Dear Pharmacist,

I have high blood pressure and heart disease. I’m worried that I’m not doing enough. Do you have any recommendations?

--K.S., Denver, Colorado

Answer: Yes. a brand new study conducted at the University of Helsinki in Finland found positive benefits from something very cool, but tart. Lingonberries.

They’re popular in Scandinavia, but you probably haven’t ever tried them, unless you’re lucky enough to have a Swedish grandmother who made you pancakes with a side of lingonberry jam. These bright red arctic berries have been around for centuries, and people squeeze them into juice or jam; sometimes they’re cooked in stew but they’re not eaten raw, because their tartness will make you pucker like cranberries do.

Long ago, Native American Cree people, used the “cowberries” or “partridge berries” in their Canadian homeland, to treat symptoms of diabetes.

The Finnish study, just published in June 2011, reported that lingonberry juice can help protect the delicate endothelial lining of blood vessels in lab animals with high blood pressure. This is important because the force of blood under pressure continually slamming into the walls of blood vessels damages the lining of the vessels, making it easier for plaques to accumulate and contribute to a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers found that high levels of certain phytochemicals (most likely flavonols) in lingonberry juice normalized damage to blood vessel linings in the animals.

Does this mean that lingonberry juice will do the same thing for humans? Possibly. There’s every reason to take advantage of the health benefits of this juice, and others that are packed with antioxidant power. Antioxidants add a ‘protection plan’ to your body, against everything from the common cold to cancer. I wish I could say that about atenolol, metoprolol, nifedipine, lisinopril or any other drug used to reduce blood pressure. There are hundreds. They simply don’t have antioxidant capabilities; I see nothing wrong with combining medication with lingonberry, if your doctor approves.

The Finnish study did not show that lingonberry juice can actually lower blood pressure like medicine, but it might protect those precious blood vessels against the ravages of hypertension and inflammatory chemicals. I mention this only because the new study has been misrepresented online with numerous claims that lingonberry juice lowers blood pressure. Being a journalist myself, sloppy reporting like this drives me nuts. To be clear, if you try the juice and don’t see reductions in your blood pressure, don’t give up because you may lose out on the protection it confers to your arteries.

Canadian researchers are finding definite medicinal properties for the treatment of diabetes. Apparently, lingonberries causes a slight reduction in blood sugar. Other studies have confirmed the anti-microbial effect of berries. Lingonberry juice is kind of new to the US, and found in some natural health food grocers and IKEA stores. It’s readily available online as a juice concentrate.

Did You Know?

Chantix, the anti-smoking pill is now thought to be dangerous for those who already have cardiovascular disease.

Suzy Cohen

Suzy Cohen, is known as America’s Pharmacist. She has been a licensed pharmacist for 24 years and is a Functional Medicine practitioner. She’s the author of 6 books, including her most recent Amazon #1 best-seller, “Thyroid Healthy: Lose Weight, Look Beautiful and Live the Life You Imagine.”

She was the host of The Thyroid Summit which broadcast worldwide in June 2014. Suzy has been a syndicated columnist for 19 years reaching 20 million in circulation each week. She is a Huffington Post writer, and also hosts her own syndicated medical minute on TV. Suzy has been featured on The Dr OZ Show 6 times, and has appeared on The View, Good Morning America Health, The Doctors and hundreds of other networks. She is a member of The Institute of Functional Medicine, also the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, The American Pharmacists Association and ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. You can read free articles and receive your free newsletter by visiting her website, SuzyCohen.com

Books authored by Suzy Cohen include:

  • Thyroid Healthy
  • Headache Free
  • Drug Muggers
  • Diabetes Without Drugs
  • The 24-Hour Pharmacist
  • Eczema: Itchin’ for a Cure (kindle only)
  • Understanding Pancreatitis & Pancreatic Cancer (kindle only)