bilberry

Vaccinium myrtillus

Description

The first recorded medicinal use of bilberries was in the 16th century, when preparations made from the berries and dried leaves were given to patients suffering with urinary tract infections, scurvy and kidney stones. During World War II, reports from British RAF pilots noted that they experienced an improvement in night vision after eating bilberry preserves. Subsequent scientific research gave some substance to their claim, and bilberry is used today to treat a range of visual disorders as well as other complaints. A study of 50 patients suffering age-related cataracts revealed that bilberry extract in combination with Vitamin E inhibited the formation of cataracts.

Parts used

The dried, ripe fruit, and sometimes the leaves, are used.

Constituents

One of the major constituents of bilberries are anthocyanosides, which are potent antoxidants. They help to prevent damage by free radicals, unstable oxygen molecules that harm healthy cells. Bilberry extract contains more than 100 times the amount of anthocyanosides than the fresh fruit. Bilberries also contain catechol tannins, flavonoids, iridoids glycosides (asperuloside and monotropein) and phenolic acids.

Medicinal uses

Bilberry extract reduces the levels of blood lipids and glucose and has antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-exudative and anti-ulcerous properties..

  • Bilberry is used to maintain healthy vision and treat eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts.
  • Anthocyanosides improve the permeability of capillaries, so can improve atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
  • Strengthens connective tissue.
  • Helps heal wounds.
  • Reduces inflammation of haemorrhoids, varicose veins and phlebitis.
  • Eases mouth and throat inflammations.
  • May relieve symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease and menstrual cramps.
  • May improve poor circulation.
  • May fight stomach ulcers.
  • May help diarrhoea (German doctors often prescribe bilberry tea to relieve stomach disorders).

CAUTION

Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Bilberry may have a blood sugar lowering effect, and blood pressure lowering effect. You should therefor practice caution when using this herb if you suffer from, and take medication for high blood pressure, diabetes or are at risk of stroke, as bilberry may cause additional blood sugar and blood pressure lowering, leading to hypoglycemia and/or hypotension. Not to be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women. Consult your doctor before taking supplements.

Flora Force Products containing (herb)

Domestic & culinary uses

Dried berries are used to make bilberry tea. Fresh berries are not easily available in South Africa.

Cultivation

Small shrubs, bilberries are extremely difficult to grow and are thus seldom cultivated. Fruits are mostly collected from wild plants growing on publicly accessible lands in temperate and subarctic regions. In Europe, they are available frozen
Bilberry is a dwarf, 50-cm-high shrub, with thin ovate leaves. Flowers have ovoid petals, which are red or pink and appear in spring. The herb bears berries as a fruit.

Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.