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The Beauty of Blackberries

Cathy Christensen April 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
blackberries in a pint

I am always tempted by blackberries; not only by their sweet, rich flavor, but also by their sculptural beauty, which is completely natural and yet so incredible.

One of the reasons the berries are so lovely is due to the fact that they are an aggregate fruit composed of many smaller fruits called drupes, which feature an outer, fleshy body that surrounds a seed. The peach is also another example of a drupe.

Abundant in North America, the British Isles and Western Europe, blackberries bloom from mid- to late-June and are grown on a bush that is usually prickly.1

In the kitchen

Blackberries contain large amounts of anthocyanoicides, found in the pigment that gives the fruit its color. Anthocyanoicides are powerful antioxidants that help reverse cell damage caused by free radicals.

The blackberry fruit and leaves contain vitamins C and E, as well as selenium, and blackberry leaves are often used in tea to treat a variety of ailments, including diarrhea and inflammation of the mouth and throat.1

The fruit is used in a variety of dishes as a component in dressings or sauces, and is also featured in salads and desserts. This lovely berry is a favorite of spa cuisine chefs and is included in the following recipes:

Berry, Berry, Berry Good Smoothie—Panama City Health Club & Spa, Panama City, Florida;

Three Berry Crepe—The Heartland Spa, Gilman, Illinois;

Crispy Duck Breast, Caramelized Shallot & Date Bulger Pilaf and Blackberry Jus—Golden Door, Escondido, California;

Cherry-Blackberry Smoothie—Canyon Ranch Health Resorts throughout the United States; and

Grilled Zucchini with Blackberry Compote—See this recipe from Spa Chef Steve Sicinski and Executive Chef Steven Bernstein of Mii amo, a destination spa at Enchantment, in Sedona, Arizona.

In the spa

Blackberries contain antioxidant-rich anti-aging ingredients and are anti-inflammatory. Because of this, they are often used in bath and body products, as well as in lip formulations.2

Blackberry leaf extract has it own skin benefits. Specifically, it features collagen- and elastin-boosting properties, allowing the extract to help fight against the formation of wrinkles, acting as a matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) inhibitor.

This helps the leaf extract be suitable for use in anti-aging formulations for the face and body.3

Spa services feature the fruit and leaves in a variety of ways, including:

The Blackberry Juniper Chamomile Scrub, an exfoliating scrub that stars the vitamin C content of blackberries—Elaia in the Hyatt at Olive 8, Seattle;

The Blackberry Signature Massage, which uses warmed, custom-made blackberry oil—Blackberry Spa at The Inn at Berry Hill, South Boston, Virginia;

The Linden Ritual, including a body wrap made of blackberry leaves, linden flowers, black birch, sage, eucalyptus and rosemary—Linden Spa at The Inn at Perry Cabin, St. Michaels, Maryland;

The Galiano Blackberry Experience, featuring a one-hour blackberry vinotherapy massage—Madrona del Mar Spa at Galiano Oceanfront Inn and Spa, Galiano Island, British Columbia, Canada;

The Blackberry Retreat is a reflexology-based hand treatment using a blackberry salt exfoliation and blackberry vanilla body butter—Springs Eternal Spa at Omni Bedford Springs Resort & Spa, Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania;

The Beaute Nueve Cells Renewal finishes with a serum mask containing blackberry for rejuvenated skin—Alyce Esthetique Day Spa, Lake Oswego, Oregon; and

The Blackberry Mist Body Treatment, completed with a blackberry-infused massage—See the step-by-step how-to from The Farmhouse Spa at Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee.

Professional skin care formulations also feature the benefits of both the fruit and leaves in many different products.

One Minute Manicure’s Spa Treatment Moisture Scrub–Blackberry Vanilla exfoliates, re-conditions and moisturizes skin.

Ole Henriksen’s blue/blackberry enzyme mask is a fragrant, repairing gel mask that smooths and polishes the complexion.

