The Health Benefits of Chokeberry

Black chokeberry on a branch

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Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is an antioxidant-rich fruit that is commonly consumed in Eastern Europe and Russia. Chokeberries have been used in folk medicine by Native Americans as a treatment for the common cold. The fruit is also available in supplement form and is said to offer a range of health benefits related to oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is a destructive process linked to many chronic diseases, including heart disease. It occurs when DNA-damaging free radicals overwhelm the body. Chokeberry extract is thought to fight oxidative stress by providing potent antioxidants known to knock out free radicals and offer additional health benefits.

Also Known As

Chokeberry is a fruit that goes by other names including:

  • Aronia Berry
  • Black Apple Berry
  • Black Chokeberry
  • Purple Chokeberry
  • Red Chokeberry
  • Wild Chokeberry

Health Benefits

To date, few large comprehensive studies have tested chokeberry's effects on human health. There have been limited animal investigations, test-tube studies, and small clinical trials researching the benefits of the berries and the berry extract.

Oxidative Stress

Chokeberry may be useful in treating conditions related to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when unstable molecules called free radicals overwhelm the body's defense against their harmful effects. Free radicals can damage your DNA which may contribute to the development of many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other conditions.

In a research review published in 2010, scientists evaluated 13 studies, finding that chokeberry's mixture of procyanidins, anthocyanins, and phenolic acids "constitutes one of the most potent natural antioxidants." However, the authors note that most of the reviewed studies are of poor quality and that more rigorous research needs to be conducted before chokeberry supplements can be recommended as a means of combating oxidative stress.

Authors of a 2017 study also examined the antioxidant benefits of chokeberry. They concluded that the berries have the potential to provide both medicinal and therapeutic benefits and may contribute to the prevention of chronic diseases including metabolic disorders, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

Metabolic Syndrome

In a small study published in 2010, researchers found that chokeberry extract may benefit people with metabolic syndrome—a cluster of health problems linked to increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, including excess belly fat, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and inflammation. For two months, 25 patients with metabolic syndrome took 100 mg of chokeberry extract three times daily. Study results showed that the patients experienced significant decreases in blood pressure, C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation), and LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

Another preliminary study evaluated the effects of chokeberry extract on obese mice who consumed a high-fat diet. Researchers found that the mice treated with the extract showed decreases in body weight, triglyceride and cholesterol levels, and improved insulin sensitivity. It is too soon to tell, however, if these benefits will occur in a human body. More rigorous trials are needed to confirm the benefit.

Diabetes

Chokeberry may help keep blood sugar in check in people with diabetes, suggests a small study published in 2002. After drinking 200 ml of a sugar-free, artificially sweetened chokeberry juice daily for three months, diabetes patients showed a decrease in fasting blood sugar levels. Chokeberry juice also appeared to reduce total cholesterol levels.

A review of studies was published in 2017 in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition where researchers examined evidence linking chokeberry to antidiabetic effects. Study authors concluded that there is evidence suggesting that the berries' antioxidants have potential in the prevention and treatment of diabetes.

Other preliminary studies are investigating the potential of using chokeberry extract in the treatment of hypertension and related cardiovascular conditions.

Some people also use chokeberries or chokeberry supplements to treat conditions including:

There is not enough evidence to know if chokeberry fruit or chokeberry extract can aid in the treatment of these conditions.

Possible Side Effects

Due to a lack of research, little is known about chokeberry supplements. Experts suggest that drinking chokeberry juice or taking chokeberry extract as medicine is possibly safe for most adults. However, some people may experience side effects including constipation or diarrhea.

People with diabetes should exercise caution when using chokeberry. The fruit can lower blood sugar so it is important to watch for signs of low blood sugar and monitor your blood sugar carefully.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also exercise caution with chokeberry or chokeberry extract as there is not enough evidence to know if it is safe.

Selection, Preparation & Storage

Your local grocer may carry chokeberries when they are in season, usually in late summer or early fall. The berries can be used in recipes, eaten raw, or frozen in the same way you would use other types of berries like blueberries. Look for dark purple, firm berries when choosing them in the produce section. They may also be labeled as "aronia berries."

Chokeberry juice is found in some grocery stores and online. The juice is often described as tart—similar to the taste of cherry juice.

Chokeberry powder, chokeberry capsules, and chokeberry extract in liquid form is also found in many health food stores and online. But remember that due to the lack of scientific support for chokeberry's health benefits, it's too soon to recommend chokeberry supplements for any health condition. It is also illegal to market any dietary supplement as a treatment or cure for a medical condition.

Lastly, it's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb.

When choosing a supplement, try to buy from a familiar seller. If possible, it's best to look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, or NSF International. These organizations don't guarantee that a product is safe or effective, but they do provide a certain level of testing for quality.

Common Questions

What does a chokeberry taste like?

When fully ripe, most people compare the taste of a chokeberry to the taste of purple grapes or cherries.

Can I grow my own chokeberry bush?

Yes, the bush is cold hardy and can be grown in cooler climates across the United States, particularly in the Northeast. Your local nursery may carry chokeberry bushes that you can grow for fruit.

If you're interested in using chokeberry to treat or prevent a particular health problem, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. Self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

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