The mountain ash, with names such as “rowan berries” or “thrush berries”, indicates that birds love their fruits. In contrast, the berries are popularly known to be toxic to humans. Wrongly: The rowanberries taste really good only when cooked, but they are not toxic, on the contrary they are very healthy. They contain a lot of vitamin C as well as many phytochemicals and are therefore effective against inflammation and digestive problems.
Profile of the mountain ash
- Scientific name: Sorbus aucuparia
- Common names: Rowan berries, blueberries, bullfinches, blackberries, false ash, cranberry trees, aberesche, quince, stink ash, wielesche, crane bird berries, haweresche, aschitz'n, Schmalkabeer, jewish cherry
- distribution: The mountain ash is widespread in almost all of Europe and Western Asia and occurs everywhere in Central Europe.
- Parts of plants used: Fruits, formerly also seeds, bark and flowers
- application areas:
- Inflammation of the skin, the external mucous membranes and the throat
- Intestinal inflammation
- Prevention of colds and inflammatory diseases of the respiratory tract
Rowan - ingredients
Rowanberry contains a lot of vitamin C; after the first frosts in September, the fruits taste sweeter, but the content of the vitamin decreases. Provitamin A is also present. Rowan also offers ascorbic acid (0.06 - 0.13 percent for non-bitter fruits, 0.035 - 0.045 percent for bitter fruits) and parasorbic acid, which becomes sorbic acid when dried. Add to that
- Tannins (tannins),
- organic acids,
- Malic acid,
- Succinic acid,
- Citric acid,
- Tartaric acid,
- cyanogenic glycosides
- and sugar / sugar alcohol (sucrose, sorbitol, etc.).
In the semi-bitter fruit, the sugar content is only half as high, while the sorbitol content is much higher. The seeds were previously used in folk medicine, they have an astringent effect. Today, however, this use is discouraged: the amygdalin content in the seeds is high and can be slightly toxic.
Effect of rowan berries
The tannins contained in the fruit have an astringent effect and help with wound healing and against diarrhea, since they contract tissue and thus contain bleeding. They also contract the intestinal tract, thereby helping to fight inflammation of the small intestine. The tannins or tannins also have a diuretic effect.
The fruits of the mountain ash have an excellent anti-inflammatory effect and have traditionally been used here primarily as mus or brew against hemorrhoids. An extract from the bark served as a remedy for inflammation in the genital area. An extract from the rowanberry helps against intraocular pressure in glaucoma (glaucoma). This sorbitol is injected intravenously into the affected region.
Rowan - naturopathy
For ordinary people in Europe, the rowanberry with its high vitamin C content was above all an important remedy for the widespread scurvy - because this disease, in which the gums rot and the teeth fall out, is caused by the lack of vitamin C.
In Central European folk medicine, rowan was also considered an all-round remedy. A porridge from the fruit should stimulate digestion, help against constipation and restlessness in the stomach. The fruits were a remedy for all types of colds, rheumatism and gout. Sorbose in rowan berries used to serve as a sugar substitute in the form of the sorbitol obtained from it, which is also suitable for diabetics. Today the fabric is produced industrially.
Folk medicine used mus from the fruit, tea from the fruit and the bark as well as the seeds against liver and biliary complaints such as cirrhosis of the liver, biliary tract infections, biliary congestion, gall bladder infections or gall stones. However, a diagnosis of the respective disease was usually only possible through symptoms such as colic-like pain or pressure in the lower abdomen. Other clinical pictures that were treated with mountain ash were
- Problems of the bladder and urinary tract such as urinary stones, bladder and urethral infections,
- Gastrointestinal complaints such as constipation, bloating, flatulence, heartburn, intestinal inflammation and diarrhea,
- Respiratory complaints such as bronchitis and pneumonia
- and glaucoma.
A study by researchers from the University of Lodź showed that Sorbus aucuparia showed the strongest antioxidant activity in direct comparison with two related species (Sorbus aria and Sorbus intermedia). For this purpose, 70% methanol extracts from the leaves and fruits of the three species were compared using three in vitro test systems. Rowan showed not only a superior effectiveness, but also the highest value of phenols and thus of all three relatives the greatest potential for natural health products.
