Crowberries have been used for centuries in Nordic cuisine. Picking berries and making Crowberry juice used to be an essential activity in autumn for Icelanders, and for many it still is.  Crowberry leaves have also been used as fuel and chicken feed, and to make wine and dye yarn. In the past it was called “lúsalyng” (lice heather), as it was believed that it killed fleas and other pests when placed in the bed. Neither the leaves nor the berries are used much in Western herbal medicine nowadays.

How did Native Americans Use Crowberries?

The Native Americans made good use of the berries as food and used them either boiled or dried for diarrhea. They used the leaves for medicinal purposes: the decoction was thought to be diuretic, to lower fevers and be good for diarrhea, like the berries. A decoction from the leaves was also used for colds and kidney problems, while a decoction from the roots was used as an eyewash.

Crowberries Help Your Digestion

Boiled and dried berries are well known for their beneficial effect on diarrhea, especially for children, and the leaves have also been used for this purpose. Fresh berries, however, have a laxative effect, especially if too many are eaten at once. Crowberries are also high in fiber which is important for keeping the digestive tract working smoothly.

They have Strong Antioxidant Effects

Crowberries are rich in vitamins, especially Vitamin C. They contain a high amount of antioxidants like flavonoids, which are known to reduce the damaging effect of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are associated with damaging living cells and increasing the risk of certain diseases like cancer. Antioxidants also strengthen the immune system and prevent the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Old Icelandic Text from 1830

“The berries of this herb are cooling, and slightly astringent. Liquid of the boiled berry is good against diarrhoea, when 2 tablespoons are taken every two hours. Jam from the berries, mixed with water, is a good drink for thirst and epidemic fevers.” – Oddur Jónsson Hjaltalín, Icelandic Botany, 1830

Crowberries are Beneficial for Anemia

Crowberry juice is high in iron and is traditionally used for anemia. In Iceland there is a long history of using Crowberry juice for anemic women, usually in relation to loss of blood due to heavy periods or childbirth.

They Have Anti-Ageing Effect on Your Skin

Crowberries contain high amounts of vitamins and other antioxidant substances like flavonoids. It is well recognized that antioxidants have beneficial effects on the skin as they can reduce inflammation and have anti-aging effects. I highly recommend eating berries every day for your skin, especially Crowberries and Blueberries. However, the skin needs to be protected externally as well and then nothing beats a good moisturiser. I can highly recommend my Age-Defying Combo which will give your skin long-lasting hydration and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Raw Juice

Juice from pressed Crowberries is called raw juice and is extracted using a mincing machine or a juice extractor. It is best to use a muslin cloth in the sieve to obtain the pulp, then squeeze the cloth to extract all of the liquid. The raw juice can be stored in bottles and frozen without using any sweeteners. Another good idea is to pour the juice into ice-cube bags and freeze it.

Crowberry Juice: Recipe and Health Benefits

Traditional Icelandic Crowberry Juice

  • 1 liter raw juice
  • 400-500g sugar or raw sugar

Place the raw juice and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil, or until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool slightly and pour into sterilised bottles. The juice keeps for 6-12 months. Less sugar can be used, but then the shelf life is shortened.

Crowberry Juice from the Pulp

The pulp formed while making raw juice is ideal for juice. Place 350g of well-squeezed pulp in a pot with 1 liter of water. Boil for 20 minutes, allow to cool, then sieve the pulp. Use the same method for bottling as in the raw juice recipe.

Research on Crowberries

  • Recent research in Japan revealed that Crowberry contains 13 different antioxidants totalling 41.8mg/g, which is more than many other berries, and thus it is considered to be a strong antioxidant. The antioxidant effect of Crowberry is also deemed to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses.1,2
  • Crowberry leaves showed an inhibiting effect on tuberculosis bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis3,6
  • Canadian research showed that the tincture of Crowberry leaves has antifungal properties.4
  • Crowberry juice has also demonstrated possible inhibiting effects on the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, which causes pneumonia, meningitis and otitis.5
  • In Icelandic research, both the berries and the leaves have shown antibacterial properties, e.g. against specific strains of staphylococci which are known for their resistance to antibiotics.7
  1. Kim KC, Kang KA et al. Risk reduction of ethyl acetate fraction of Empetrum nigrum var. japonicum via antioxidant properties against hydrogen peroxide-induced cell damage. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2009; 72(21-22):1499-508.
  2. Ogawa K, Sakakibara H et al. Anthocyanin composition and antioxidant activity of the Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) and other berries. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Jun 25; 56(12):4457-62. Epub 2008 Jun 4.
  3. Gordien AY, Gray AI et al. Activity of Scottish plant, lichen and fungal endophyte extracts against Mycobacterium aurum and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Phytother Res. 2010 May; 24(5):692-8.
  4. McCutcheon AR, Ellis SM et al. Antifungal screening of medicinal plants of British Columbian native peoples. J Ethnopharmacol. 1994 Dec; 44(3):157-69.
  5. Huttunen S, Toivanen M et al. Inhibition Activity of Wild Berry Juice Fractions against Streptococcus pneumoniae Binding to Human Bronchial Cells. Phytother Res. 2010 Jul 12.
  6. McCutcheon; R. W. Stokes et al. Towers Anti-Mycobacterial Screening of British Columbian Medicinal Plants Pharmaceutical Biology, Volume 35, Issue 2 April 1997, 77-83.
  7. Gunnarsdóttir R, Hilmarsdóttir I et al. Bakteríuhemjandi efni úr krækilyngi. Tólfta ráðstefna um rannsóknir í líf- og heilbrigðisvísindum í Háskóla Íslands. Reykjavík, 4.-5. January 2005. Læknablaðið 90 (supplement 50, pg. 98) 2004.

About the Author

Anna Rósa is a medical herbalist and author of the bestselling book Icelandic Herbs and Their Medicinal Uses. She’s the CEO and founder of Anna Rósa Skincare and a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists in UK. It’s the oldest herbalist institute in the world, founded in 1894.

Anna Rósa CEO and Founder of Anna Rósa Skincare