Finnish forests yield a super berry, called the lingonberry, which keeps proving itself increasingly healthful.

Helsingin sanomat
Katarina Malmberg 29 April 2019
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Lingonberries have been used to control children’s oral yeast from as far back as folklore can tell. Even today, many child health clinics advise parents to try the juice of lingonberry mash as a home treatment in case of a yeast infection, or thrush, on the baby’s tongue. 

In view of this, Pirjo Pärnänen, DDS, began to study lingonberries, but also bilberries, cranberries, lemons, strawberries and blackcurrants. Berries and fruit are known to contain many antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemical compounds we obtain from our nutriments, but the body also produces them itself. Antioxidants are thought to have significance for the pathogenesis of many chronic diseases, such as cardio-vascular diseases and cancer, and possibly for many of the processes related to ageing.

The lingonberry also contains anthocyanins, which are health enhancing flavonoids. Anthocyanins affect blood coagulation, among other things, and give the lingonberry its red colour. Additionally, the lingonberry contains many compounds that prevent the low-grade inflammations of the body.

Dr. Pärnänen’s research showed that under laboratory conditions the lingonberry was the most effective eliminator of candida, the bacteria that cause yeast infections, and streptococcus mutans, the bacterium which most commonly causes dental caries. According to Dr. Pärnänen, the lingonberry contains acidity, but also some other property, which reduces yeast growth, among other things. A study conducted in Taiwan had similar results, namely that the phenolic compounds in the lingonberry prevent the growth of bacteria associated with gum diseases.

Botanist Sinikka Piippo describes studies conducted on humans showing that the quercitrin in the lingonberry and other berries has a number of effects, such as lowering blood pressure and preventing inflammations and rising blood sugar.

Furthermore, the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra is collecting a summary, for instance, of the empirical evidence found in Finland for the nutritional and health effects of the lingonberry. Finnish research provided strong evidence at least for the alleviating effect of the cranberry on urinary tract infections, but also of relief to a moderate degree from the lingonberry. One of these reports suggests that the lingonberry should be the subject of considerable further study.

During her career as a botanist at the University of Helsinki and elsewhere, Sinikka Piippo has lectured on the health effects of berries. According to her, the oestrogenic lignans of the lingonberry reduce the risk of cancers of hormonal origin, such as breast cancer, to a moderate degree. Lignans are phenol compounds similar to flavonoids.

Lignans in the body produce metabolites, called enterolactones, and the effects of plant lignans can be evaluated by measuring the enterolactone count in the blood. Increasing a person’s supply of lignans thus increases the quantity of enterolactones in the blood. People with a low enterolactone count have a higher than average risk of getting diseases, such as coronary artery disease or breast cancer.

According to Sinikka Piippo, many berries contain plenty of phenolic compounds. Such berries include the lingonberry, but also the blackcurrant, the elderberry, the blackberry, the cloudberry and the sea buckthorn.