Botanical Name: Vaccinium myrtillus

Common Name: Bilberry, European Blueberry

Family: Ericaceae

 

Description of Bilberry Plant/Habitat:

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is a shrubby perennial plant one to two feet in height and can be found in the mountains and forests of Europe and the northern United States.  Its branches contain alternating, elliptical, bright green leaves and its flowers are reddish to pink and bell-shaped. The fruit is blue-black or purple.

 

Part(s) used:

Berry and leaf

 

Key Active Components:

Anthocyanins (anthocyanoside flavonoids), flavonoids, tannins, ursolic acid, resveratrol, vitamin C, pectin

 

Bilberry Properties:

  • The anthocyanins (anthocyanoside flavonoids) are considered the most important of the pharmacologically active components. They are strong antioxidants responsible for stabilizing collagen fibers, promoting collagen biosynthesis, decreasing capillary permeability and fragility and inhibiting platelet aggregation.
  • Flavonoids, particularly quercetin and its derivatives, which are found in bilberry are potent inhibitors of aldose reductase.
  • Diabetic cataracts are caused by an elevation of polyols within the lens of the eye catalyzed by the enzyme aldose reductase.
  • The anthocyanins inhibit sorbitol accumulation in the lens of the eye

 

 

Bilberry Taste/Character/Energetics:

Sweet, tart, astringing, cooling, drying

 

Summary of Actions:

Primary Actions: astringent, circulatory tonic, hypoglycemic, antioxidant

 

Medicinal Use:

Traditional:

  • Historically berries have been used in Europe as a food source, to prevent scurvy and in the treatment of urinary tract infections, diarrhea and dysentery.
  • In folk medicine use of the leaves for poultices and teas for digestive anti-inflammatory effects was common.
  • Bilberries are mentioned in a popular story of World War II RAF pilots consuming bilberry jam to sharpen vision for night missions.

Cardiovascular:

  • The berries strengthen collagen cross linking and increase the integrity of the vascular system. They are also antioxidant leading to decreased damage to the vascular system generated by free radicals.
  • The berries reduce damage to the vascular supply to the eyes and are utilized to treat cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.
  • Significant improvements have been seen with both diabetic retinopathy and hypertensive retinopathy in patients supplemented with Vaccinium extracts. (Study examined patients taking 115 mg anthocyanins/d X 1 month).
  • Use the berries for patients with impaired microcirculation to periphery resulting in stasis ulcers, peripheral vascular insufficiency, intermittent claudication.

Blood Sugar:

  • The leaves have a long history of use to decrease blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.
  • Decreases inflammatory mediators in vessels of diabetic patients

 

Specific Indications:

  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Vascular issues/symptoms arising from vascular issues

 

Bilberry Safety:

  • No known safety issues for the bilberry fruit. If diabetic, watch sugar content if eating whole fruit or solid extract, though research has shown that eating bilberries actually lowers your risk of diabetes. The leaves may be unsafe if eaten in large quantities for extended periods of time.

 

Preparation and Dosage:

Infusion: 1 tbsp/cup water twice per day to three times per day

Tincture (1:5): 3-5 ml three times per day

Fluid Extract (1:1): 1-3 ml three times per day

Solid Extract (5:1): ¼–½ tsp – twice per day to three times per day

Standardized Extract: 25-36% anthocyanins; 120-240 mg twice per day

 

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References:

(2020). Nccih.nih.gov. Retrieved 14 May 2020, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/bilberry

Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements 2nd Ed – P. Coates, Et Al., (Informa, 2010) WW | The United States | Dietary Supplements | Scribd. (2020). Scribd. Retrieved 14 May 2020, from https://www.scribd.com/document/317250430/Encyclopedia-of-Dietary-Supplements-2nd-Ed-P-Coates-Et-Al-Informa-2010-WW

Bilberry: Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects, Dosage & Interactions. (2020). RxList. Retrieved 14 May 2020, from https://www.rxlist.com/bilberry/supplements.htm

Effect of Fermented Bilberry Extracts on Visual Outcomes in Eyes with Myopia: A Prospective, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study | Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics. (2020). Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. Retrieved 14 May 2020, from https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jop.2012.0098?rfr_dat=cr_pub++0pubmed&url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&journalCode=jop

de Mello, V., Lankinen, M., Lindström, J., Puupponen-Pimiä, R., Laaksonen, D., & Pihlajamäki, J. et al. (2017). Fasting serum hippuric acid is elevated after bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) consumption and associates with improvement of fasting glucose levels and insulin secretion in persons at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research61(9), 1700019. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201700019 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mnfr.201700019