ferulic (4), protocatechuic (8), gentisic (5), caffeoyltartaric, feruloyltartaric, and p-coumaroyl-glucoside acids, as well as p-hydroxybenzoic and vanillic acids have been reported in raspberry leaves [62]. Finally, terpenoids have been identified, including mono- and sesquiterpenes, like terpinolene and 3-oxo-α-ionol, as well as triterpenes, such as a- and β-amyrin (23), squalene and cycloartenol [6,21].
The study of Gudej [24] presents an interesting comparison of the main Rubus categories, i.e., blackberries and raspberries. The leaves of wild raspberry (R. saxatilis), cultivated raspberry species (R. idaeus Malling Promise) and blackberry (R. fruticosus Gazda) had the highest flavonoid content as measured by HPLC. Furthermore, the leaves of raspberries are characterized by lower amounts of both tannins and ellagic acid (3.25% and 2.53% of dry weight respectively) than blackberry leaves (6.50% and 4.32% of dry weight respectively) [24].
Raspberry leaf has been used in Europe for various gynecological disorders, i.e., menstruation, labor and ailments of the gastrointestinal tract (diarrhea) [21,30]. It is reported that a hot tea made from raspberry leaves stimulates and facilitates labor and shortens its duration [21,63]. Other traditional uses include its use as an astringent gargle and less often for chronic skin conditions and for the treatment of conjunctivitis [30]. The European monograph on raspberry leaf has approved its use as a traditional herbal medicinal product for the symptomatic relief of minor spasms associated with menstrual periods, for the symptomatic treatment of mild inflammation in the mouth or throat, and of mild diarrhea [13].
Since raspberry leaf is a commonly used herb during pregnancy today, earlier and current investigations have explored its effects mainly regarding labor. Jing et al. [64] reported that pretreatment of pregnant rats with tea did not alter the ability of oxytocin to initiate contractions. Additionally, in pregnant animals treated with red raspberry leaf tea, labor was not augmented by a direct effect on uterine contractility; in contrast, it had variable effects on preexisting oxytocin-induced contractions, sometimes augmenting the effect of oxytocin and sometimes causing augmentation followed by inhibition [64]. Furthermore, these effects depended on the herbal preparation used and on pregnancy status [64].
Two different clinical studies were performed in order to assess the efficacy of raspberry leaf preparations in pregnancy [63,65]. About 150 women were included in the studies. No clinically significant differences were observed among the different groups regarding maternal blood loss, maternal diastolic blood pressure pre labor or transfer to special care baby unit, length of gestation, the likelihood of medical facilitating of labor, and need for pain relief during labor. In addition to these studies, others report that raspberry leaves possess significant antioxidant activity, stronger than the respective extracts of blackberry leaves [29].

6. Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.) Leaves
The term blueberries describes several different taxa of the genus Vaccinium; rabbiteye (V. virgatum), northern highbush (V. corymbosum), southern highbush (V. formosum), and lowbush (V. angustifolium) blueberries are the commonest.
Red dried leaves of V. corymbosum from Drama (region of Macedonia, Greece) were used for the preparation of a decoction (crude extract), which was further fractionated with the organic solvents ethyl acetate and butanol in our laboratory [70]. Analysis was performed by LC-ESI/MS and HPLC-DAD, and twenty different compounds were identified, mainly phenolic acids and flavonols. Interestingly, these two groups were in almost equal concentration in the crude extract (69.34 mg chlorogenic acid equivalents/g dry extract and 67.48 mg quercetin-3-O-galactoside equivalents/g dry extract, respectively) [70]; as in bilberry leaves, the most abundant compound was chlorogenic acid (9) (61.31 mg/g dry extract). LC-MS analysis showed the presence of quinic and caffeic acid (1), four myricetin glycosides, one kaempferol rutinoside, and seven quercetin glycosides, as well as quercetin aglycone (14). Hyperoside, isoquercetin, and rutin were the principle flavonoids (12.09 mg/g, 4.60 mg/g, and 3.16 mg/g dry extract). Moreover, we have detected proanthocyanidin B1/B2, kandelin and cinhonain. Kandelin was also reported in the Vaccinium ashei leaves [42], while cinhonains have been identified in bilberry leaves [34]. The absence of anthocyanins from the decoction was notable; however, it could also be attributed to the method of the extraction [70].
Wang et al. [40] published a study where 104 different cultivars of blueberries (rabbiteye, northern highbush, and southern highbush) were examined with respect to their phytochemical composition and antioxidant properties. Using HPLC–ESI–MS2 analysis, they identified three anthocyanins (cyanidin 3-O-glucoside, cyanidin 3-O-glucuronide, cyanidin 3-O- arabinoside) in the blueberry leaf methanolic extracts, even though in different quantities; northern highbush blueberries showed the higher total anthocyanin content (TAC). Nevertheless, TAC, which was measured semiquantitatively by linear regression of commercial standards, was almost ten times lower than that of the respective fruit in each cultivar, ranging from 0.09 to 4.4 mg cyanidin 3-O-glucoside equivalents/g dry weight. Leaf anthocyanins were not detected in some cultivars. Moreover, they detected four different proanthocyanidins but in very small amounts in the highbush blueberries (0.36–8.38 mg rutin equivalents/g dry weight) [40].
Leaf tissue maturation plays a significant role in the phytochemical composition of this species. Riihinen et al. [35] have showed that the red leaves of V. corymbosum contain higher amounts of quercetin (14) (3.530 mg/g frozen sample) and kaempferol (15) (0.505 mg/g), as well as of p-coumaric (7) (3.060 mg/g), caffeic (1) or ferulic (4) acids (19.870 mg/g) than the green leaves (1.784, 0.191, 0.490, 7.537 mg/g frozen sample, respectively). Solar radiation increases the content of the above-mentioned flavonols and hydroxycinnamic acids, probably due to their role in photo-protection [37]. This explains the higher content of those compounds in the red leaves compared to the green leaves. In addition, red leaves contain a very small amount of anthocyanins, which are absent from the green. On the other hand, prodelphinidins and procyanidins are present almost in the same quantity in both types of leaves (red: 0.485 mg/g, green: 0.468 mg/g frozen sample) [35].
Harris et al. [43] investigated the phytochemical profile of V. angustifolium leaves, demonstrating its high similarity with the highbush blueberry leaves. They identified ten different compounds in an ethanolic leaf extract. Chlorogenic acid (9) was the most abundant phenolic; it was 30 times more concentrated in the leaf extract (31.19 mg/g dry matter) than in the respective fruit (1.54 mg/g dry matter) and over 100 times more concentrated than in the respective stem or root extracts (0.09 and 0.03 mg/g dry matter, respectively). Moreover, they detected in significant amounts the flavan-3-ols epicatechin (20) and catechin (19) and in ratio roughly 1:1; they also quantified four quercetin glycosides (in total 9.65 mg/g dry matter), as well as quercetin aglycone (1.24 mg/g dry matter) (13). Quercetin-3-O-glucoside and quercetin-3-O-arabinoside accounted for 36% and 28%, respectively, of the quantified quercetin glycosides. Caffeic acid (1) was found in traces (0.36 mg/g dry matter); chlorogenic acid isomers (10, 11), quercetin-hexoside, quercetin-pentoside, and rutin were detected, but not quantified. Exactly the same compounds were quantified in another ethanolic extract of lowbush blueberry leaves, but in this case the measured quantities were almost three-fold higher than in the study of Harris et al. [44]. Anthocyanins were not detected in any of these studies.
Various members of the Vaccinium genus, other than bilberry, such as Vaccinium macrocarpon and Vaccinium angustifolium, are reputed to possess antidiabetic activity [71] and have been used extensively as traditional medicines for the treatment of diabetic symptoms [72]. Martineau et al. [44] demonstrated the significant antidiabetic activity of lowbush blueberry leaves in vitro with various cell-based bioassays. However, despite the widespread traditional use against diabetes, screening of current literature revealed the absence of investigations other than that of Martineau et al. [44].
The majority of studies focus on the antioxidant activities of blueberry leaves, which are related to their rich in phenolics composition [47]. In line with these findings, we have also demonstrated the high antioxidant capacity of V. corymbosum leaf decoction and its capability to bind iron ions [70]. In addition to ferrous chelation activity, in several in vitro experiments we have proven that quercetin (i) is totally oxidized by selenite ions, and (ii) it chelates calcium ions probably via the hydroxyl groups of A and B rings of the flavonoids. These observations were related to the protective activity that we have recorded against selenite-induced ocular cataract and selenite-induced oxidative damage in the brain and liver of neonatal rats [45,70]. Finally, highbush blueberry leaf extract acts as an antimicrobial agent, especially against Salmonella typhymurium and Enterococcus faecalis [46].

