Aronia (Aronia melanocarpa) is a shrub that is native to eastern North America. Its pea-sized berries are known as black chokeberry or Aronia berries. The black fruits are very tart and dry to taste.
However, black choke berries are rich in vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds and help with inflammation. They are the reason for many of Aronia’s health benefits.
These berries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities of any fruit. This means they can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. That is why the small berry is also nicknamed Aronia superberry.
The Native American people already used Aronia berries as food, to make tea, and to treat colds. European settlers soon adopted the use of chokeberries, turning them into jam, juice, wine, and syrup.
In the early 1900s, black chokeberry plants were introduced to Russia and Eastern Europe. There, the Aronia bushes gained popularity and were grown for the food industry. They were also used as traditional remedies.
Today, Aronia berries are eaten for their health benefits almost all over the world. Due to their astringent taste, they are mostly dried or juiced. The potent Aronia extract is used in dietary supplements.
Often people wonder if aronia berries are the same as chokecherries. The answer is no. Aronia and chokecherry are different plants and only distantly related.
Chokecherry or Prunus virginiana is mostly grown as a windbreak for farms and fields. The raw seeds and leaves of chokecherry can be toxic, whereas Aronia berry seeds are safe to eat.
Aronia melanocarpa is also known as black chokeberry or black-seeded chokeberry. The shrub belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae).
The other main Aronia species is Aronia arbutifolia or red chokeberry. Both species are native to North America but can be told apart by the colour of their mature fruits.
Since the black chokeberry has the highest antioxidant value, A. melanocarpa cultivars such as 'viking' are used for fruit production.
Other cultivars such as 'autumn magic' are grown in parks and gardens for the pretty fall color of their leaves.
Aronia melancarpa (Michx.) Elliot belongs to the rose family (Rosaceae). The shrub is also known as black chokeberry or black-seeded chokeberry. It is most widely classified as a part of the Aronia genus, but sometimes as a part of the Photinia genus, which also belongs to the rose family and is related to the apple.
The two main species of the Aronia genus are Aronia melanocarpa (black chokeberry) and Aronia arbutifolia (red chokeberry). Both species are native to North America but can be told apart by the colour of their fruits. Black chokeberry fruits mature to a purplish-black colour, while red chokeberry fruits mature to red. Aronia prunifolia or purple chokeberry is a natural hybrid of red and black chokeberry, whereas Aronia mitschurinii or Sorbaronia mitschurinii was cultivated.
All four species have a high antioxidant value, but black chokeberry has the highest. Due to the high antioxidant value, A. melancarpa cultivars like the Viking Aronia Berry are used for fruit production. The composition and health value of chokeberry fruits depend on many factors, like variety, maturity, environment, and climate.
Chokeberries are sometimes mistakenly called chokecherries. Chokecherry or Prunus virginiana is a different shrub usually grown as a windbreak for farms and fields. Although the fruits contain health-promoting compounds, the raw seeds and leaves can be toxic, whereas Aronia berry seeds can be eaten.
What does the plant look like?
Black chokeberry is a shrub that grows to about 1 to 3 meters in height. Its oval leaves are dark green and glossy. The pretty creamy-white flowers grow in clusters and bloom in mid-May.
The flowers ripen to small, purplish black berries that mature in late August and September. Aronia berries contain tannins, a type of plant compound, that causes their bitter and astringent flavour.
Where does the name come from?
The genus name Aronia is thought to derive from the Greek word ‘arōnia’, meaning medlar tree.
The species name melanocarpa is made up of two Greek words: ‘melano’, meaning black and ‘carpa’, meaning fruit.
The common name chokeberry refers to the astringency of the berries. Their mouth-drying effect is very likely to make one’s mouth pucker.
How or what it is used for?
Fresh chokeberries are commonly used to make juice, jam, syrup, wine, or natural dye. They are also eaten dried as a snack, added to cereals, trail mixes, and baked goods. Chokeberry extract is available in form of Aronia supplements.
Due to their enhanced antioxidant activity, Aronia berries are a promising component of functional food products. However, like other plants and natural medicinal products, Aronia melanocarpa requires further thorough studies to support its therapeutic use.
