"Bilberry" (Vaccinium myrtillus)


BILBERRY is a blue-black berry that grows on a European shrub (Vaccinium myrtillus) and is similar to the American blueberry. Herbalists have long valued the medicinal properties and uses of the berries and leaves of the BILBERRY. The dried herb has traditionally been used as a remedy for eyestrain, cataracts, nightblindness, and other eye problems. It has also been reported to be effective against diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, vomiting, and diabetes. Applied externally, BILBERRY has been used to fight varicose veins, hemorrhoids, burns, and skin problems.

British Royal Air Force pilots, during World War II, claimed to have better night vision after eating BILBERRY jam. Scientists conducted a number of studies that confirm the herb has a positive, although short-term, effect on night vision. BILBERRY may also benefit a number of other vision problems common to computer terminal operators and persons engaged in visually demanding precision work, including chronic eye fatigue, severe near-sightedness, and day blindness. Regular consumption of BILBERRY has been suggested as a prevention for cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.

The chemical constituents of BILBERRY fruit apparently responsible for its vision-boosting powers are certain polyphenolic flavonols called anthocyanosides, that improve blood circulation, protect fragile capillaries, and cause beneficial biochemical reactions in the eye. (Grape seed extract is high in related compounds called proanthocyanidins.) Research indicates that anthocyanosides have a positive effect on certain enzymes crucial to vision and to the eye’s ability to adapt to the dark.

Noting that BILBERRY leaf tea is a folk remedy for diabetes, Italian scientists recently found that a dried leaf extract consistently caused a drop in glucose (blood sugar) levels in rats. Unexpectedly, the scientists also found that BILBERRY lowered blood triglyceride levels, a heart disease risk factor. The compounds in the leaves responsible for these actions are not known; the anthocyanosides in the berries, however, have also been shown to alleviate symptoms of diabetes and heart disease. These surprising findings offer hope that the plant may be useful in the battle against two of modern society’s most deadly diseases.

Other sources indicate uses that include eating dried berries alone or mixed with apple powder as effective against diarrhea; a tea made from dried BILBERRY leaves for stomach cramps and vomiting; and externally for skin problems.

The most popular BILBERRY products are extracts standardized to 15 to 25 percent anthocyanosides, taken in the amount of 240 mg to 480 mg per day or 1 ml to 2 ml, two times per day in tincture form. BILBERRY is available in tablets, capsules, teas, and bulk dried leaves and berries. It can also be found included in various herb combinations.

Tests have shown BILBERRY to be completely non-toxic even when taken in large doses for a long time. BILBERRY does not interact with commonly prescribed drugs, and there are no known contraindications to its use during pregnancy or lactation.

Please note: the information contained herein has been compiled from various sources. The above statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. We make no claims, either expressed or implied, that any treatments mentioned in this newsletter will cure disease, replace prescription medication, or supersede sound medical advice.


The Olive Branch, On the Net since 1996