Crowberry flavonoids and their health promoting activity

Recently, the attention of researchers has been focused on lesser-known and underutilized species of edible berries, such as crowberry, lingonberry and rowanberry. Wild berry species often display higher antioxidant activity and have higher concentrations of phenolic compounds in comparison with cultivated berries. Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) has one of the highest content of antioxidants.

Crowberry occurs commonly in the northern hemisphere, both in Eurasia and North America. Berries are slightly acidic and bitter, and taste better after freezing. Crowberries have been utilized in juices, jams and wines. The health promoting activity of crowberry is given by the high content of phenolic compounds: flavonols (quercetin, kaempherol and myricetin) and anthocyanins.

According to studies, berries of crowberry, in relation to their high flavonoid content, are reported to have health promoting effects, such as antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic effects:

  • Antioxidative effects: oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, leading to chain reactions that may damage cells. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions. Studies suggest that crowberry is one of the most powerful antioxidant berries. The total antioxidant activity in the crowberry is higher than in blackcurrant, cultivated blueberry, strawberry and raspberry. Studies have shown that crowberry extract display a strong antioxidative effect in the free radical scavenging and suppress hydrogen peroxide and UVB induced cell damages.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: crowberry has been used in folk medicine to treat inflammatory diseases. The study showed that aerial parts of crowberry suppressed the secretion of pro-inflammatory mediator from LPS-stimulated cells. Therefore is seems that crowberry might have potential in treatment of inflammatory diseases.
  • Antimicrobial effects: the most-studied activity in crowberry is antimicrobial and antifungal activity. Studies have reported inhibition against the following bacteria: Bacillus cereus (food poisoning), Campylobacter jejuni (food poisoning), Staphylococcus aureus (infections), Staphylococcus epidermis (infections), Escheria coli (infections), Bacillus subtilis (food poisoning) etc.
  • Anticancer activity: several studies have reported of crowberries' activity such as absorbing UVB radiation, scavenging UVB-induced intracellular reactive oxygen species and inhibiting apoptosis after cells were exposed to radiation.
  • Antidiabetic effects: crowberry can potentially reduce postprandial hyperglycemia by delaying carbohydrate digestion, and can be utilized as an alternative antidiabetic drug.

Source: Jurikova, T., Mlcek, J., Skrovamkova, S., Balla, S., Sochor, J., Baron, M. & Sumczynski, D. (2016): Black Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum L.) flavonoids and their health promoting activity. Molecules 2016, 21, 1685.

Anni Koskela, Arctic Flavours Association

+358 40 164 6177



antioksidantit  antosyaanit  fenolihapot  polyfenolit  flavonoidit  variksenmarja  crowberry  flavonoids  polyphenols  phenolic acids  anthocyanins  antioxidant activity