The sloe today most people only know - if at all - as a thorny brush. Allotment gardeners who are upset about the "messy hedges" of their neighbors are sometimes surprised when they are told that some gardens are used for self-nutrition and that the "messy" sloe, unlike English lawns, is edible fruit. Here are the most important facts about the sloe:
- Fruits, flowers and bark of the sloe contain vitamins, minerals, tannins and fruit acids.
- Blackthorn helps against fever, inflammation, loss of appetite, cramps and bleeding.
- Applied externally, the plant acts against rashes, boils and makes the skin appear younger.
- The fruits have to be heated, raw they are very acidic.
- Sloe is a native pioneer plant and hardly needs any maintenance.
- The pointed thorns provide an effective living wall.
Sloe contains valuable substances that make it an important medicinal plant. These include minerals such as iron, potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium, but also anthocyanins, tannins, fruit acids, flavone glycosides, pectin, rutin, sugar and vitamin C.
Sloe drives urine, contracts, breastfeeds, inhibits inflammation, relieves cramps and stimulates digestion. It warms and promotes appetite.
The plant can be used against fever, cold, urinary stones, spring fatigue, gum infections, inflammation of the stomach lining, stomach cramps and constipation.
Blackthorns look like mini plums. In fact, it is the wild form of plum and mirabelle. The small fruits are rounded and have a blue-black color. The flesh is green, with a flat core in the middle. Under no circumstances should you eat it, since it contains small amounts of hydrocyanic acid. The flesh is acidic and has a contracting effect. Harvest the fruits after the frost, then they taste milder.
Blackthorn is also known as blackthorn (in contrast to the similar hawthorn), as blackthorn, sloe bush, sour plum, saudorn or Kietschke plum.
Sloe jam and healing tea
The flowers make a healing tea. For this, the water should not have more than 70 degrees Celsius, so as not to weaken the ingredients. It doesn't matter whether the tea lasts a long time. We don't have to strain him either. This tea has traditionally been used for blood purification, as a remedy for bladder cramps, edema, gout and rheumatism and for stress. You drink about three cups a day. The flowers can be fresh or dried. The tea is also said to work against kidney stones and gallstones and fight inflammation of the respiratory tract.
You can make jam or mush from the fruit. The latter also helps fight inflammation, stimulates digestion, relieves bloating and promotes appetite. Never dried fruits taste sour, but they reduce the pain caused by inflammation of the gums. The tannins pull tissue together and thereby slow down blood flow. The dried fruits are also beneficial for stomach cramps and urinary tract disorders.
By the way: Blackthorn tea is also ideal for children who suffer from flatulence, stomach ache or constipation.
Sloe for the skin
Ripe sloe fruits are ideal for face masks. These make the skin elastic and it looks younger. Oil extracted from sloe reduces stretch marks. A sloe cream provides the skin with moisture.
Blackthorn juice contains vitamin C, tannins and acids. Applied externally, it acts against skin rash, boils and acne. It also activates the skin's metabolism, which ensures better blood circulation and healthier skin.
Sloe for teeth
A syrup made from sloe fruit is suitable for preventing gingivitis and strengthening the teeth. You can also remove tartar by applying this syrup directly to your teeth. Alternatively, you can gargle tea from the flowers and pull it through your teeth.
Sloe - biology
The sloe bush has a black bark. That is why it is also called blackthorn. This contrasts with the white flowers that appear at the end of March. In contrast to the similar hawthorn, the flowers emerge before the leaves appear. The scent of the flowers is reminiscent of almonds. They have five petals, about 20 stamens and are of great importance as a nutrient for insects and butterflies.
Prunus spinosa, the Latin name, grows up to three meters high and is common in Europe and western Asia. The sloe is widely distributed, and in nature a typical growth of the forest edge and generally the transition from the forest to the open landscape. Black thorn is a leading plant for natural hedges on fields, meadows, fields and farm gardens, where it naturally settles.
Sloe is a root creep pioneer. The roots are not deep, but they reach far and form shoots. Over the years, a whole sloe hedge is created from a single seed. In pioneer biotopes, this easily displaces the herbs that are found there. The blackthorn is not found in the dense forest because it needs a lot of light. Instead, it is a typical pioneer plant on abandoned meadows with lots of nutrients, calcareous soil and the company of buckthorn.
The way it breeds helps: the thorny shrubs offer a perfect hiding place for various birds and mammals. Warblers, hawks and wren are at home here. The red-backed shrike impaled its prey on insects, amphibians and reptiles on the long thorns. Birds not only use the blackthorn as a hiding place, they also eat the fruit in large quantities. In autumn, sloes of juniper, song, mistletoe and red thrushes, blackbirds and all other birds that eat berries abound.