9. Conclusions
Despite their traditional uses, berry leaves are seldom used nowadays, in contrast to berry fruits, which are considered foods with significant health benefits. However, recent investigations have revealed that the traditional therapeutic properties of berry leaves may be valid. Moreover, the study of the phytochemical composition of berry leaves points out that they can be viewed as rich sources of bioactive natural products, e.g., tannins in raspberry and bilberry leaves, and chlorogenic acid in blueberry leaves, whereas other berry leaves, such as lingonberry, contain unique phenolics like arbutins. The phenolic compounds of the leaves are known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents (quercetin and kaempferol derivatives), and have hypoglycemic (cinchonains) and antimicrobial (ellagitannins) properties. Several studies and reviews have pointed out the anti-inflammatory activities of naturally-occurring compounds; the most effective are usually the aglycon forms of flavonoids (quercetin, kaempherol) and most of their actions are related to their ability to inhibit cytokine, chemokine release, and to be implicated in the molecular paths of the synthesis and/or action of adhesion molecules [79,80].
Epidemiological and meta-analyses studies suggest an inverse relationship between flavonoid-rich diets and development of many aging-associated diseases including cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and neurodegenerative disorders [76]. Dietary flavonoids exert their anti-diabetic effects by targeting various cellular signaling pathways in pancreas, liver, and skeletal muscle; by influencing β-cell mass and function, as well as energy metabolism and insulin sensitivity in peripheral tissues [81]. Even though scientific literature specifically on the effectiveness of berry leaf consumption is extremely limited, the beneficial properties of individual flavonoids in vitro hold promise of positive outcomes. Nevertheless, in vivo studies with berry leaf extracts to evaluate modification of various biomarkers of disease and potential toxicity are needed. Additionally, bioavailability and pharmacokinetic studies in healthy human subjects, as well as carefully-designed and targeted intervention trials that would evaluate the impact of berry leaf-derived products on the prevention or the progress of specific disorders, are necessary. The forgotten berry leaves have just been “re-discovered” and may be viewed as sources of valuable bioactive compounds with health-promoting and disease-preventing properties.

More info
... On berry leaf nutrition

http://www.scielo.br/pdf/sa/v74n5/0103- ... 5-0405.pdf


Staff member
Dec 16, 2009
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South Eastern Ontario
What a lot of information, Michael! Good to have it readily available for future reference. I admit I skimmed through it pretty quickly (haven't had coffee yet) but it's always nice to see modern science catch up with traditional wisdom. :D

I fed raspberry and blackberry leaves and stems to my rabbits regularly, and often dried the canes with leaves on for winter feeding. I know they have benefits for working does and are very useful for all rabbits both as a feed and as a medicinal to combat diarrhea. This makes them particularly valuable during weaning to help prevent "weaning enteritis". I was always glad to add them to my forage bucket for the buns. We have a lot of wild blackberry and raspberry plants here.


Well-known member
Oct 4, 2014
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central New York
Thanks, Michael--always enjoy reading your posts on feeding even though some of the research data is beyond me.
Lots of wild bramble berries on our farm and we feed them to our goats and rabbits during the growing season and dry some for winter feeding. Rabbit does are given raspberry leaves and stems a few days before expected kindle date and continuing until they've kindled. Rabbits and goats eat them readily and even though I haven't known the science you provide, I just believe that variety in diet is good for our livestock as it is for us. (I don't mean just feeding anything that occurs to me, just a mix of things I know are safe and that they eat readily)
Of course we also pick the berries and have raspberries--red and black--and blackberries in the freezer for making scones and cobbler and such year round. And I use raspberry leaves along with other things wild and cultivated in my herb 'tea' mix.
Dec 6, 2013
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Piney Flats ,Tn.
Rainey":376so0cz said:
Thanks, Michael--always enjoy reading your posts on feeding even though some of the research data is beyond me.
Lots of wild bramble berries on our farm and we feed them to our goats and rabbits during the growing season and dry some for winter feeding. Rabbit does are given raspberry leaves and stems a few days before expected kindle date and continuing until they've kindled. Rabbits and goats eat them readily and even though I haven't known the science you provide, I just believe that variety in diet is good for our livestock as it is for us. (I don't mean just feeding anything that occurs to me, just a mix of things I know are safe and that they eat readily)
Of course we also pick the berries and have raspberries--red and black--and blackberries in the freezer for making scones and cobbler and such year round. And I use raspberry leaves along with other things wild and cultivated in my herb 'tea' mix.

re variety,
that is something I am occasionally too lax on, and a very good point.. at times I have fed so much of certain weeds that the rabbits just stop eating ,until I bring them something "different"


Well-known member
Oct 7, 2020
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Delaware, USA
I sometimes feel that my rabbits are spoiled. I have a pretty nice variety of forage on my property. So my rabbits "get tired" of the "same ol' thing" quickly and often. Makes me cycle through things. They seem to want a change of fodder every couple of days. In the summer time they live on all fresh forage unless I have particularly long day. Then they get some pellets.

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