Health Benefits of Salmonberry

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on November 02, 2022
5 min read

A salmonberry is a yellowish-red fruit similar to a raspberry or blackberry. It grows locally in regions of Alaska and Canada. It is a rich source of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and also has various health benefits.

Read on to learn more about salmonberry identification, nutrition, health benefits, taste, and more.

Salmonberry fruits, flowers, and shoots are edible, and people living in coastal British Columbia and Washington eat them often.

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) is a fruit that resembles a raspberry in shape and size. They are typically yellow, orange, red, or salmon-colored, which is why they are called salmonberries. This fruit grows in the Pacific Northwest region, including Alaska, Canada, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and California. It is also found in Japan.

Salmonberry plants thrive in humid coastal forests, on the banks of streams, in wetlands or bogs, and along shorelines. They also grow on roadsides and at the edge of forests. They form large bushes or thickets in open spaces. You may also see them under red alder stands. 

Salmonberries ripen from May to August and display a beautiful salmon color during the rainy spring season. They may ripen later in cooler climates.

Indigenous Alaskan people believe that an abundance of salmonberries forecasts snowfall in winter and an abundance of pink salmon.

To identify salmonberries, you’ll need to know what the plant, flowers, and fruits look like. A salmonberry plant is a thick shrub with a height of 3 to 12 feet. It belongs to the rose family and has woody stems covered with thorns. In winter, the twigs have a golden-brown or rust color. As the shrub ages, you’ll notice that it has a brown, papery, or flaking bark. 

Salmonberry flowers are large and have five delicate, rose-like petals colored a deep pink or magenta. Its leaves are trifoliate (i.e., they have three leaflets). Its berries grow and ripen to look like shiny yellow to orange-red raspberries. Older salmonberries appear woody.

Salmonberries have a rich nutrient profile. They are packed with various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants essential for your body's functions. A 100-gram portion of salmonberries contains the following:

  • 47 calories
  • 0.33 grams of fat
  • 10 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0.85 grams of protein
  • 1.9 grams of dietary fiber
  • 3.66 grams of sugars
  • 13 milligrams of calcium
  • 0.4 milligrams of iron
  • 110 milligrams of potassium

Salmonberries are a source of vitamins A, C, E, and K. They also have minerals such as copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.

Parts of the salmonberry plant, including the leaves, bark, and fruits, have medicinal properties. Salmonberry health benefits include:

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Research indicates that dried salmonberry has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Antioxidants are nutrients that help protect your body against oxidative cell damage. Without such antioxidants, toxic free radicals can harm your cells. They can increase your risk of developing illnesses such as cancer, heart problems, and Alzheimer’s disease. Eating salmonberries, then, can help you keep long-term inflammatory diseases at bay.

Gut health improvement. The anti-inflammatory effects and high dietary fiber of salmonberries are good for your gut health. Salmonberry tea can also be used to treat gut conditions like constipation, diarrhea, and dysentery.

Astringent effects. Salmonberry barks and leaves have astringent effects. An astringent is a substance that brings skin cells closer. That tightens your pores, cleanses your skin, and prevents oily skin. 

Native Americans also use chewed salmonberry leaves and powdered bark to treat burns, cuts, wounds, and other open sores. Sometimes, they apply a poultice of salmonberry leaves or bark as a dressing for open sores. A poultice is a cloth on which ground, dampened, and heated herbs are applied. The cloth is then placed on the wound to promote healing.

People also use salmonberry leaves and bark to treat skin problems like rashes.

Pain relief. Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest use salmonberry bark for pain relief. They pound the bark into a powder and place it on an aching tooth or wound to reduce pain. Some people also brew salmonberry bark in seawater and drink it to reduce pregnancy labor pains. They also use the liquid to clean infected wounds or burns for pain relief.

Anti-diabetic properties. Salmonberry fruits have certain phenolic bioactive compounds that regulate metabolic enzymes. Evidence suggests that these enzymes can help lower your blood sugar levels and control type 2 diabetes.

Anti-obesity effects. Fat cells (adipocytes) contain a molecule called preadipocyte factor-1. In its absence, fat cells divide and may increase your chances of developing obesity. A study showed that antioxidant-rich salmonberry extracts can increase the levels of preadipocyte factor-1, though, and prevent the formation of fat cells in your body.

Mature salmonberry fruits are tender, tart, and sweet like raspberries. They are often used to make sweet preserves and desserts.

Salmonberry recipes include jams, jellies, sauces, syrups, juice, and baked goods. You can also serve salmonberries with dried or smoked salmon and meat. They are sometimes used to flavor alcohol like beer and wine.

The Alaskan indigenous people have always included salmonberries in their diet. One of their traditional salmonberry recipes is called akutaq. They make it with seal oil or eulachon fish fat, sugar, salmonberries (or other berries), fish, and other ingredients. People also use salmonberries in a desert called cittaq, which is made by mashing salmonberries with milk and sugar.

Salmonberries are not grown on farms. You can source them locally or pick them off bushes by hand between June and August. They are harvested as soon as they ripen, preferably before they grow old and woody. After picking them, you can peel them and eat them raw. You can also cook them by boiling or steaming them. 

It’s best to eat salmonberries immediately. Like other berries, they don’t keep well if they are stored for too long. However, you can freeze, cook, or preserve them to store them for longer durations. 

Some people also eat cooked or raw young shoots of salmonberry like asparagus.