These fly to the next sledge hedge, excrete the seeds with their droppings and thus ensure widespread distribution. In other words, wherever thrushes settle, sloes will also grow next year. In addition, the sloe forms underground runners, so that it takes up more and more space on site.
The sloe in culture
Blackthorn has been used by people since the Stone Age, and the “ice man Ötzi” also carried sloe fruits. Finds from a pile dwelling on Lake Constance show that perforated sloe cores probably served as jewelry. Cattle breeders and villagers loved the black thorn and gave it the nickname "living barbed wire". The finger-long thorns are as pointed as they are hard and even ensure flat tractor tires. Sloe hedges are perfect to keep farm animals from running away and predators block the way to sheep and cattle. An ermine can pass a sledge hedge, for a wolf or fox it is an obstacle that can hardly be overcome.
Our ancestors extracted ink from the bark and it is also ideal for fortifications because it forms long roots, withstands the wind and spreads well. Sloes were the first choice for hedges in difficult terrain: on dikes they keep wolves away from the flocks of sheep, they grow on steep mountain slopes, river banks and embankments - wherever stone walls can hardly be built or not at all.
The extremely hard wood was used for walking sticks and whip handles. As a walking stick, such sticks can also be used for self-defense.
Mythology of the blackthorn
This protection, which is also a danger - if you reach into the thorns yourself - gave the sloe a permanent place in mythology. In contrast to the blessing elderberry, the blackthorn is ambivalent in mythology. The sloe shows the positive and negative sides of life, emphasized by the black bark and the bright flowers. In spring the white flowers stand for the renewal of life, in late October the bare black wood for the coming darkness. So the sloe was always a home of dark gods.
Like elderberry, sloe should protect against witches and keep out lightning. This is another reason why farmers planted them around the courtyards, in keeping with the practical properties of an effective living wall that cost no money.
A walking stick made of sloe wood was used to protect travelers against night spirits in loneliness. In the Celts, the fairies even lived in the branches of the blackthorn. Sloe bushes formed a boundary between the human world and the other world, and whoever dreamed in their shadow could, like Alice in Wonderland, get into the invisible world.
A sloe in the natural garden is an almost forgotten gem. If you plant blackthorn in the hedge, you effectively prevent burglars, protect songbirds from marauding cats, provide yourself with tasty and healthy fruits and enjoy a white sea of leaves in early spring.
Sloe also grows slowly. So if you keep the foothills in check, you can control the blackthorn well. With the sloe, you can easily create a bird and insect paradise in the garden. If your soil is not very acidic, planting is extremely easy. They look for a sunny spot on the edge of the garden, i.e. where they want to draw a border, dig a hole twice the size of the root ball, plant and water the first few weeks. Then leave the sloe to yourself. It is tough. Two years later, it will be difficult for unwanted neighbors to look into their garden.
Has it gone out of fashion?
The sloe has had a renaissance in recent years because word has got around about the healthy properties of its berries. In gardens, they have mostly replaced rhododendrons and cherry laurel. The former has little use for domestic wild animals, and the cherry laurel is an ecological disaster that even microbes cannot do anything with. These exotics probably boomed earlier because they are easier to handle.
Harvesting blackthorn fruits can be a painful experience if you accidentally reach into the thorns. You should therefore always wear gloves when picking, but these too often only hold the tips off temporarily. However, anyone who gets involved with the blackthorn, spends the time to boil down the fruit, to process it into jelly, juice or syrup, will not get rid of them. The sour, tart taste cannot be replaced by other fruits.
The best choice for difficult gardens
The sloe is particularly suitable for difficult gardens. Is your garden on a slope? Is there a dead corner, a place next to the garage, a bank, a downhill ditch? Here the sloe offers itself like no other plant.
In the middle of the garden, you should not plant the sloe. It is also beautiful as a solitaire, but the foothills ensure that you are busy plucking the shoots from the grass. This applies not only to the garden lawn manicured with nail scissors, but also to a wildflower meadow that would soon mutate into shrubbery without the control of the escalating sloe.
Tip: put a root barrier. To do this, place a plastic tarpaulin, metal or wooden plate or a net about 50 cm deep where the sloe should no longer grow. A weed fleece works wonders. You should put this when planting. If the sloe has thrown out its network of creeping roots, it is not too late, but it will take a lot of work to contain it again.
Sloe in community
Would you like to do good to birds and insects and harvest delicious fruits yourself and experience colorful flowers? Then plant sloes together with elder, wild blackberry, raspberry, gooseberry, viburnum, hawthorn, cones and broom in a natural hedge. The advantage: you do not have to do anything other than cut the hedge once a year and are rewarded with healing teas, fruits, juices and jams. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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