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Salal Berry Health Benefits, Nutritional Value and Uses

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What is Salal Berry?

Salal is an evergreen shrub that grows in lush thickets in both evergreen forests and in sunny areas where there is moisture and good drainage. Plants grow to 5 feet tall. Leaves are thick, dark green on top and waxy.

Salal, a backdrop in Northwest woodlands, is so common that many people barely notice it. Its shiny deep-green leaves remain beautiful all year. Stems are long-lasting when cut and are a valued addition to floral arrangements. This mirrors salal berry’s qualities as a powerful preservative. They are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants that prevent degeneration and help us to live a long and sustaining life.

Other names: sala’xbupt, Makah. Gaultheria shallon.

Health Benefits of Salal Berry

Antioxidants:  Cells are the tiniest structures in our bodies- the building blocks of life. Molecules called oxidants and free radicals constantly attack them. These can tear cell membranes and damage cell components, leading to poor health or “aging” of cells. Some oxidative damage is a normal part of being alive. Yet, pollution including cigarette smoke and unhealthy food including refined food and fried food exposes us to excessive amounts. This is a contributing factor to developing type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases. Antioxidants in berries stabilize free radicals, limiting the damage they can do to our bodies. They are said to slow down aging, reduce inflammation and increase immune health. Berries are among the most potent antioxidant foods!

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Flavenoids: These plant pigments give berries their colour. They protect the body in many ways including acting as antioxidants, protecting and strengthening blood vessel walls and healing tissue. Scientific research has shown that flavenoids help protect the body from cardiovascular disease, varicose veins, Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts, glaucoma and the side effects of diabetes including diabetic retinopathy, kidney damage and vascular degeneration.

Vitamin C:  This helps our body absorb Iron, heal cuts, and keep teeth and gums healthy. Our bodies do not make Vitamin C, so we need to eat foods that contain it.

Fiber:  Fiber helps to prevent constipation and normalizes gut health. It also lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease and some cancers. Most adults only eat half the amount of fiber recommended by the USDA for optimum health.

Uses of Salal Berry

 

  • Salal makes a great wine: The coastal Native Americans used to dry them in large cakes weighing 10 to 15 pounds to store for winter use. Later when they wanted to eat them the cakes were soaked and then dipped in whale or seal oil.
  • The leaves had medicinal uses among Native American tribes as well.
  • The leaves were chewed to relieve colic or heartburn.
  • The chewed leaves were used as a poultice to apply to wounds and sores.
  • The leaves could also be used as a tea for coughs, TB, or diarrhea.
  •  Some of the Northwest tribes would blend Salal with Kinnikinnick to make a smoke blend.
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Its dark blue “berries” (actually swollen sepals) and young leaves are both edible and are efficient appetite suppressants, both with a unique flavour.

Gaultheria shallon berries were a significant food resource for native people, who both ate them fresh and dried them into cakes. They were also used as a sweetener, and the Haida used them to thicken salmon eggs. The leaves of the plant were also sometimes used to flavor fish soup.More recently, Gaultheria shallon berries are used locally in jams, preserves and pies. They are often combined with Oregon-grape because the tartness of the latter is partially masked by the mild sweetness of Gaultheria shallon.

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