SkinMedica Aesthetics’ TNS Essential Serum is an anti-aging formulation that includes blackberry leaf extract for its ability to inhibit MMPs.

Naturopathica’s Pear Fig Polishing Enzyme Peel is a pore-refining treatment that includes blackberry leaf.

And Éminence Organic Skin Care’s Blackberry Pore Refining Serum acts as a gentle astringent to refine pores.

The real blackberry

In a world where the word “blackberry” is as commonly thought of as a hand-held mobile device as it is a luscious fruit, it may be time to remind clients about the real meaning of the word.

Consider re-introducing the sweet-yet-tangy berry into your spa treatment and cuisine menu offerings, tempting both the skin and tongue and making your clients forget about that other type of blackberry for awhile.






(All accessed Feb 9, 2010)

Related Content



Quick Facts: Blackberries

  • The blackberry can be traced back 2,500 years.2


  • The blackberry’s name is derived from the word brambel, meaning “prickly.”4


  • The ancient Greeks considered blackberries a remedy for gout.4


  • Blackberry leaves may still be used in England as a burn remedy in a method that once was accompanied by a spoken charm.4


  • In olden days, blackberries were supposed to give protection against all evil runes, as long as the berries were gathered during the right phase of the moon.4


  • Hair dye can be made by boiling blackberry leaves in strong lye. This dye can give hair a soft black color.4


Recipe: Grilled Zucchini with Blackberry Compote

From Spa Chef Steve Sicinski and Executive Chef Steven Bernstein, Mii amo, a destination spa at Enchantment, Sedona, Arizona

12 zucchini

Ingredients for stuffing:

1 cup red quinoa

1 cup yellow quinoa

2 cups water

1 onion, finely diced

2 carrots, finely diced

2 celery stalks, finely diced

2 apples, finely diced

2⁄3 cup dried cherries, chopped

2⁄3 cup toasted pecans, chopped

1⁄3 cup dark maple syrup

1⁄2 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Pinch of nutmeg

Pinch of salt

Pinch of pepper

Ingredients for compote:

1 white onion, thinly sliced

1⁄4 cup raw sugar

2 pints blackberries

1⁄3 cup balsamic vinegar

Pinch of salt

Pinch of pepper

Preparation for stuffing:

1. Sauté onions and garlic until translucent.

2. Add red and yellow quinoa and water, and cook covered until water is absorbed. Allow to cool.

3. Sauté carrots and celery until soft, then combine with quinoa mixture. Allow to cool.

4. Mix in apples, cherries, nuts, spices, salt, pepper and dark maple syrup.

Preparation for compote:

5. Sauté onion until caramelized.

6. Coat blackberries with sugar and add to the onions. Cook over medium heat until berries begin to break down, approximately seven minutes.

7. Add vinegar and reduce for two minutes, then season with salt and pepper.

8. Blend until smooth, and adjust consistency by adding water if needed. The compote should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Preparation for zucchini:

9. Thinly slice lengthwise and grill zucchini, then allow to cool.

10. Once cool, arrange the pieces lengthwise vertically on a piece of plastic wrap, allowing zucchini slices to overlap slightly. This should create a uniform rectangle of grilled zucchini slices using approximately 10–12 slices.

11. Place filling in a horizontal fashion, about two inches from the edge of the roll closest to you, an inch from either end. Starting from the edge closest to you, begin to roll the zucchini around the filling being sure to not roll the plastic wrap inside. When done wrapping, tightly twist ends of plastic wrap and tie it to ensure roll keeps its shape. Slice into two-inch pieces and remove plastic wrap.

12. Arrange three pieces of zucchini around the edges of the plate, and spoon compote onto the zucchini and the plate.

Makes 8–10 servings, 200 calories, 8 grams of fat


Treatment How-to: Blackberry Mist Body Treatment

From The Farmhouse Spa at Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee 60 minutes

This stress-relieving treatment combines the benefits of exfoliation, a skin-soothing body wrap and hydrotherapy.

