Common names: cowberry, foxberry, quailberry, bearberry, beaverberry, mountain cranberry, red whortleberry, lowbush cranberry, cougarberry, mountain bilberry, redberry
Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis idaea) is a dwarf evergreen shrub belonging to the heather (Ericaceae) family. The ovate leaves are 1-3 cm long with slightly wavy margins, glossy surface and black spots on the backside. The flowers are bell-shaped, white to pale pink, composed of four petals. The fruits are round red berries which are a little larger than blueberries.
Lingonberry is native in Europe, Asia and North America. In Europe, the species grows in pine woods, wetlands and in acidic soils, reaching altitudes even above 2000 m.
Both lingonberry leaves and fruits can be collected for medical purposes. It is important to be careful during collection to cause as little harm as possible to the shrubs. The leaves are shade dried, freshly picked fruits can be processed or can be preserved through drying.
The plant is very rich in antioxidants which protect the body from degenerative oxidation processes. It also contains vitamins A, B, C and E, a large number of minerals and flavonoids. The leaves contain tannins and arbutin.
Lingonberry leaf tea is used to treat kidney problems and urinary tract infections.
Fruits and fruit products or extracts are recommended to treat urinary tract infections, prostate and kidney problems. They are also recommended in case of overweightness, hyperglycaemia, lipid metabolism problems, atherosclerosis or high blood pressure. We should mention that some studies show that prolonged consumption or large amounts of cranberry might increase the risk of kidney stone formation.
Lingonberries have antioxidant properties, strengthen the immune system, protect the body against infections, have vasoprotective properties, aid cell regeneration, detoxification, prevent stone formation and the development of inflammatory or neoplastic diseases, therefore, one can say that they have significant preventive effects.
Berries can be consumed as such, in shakes, fruit salads or as delicious cake ornaments. Due to their sour taste, they are often used in sauces or jams. The fruits are suitable for syrups or jams or they can be preserved for the cold days by freezing or drying.