Currently, Health Canada approves polyphenols as a source of antioxidants that help protect cells against the oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
Medicinal Properties of Aronia
Research showed that chokeberry extract, chokeberry juice and their polyphenolic compounds act as strong
These effects may potentially prevent or treat chronic diseases related to oxidative stress and inflammations. Also, studies demonstrated that Aronia extract lowered total cholesterol and systolic blood pressure. It might also help with pro-inflammatory conditions and reduce the risk factors of the metabolic syndrome. In some types of cancers, such as colon cancer or breast cancer, Aronia melanocarpa seems to have potential anti-cancer benefits. Additionally, immunomodulatory and antimicrobial effects have been described for black chokeberry extracts.
It is well known that oxidative stress and inflammation play a key role in the development of various chronic diseases. But what exactly is meant by oxidative stress?
Free radicals are naturally created when cells use oxygen to generate energy in our body. External sources such as smoking, polluted air or UV light can also produce free radicals.
To neutralize an excess of free radicals, our body produces antioxidants. Antioxidants such as polyphenols can scavenge and stabilize free radicals. An imbalance of free radicals and neutralizing antioxidants can cause oxidative stress in our body.
Research findings suggest that eating a diet rich in polyphenols helps to decrease oxidative stress and prevent cell damage.
As mentioned earlier, oxidative stress can lead to many chronic diseases. Aronia as a strong antioxidant may help reduce the risk for these diseases. Still, more studies in humans are needed.
Drinking chokeberry juice or taking chokeberry extract is generally regarded as possibly safe for most adults. Side effects are rare, but some people may experience constipation or diarrhea.
Patients with diabetes should be cautious when using chokeberry. The fruit can lower blood sugar, so it is important to monitor the blood sugar carefully.
There is also some concern that chokeberry might potentiate the effects of medications that slow blood clotting (so-called blood thinners). Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also be cautious with Aronia berries or extract as there is not enough data available.
Remember to speak with your healthcare provider if you have questions, especially if you are on medication, pregnant, or breastfeeding.
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Aronia berries have higher antioxidant levels than blueberries, cranberries, grapes, and other berries. Antioxidants are believed to help protect against chronic diseases. These include diabetes, neurodegenerative and heart diseases. They might also help to slow aging.
The reason for these antioxidant activities and other Aronia benefits are the phenolic compounds in the berries. A Finish study tested over 140 food items, including chokeberries and other fruits and vegetables. The highest total concentration of polyphenols was found in Aronia berries.
The main phenolic compound groups in Aronia juice and berries are the so-called proanthocyanidins and the anthocyanins.
Proanthocyanidins are better known as condensed tannins. They taste very astringent and help many plants to protect themselves from diseases or being eaten. They can also be found in many common foods. These include tea, grapes, black currant, cranberry, cocoa products, and red wine.
Research showed that condensed tannins have antioxidative effects and help with inflammation. These effects can result in a wide range of health benefits. Still, more clinical studies are needed.
Anthocyanins are a type of common plant pigments. They are responsible for most of the red, blue, and purple colours of leaves, fruits, flowers, and root vegetables.
Anthocyanins from black chokeberry have high antioxidative activity. Also, animal studies reported protective effects of Aronia fruit juice on the liver and the gastric mucosa. In test tubes, Aronia anthocyanins showed activities against certain bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells.
Chokeberries also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals. These include zinc, magnesium, iron, and vitamin C, B, and K. The specific values do vary depending on the way the Aronia is grown and prepared.
Medicinal Properties of Aronia
Research showed that chokeberry extract, juice and their polyphenolic compounds act as strong
These effects may help to prevent or treat chronic diseases related to oxidative stress and reduce inflammations.
Also, studies demonstrated that Aronia extract lowered total cholesterol and high blood pressure. In some types of cancers, such as colon cancer or breast cancer, Aronia seems to have potential anti-cancer benefits. Further, black chokeberry extract seems to modulate the immune response. Still, further research is necessary.
How or what it is used for
Fresh chokeberries are often used to make juice, jam, syrup, wine, or natural dye. They are also eaten dried as a snack, added to cereals, trail mixes, and baked goods.
Chokeberry extract is available in the form of Aronia supplements.
Health Canada approves polyphenols as a source of antioxidants that help protect cells against the oxidative damage caused by free radicals.