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Bilberry

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Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

Bilberry is related to the blueberry, but produces single or pairs of berries on the bush instead of clusters.

Alternate names

  • European blueberry
  • Whortleberry
  • Huckleberry

Native to

  • North America
  • Europe
  • Northern Asia

Medicinal parts used

  • Fruit of the plant, which is eaten or made into extracts
  • Leaves of the plant, which are made into extracts or used to make teas

Uses

  • Historically, the fruit was used to treat:
    Diarrhea
    Scurvy
    Other conditions
  • Today, the fruit is used to treat:
    Diarrhea
    Menstrual cramps
    Eye problems
    Varicose veins
    Venous insufficiency
    Other circulatory problems
  • The leaf is used for different conditions than the fruit, including diabetes
  • Often used to improve night vision, but clinical studies have not shown this
  • Some claim that bilberry fruit improves night vision, but clinical studies have not shown this
  • Not enough scientific evidence supports the use of bilberry fruit or leaf for any health conditions

Side effects and warnings

  • Fruit is considered safe when consumed in amounts typically found in foods or as an extract in recommended doses for brief periods of time
  • Studies have not looked at the long-term safety and side effects extensively
  • High doses or extended use of bilberry leaf or leaf extract are considered unsafe because of possible toxic side effects
  • Bilberry contains chromium and could increase the risk of chromium poisoning when taken with other chromium-containing herbs and supplements, such as:
    Brewer’s yeast
    Cascara
    Chromium
    Horsetail
  • Bilberry leaves might decrease blood sugar:
    Warning: Taking bilberry leaves along with other medications or herbs that can lower blood sugar
    might cause your blood sugar to go too low
  • Some concern exists about bilberry possibly slowing down blood clotting, and that taking bilberry along with herbs or medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding, but not enough information is available to know if this is a serious concern

Dosage recommendations

  • Typical dose of the dried, ripe berries: 20−60 grams (g)/day
  • Typical dose for tea made from bilberry berries: 5−10 g (1−2 teaspoons [tsp]) of the mashed berries
  • Dose for individuals with diseased retinas: 160 milligrams (mg) of bilberry extract taken twice daily
  • Bilberry leaf is commonly used as a tea, prepared by:
    Steeping 1 g (1−2 tsp) of finely chopped, dried leaves in 150 milliliters (mL) of boiling water
    for 5−10 minutes and then straining
    Do not use bilberry leaf long term

 

 

References and recommended readings

MedlinePlus. Bilberry.
Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/202.html.
Accessed March 14, 2011.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Bilberry. Save
Available at: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/bilberry/.
Accessed March 14, 2011.

 

Review Date 5/11
G-1631

G_1631_Bilberry_Vaccinium_myrtillus.doc

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