Crowberry (black crowberry)
(Empetrum nigrum L.)
Crowberry, also called blackberry, is a wintergreen dwarf shrub species belonging to the Empetraceae family. It is found in Arctic and moderate climates, in Asia, Europe and Northern America. It also occurs in Poland, where it grows in the seaside region, in the so-called crowberry coniferous forests. Moreover, it can be easily encountered in the Sudetes and the Carpathian Mountains over the crystalline rocks.
Crowberries are used as edible fruit, for medicinal purposes and also as a ground-cover plant.
Crowberry is resistant to low temperatures and frost. Its habit resembles heather. Its creeping habit makes the crowberry an excellent plant for sodding (a ground-cover plant). Both the green parts, namely the shoots, and its round fruits with an intriguing flavour, described as sweet-sour-bland, are used for medicinal purposes. In folk medicine, crowberry herbs have been used as a conditioning, astringent and stimulating agent as well as a supportive treatment in urinary tract and kidney diseases.
In herbal medicine, crowberries are valued for the compounds they contain.
Crowberry fruits are a source of tannins that are responsible for their distinctive and astringent taste. It is worth knowing that freezing the fruits improves their taste. Black crowberry also contains high levels of vitamin C, manganese and copper. Flavonoids are the main active substances in the crowberry, specifically flavanols, anthocyanins and phenolic acids, whose content and structure are similar to blueberry fruits. Thanks to these substances, crowberry fruits have strong antioxidative properties, which makes them similar to chokeberry fruits.
Black crowberry is often used in cosmetology because, for instance, it substantially improves skin tone.
In cosmetics, crowberry extracts and juice are popular since they have a high content of antioxidative substances. This is all due to the phenolic acids, flavonoids and anthocyanins that are involved in hindering the ageing process in the body, and they also prevent the skin’s collagen fibres from degrading. These compounds contribute to improving skin tone, thereby preventing the development of wrinkles, minimising existing ones and preventing stretch marks. Furthermore, crowberries are highly nutritious, moisturising and softening the skin. They also improve the venous microcirculation in the legs, which considerably relieves the feeling of heavy legs.
Black crowberry has been used for centuries as a natural fabric dye and often as an edible plant.
The ability of the natural dyes, found in various parts of the plant, to colour fabrics has been known since ancient times. After initially processing the fabrics with alum, crowberry was used to dye them dark red. The fruit juice and decoction were used for this purpose as they are naturally dark blue or purple and dark red inside. Crowberry fruits are edible berries, and they have been often eaten with sugar, used to produce wine and jams, and added to meat and fish.