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Bilberry

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Drug-Herb Interaction

  • No health hazards or side effects are known.
  • Caution with pregnancy or nursing, consult physician before using.
Information on the relationship between substances and disease is provided for general information, in order to convey a balanced review of the scientific literature. In many cases the relationship between a substance and a disease is tentative and additional research is needed to confirm such a relationship.


  • Facts

    • Scientific Name: Vaccinium myrtillus L.
    • Family: Ericaceae
    • Other Common Names: Blueberry, whortleberry, (hurtleberry, huckleberry).
    • The bilberry plant is common to central and northern Europe, Asia, and temperate North America.
    • Bilberry’s medicinal parts are the dried leaves, the ripe, dried fruit and the ripe fresh fruit. 1
    • Although bilberry is widely used in the United States as a nutritional supplement, there are very few scientific references for bilberry research available in English.
    • The anthocyanosides have been reported to be the most important active components.


  • Functions

    • The therapeutic properties of bilberry are credited to the presence of anthocyanosides, a class of water-soluble chemicals belonging to a larger class of substances known as plant bioflavonoids.
    • Pharmacologically, anthocyanosides are thought to have a stabilizing effect on collagen, prevent capillary fragility, and improve microcirculation. They are also thought to exert antioxidant activity.
    • Other phenolic compounds found in bilberry (such as tannins and phenolic acids) exhibit a wide range of biological effects including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and vasodilatory effects. 3


  • Dosage

    The standard dose of bilberry is 120-240 mg twice daily of bilberry extract standardized to contain 25% anthocyanosides.


  • Toxicity

    No health hazards or side effects for bilberry fruit are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages.


  • Research Summary

    Ocular disorders: The most recent study, by Muth and colleagues, investigated the effects of bilberry on night visual acuity and night contrast sensitivity. The trial was of a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design. Two groups of healthy men with good vision each received either bilberry extract standardized to 25% anthocyanosides (160 mg 3 times daily) or placebo for 21 days. The results failed to find an effect of bilberry on night visual acuity or night contrast sensitivity for this population. However, all of the trials, conducted in 1998 5, 1999 6 and 2000 4, were on healthy males with good vision, of ages ranging from 21 to 47 years.
    On the other hand, remarkable success has been achieved in treatment of vascular retinopathy; 77% to 90% improvement was observed in a one-month double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study involvint 40 outpatients diagnosed with diabetes and/or hypertension 7.
    • Diabetic cataracts are caused by an elevation of polyols within the lens of the eye catalyzed by the enzyme aldose reductase. Flavonoids, particularly quercetin and its derivatives, which are found in bilberry, as well as in other fruits, are potent inhibitors of aldose reductase. Head 8 suggested that botanicals such as bilberry may play a role in cataract prevention.
    Anti-diabetic:Animal studies suggest that bilberry leaves (rather than fruit) may be helpful for improving blood glucose control in diabetes and lowering serum triglyceride concentrations. 9 The chromium content is thought to be responsible for the antidiabetic effect.


  • Uses

    • Bilberry leaves have been used in diabetes prevention and treatment.
    • The leaves have also been used in complaints regarding the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts, the kidneys, arthritis, gout, and dermatitis.
    • The bilberry fruit is used internally for nonspecific acute diarrhea, and externally for mild inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat.
    • Several European studies have reportedly shown an improvement in night vision after taking a variety of bilberry supplements. 2




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