Treatment duration:

Treatment cost: $185


Vichy shower with Scots hose

Two bowls

Hot cabi



Cinnamon or vanilla essential oil

Body polish

Two large bottles of water

Lightweight body moisturizer

Herbal body mask

Massage oil

Blackberry fragrance

Room setup:

Place a flat sheet open lengthwise across the treatment table. Place a bath towel on top of flat sheet, and have several bath towels, hand towels, washcloths, a wool blanket, a thermal blanket and a flat sheet available.

Product preparation:

Place body polish in bowl and put in a hot cabi warmer. Place two large bottles of water in a cabi warmer as well. Fill a second bowl halfway with lightweight body moisturizer, combine with one scoop of herbal body mask and also place this in a cabi warmer.

Step 1: Before the treatment begins, describe it to the client and perform a health consultation. Remember, clients who experience uncontrolled high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, are pregnant or have had recent surgery should not have this treatment.

Step 2: After guiding client to the treatment room, ask her to lie face down on the treatment table on top of the sheet and under the towel, and step out of the room to allow for privacy.

Step 3: Ask the client to choose a scent of cinnamon or vanilla, and perform several inhalations with the chosen essential oil on your hands.

Step 4: Perform an exfoliation to the back of the body with body polish from the hot cabi and chosen essential oil. Ask the client to turn over, and exfoliate the front of her body.

Step 5: Apply the herbal body mask to the front of the body, starting with décolleté, right arm, left arm, left leg and right leg, using a sweeping motion to apply the mask to the back of the legs so the client does not have to turn over. Next, help her to sit up, and apply the mask to her back. Help the client lie back down and apply a warm washcloth over her eyes.

Step 6. Lightly wrap both sides of the sheet the client is lying on top of around the client, one side at a time, then place a wool blanket and a thermal blanket over her. She should remain wrapped and relaxing for 10–15 minutes. During this time, wrap each foot with a warmed, moist towel, perform a gentle scalp massage and then massage the feet for five minutes with massage oil.

Step 7: Unwrap the client by removing both blankets, and tell her you will be warming the water and will test the temperature on her leg. Unwrap the sheet, and raise the towel to drape the client’s legs. Use the Scots hose, and test the temperature on her left shin and adjust accordingly. Then, beginning with the left foot, use the water to remove the body mask from the front of the client’s body. When you get to her arms and décolleté, turn down the pressure of the water to a gentle stream, with which you can use your hand to loosen the mask on the client’s chest. Use the same procedure to rinse the mask from the client’s abdomen, if applicable.

Step 8: Turn off the water, and hold the wet towel up so the client can turn over onto her stomach. Re-drape so the legs and back are exposed, but the buttocks are covered with the bath towel. Begin at the right foot and move up the leg and back, making small circles to drain the lymphatic system.

Step 9: Transition into turning on the Vichy shower by simultaneously using the Scots hose and turning on Vichy jets, beginning at the feet. After all seven jets have been turned on, use the Scots hose to gently wet the client’s hair. Adjust the pressure of the hose to a direct, strong pressure and direct the water underneath the client, beginning at the lower leg and moving to the abdomen and back down, then moving to the other side of the body.

Step 10: Turn off the Scots hose and conduct an aqua massage with the Vichy jets for 15 minutes, then turn off jets one at a time.

Step 11: Place a dry towel on top of the client, towel dry her hair and help her sit up on the table before moving to a chair for one minute. During this time, dry the table and reset the linens while the client enjoys a glass of water.

Step 12: Ask client to lie back down, on her back, on the table.

Step 13: Mix the blackberry fragrance with massage oil, and apply this to the body using effleurage strokes, including sweeping strokes under the leg to apply the oil to the glutes and hamstrings. Help the client to sit up, and apply the oil to her back.

Step 14: Place a robe across client’s shoulders, slippers on the floor by the table, and a glass of water near the client, and allow her to leave the room when ready.

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