Rowan - Tree of the Thunder God
The mountain ash inspired the mythology of the north. In Germanic cultures it was considered the tree of Thor, the god of thunder, who was called "Donar" in southern Germany - hence our Thursday, Donarstag and Donner. The literary work “Edda” tells that a mountain ash saved the life of God: Thor is said to have plunged into a raging river and was almost drowned when he grabbed a branch of the tree and was able to pull himself up on it. In Norwegian, the rowanberry is therefore called "Thorsbjörg" (Thor's encounter).
In German folk belief, a mountain ash in the courtyard as a tree of the god of thunder was supposed to prevent lightning from striking the house. Rowan berries were hung in front of the windows or under the roof structure. Also in the Celts, Sorbus aucuparia was a spiritual tree that grew in sacred groves and in court places. It was a druid plant and they carved its sticks out of its wood.
Rowan berries - fruits of the wild hedge
Rowanberries are still considered poisonous today, and many parents warn their children not to eat them. But that is not true: rowanberries are not toxic, they only taste raw when raw and bitter before the first frost - this is due to the bitter substances, especially the parasorbic acid. However, this bitter taste disappears when boiled, and the bitter parasorbic acid turns into the milder sorbic acid.
The berries ripen in autumn and are widely visible in bright orange to bright red. They can be harvested until October and attract birds just as magnetically as bilks and mice. Hence the common names of the mountain ash such as rowan berries, blackbirds, blueberries or bullfinches, because blackbirds, other bluebirds and bullfinches are among the species that love the fruits. Do not wait too long to harvest the berries, as they quickly disappeared from the stomach of animals.
Before you prepare the berries, wash them thoroughly and pluck them from the umbels. With their high content of vitamin C and tannins, the fruits not only promote a stable cardiovascular system and help with colds and indigestion - they also taste good and can be converted into juice, liqueur, wine, jam, mush or sauce.
Rowan-leaf and tea
In naturopathy, tea is made from the leaves and fruits of the rowan berry. This is used against indigestion, cough, bronchial diseases and gastrointestinal problems and is also said to help with rheumatism, gout and hemorrhoids.
Rowan - spreading
Rowan belongs to the whitebeams and the rose family. It is a pome fruit and the fruits are reminiscent of tiny apples. The tree is distributed across Europe in several subspecies, from Western Siberia to Spain and from Norway to Sicily and Northern Greece.
The tree makes few demands and is considered a typical pioneer plant that quickly settles new fallow land, such as clearings created by logging, abandoned factory premises or embankments on embankments. It is a classic tree of wild hedges, grows in deciduous and coniferous forests, on bog soil and on grasslands.
Rowan is one of the most important trees in the forest and garden for birds and small mammals - for the natural garden, it is the number one bird plant and therefore a must-have: for a wild hedge in the animal-friendly ecological garden, you laid the foundation with rowan, sloe and hawthorn. 63 species of bird eat the fruits of the blackberry, thus leading the list of bird food plants - ahead of the elderberry (62 species) and the elderberry (47 species).
Particularly important - yes a main source of food - are the fruits of the mountain ash for blackbird, song thrush, mistletoe thrush (plus mistletoe fruits), juniper thrush (plus juniper fruits), robins, starlings and blackcap. At the time of migration, red thrushes and waxwings swarm over the berries.
The birds that like to eat rowan berries also include the black woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, bullfinch, chaffinch, nuthatch and jay, as well as the common crow, carrion crow, magpie, blue tit and garden warbler. Small mammals who love rowan berries are dormouse, dormouse, earth mouse, yellow-necked mouse and field mouse.
The leaves, shoots and buds of the trees serve as delicacies for hoofed deer, i.e. red deer, roe deer and wild boar. The rowanberry has a great benefit for forestry, because in beech rejuvenation the bite damage caused by the game is limited. The mountain ash makes a major contribution to biodiversity - in the forest, in the fields and in the garden. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Schilcher, Heinz; Kammerer, Susanne; Wegener, Tankred: Guide to Phytotherapy, Urban & Fischer in Elsevier, 2007
- van Wyk, Ben-Erik; Wink, Coralie; Wink, Michael: Handbook of Medicinal Plants: An Illustrated Guide, Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft Stuttgart, 2004
- Bavarian State Institute for Forestry and Forestry (LWF): LWF knowledge 17: Contributions to rowan berries (accessed: 7.2.2020), LWF
- Olszewska, Monika A .; Michel, Piotr: Antioxidant activity of inflorescences, leaves and fruits of three Sorbus species in relation to their polyphenolic composition, in: Natural product research, 23 (16): 1507-21, November 2009, PubMed