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Bilberry

Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018

What is Bilberry?

Bilberry fruit originates from Europe and has been naturalized in the North American Rocky Mountains. The plant bears bluish-black berries that are 5 to 9 mm in diameter and contain many small, shiny brownish-red seeds that are somewhat caustic and sweet tasting. The bright green leaves are short, petiolate, and elliptic to round, and are 10 to 30 mm long.

Scientific Name(s)

Fructus myrtilli, Vaccinum myrtillus

Common Name(s)

Bilberry is also known as bog bilberry, huckleberry, whortleberry, and Heidelbeere.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Traditional uses of dried bilberry fruit include supportive treatment of short-term, nonspecific diarrhea when administered as a tea and as a topical decoction for inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. Folkloric use of the berries in cough preparations in the 15th century and use in diabetes at the end of the 19th century has been reported. During World War II, British Royal Air Force pilots ate bilberry preserves before night missions in the belief that bilberry would improve their vision. Some European health care providers later recommended bilberry extracts for other eye complaints.

General uses

Clinical studies are limited. Interest has focused on antioxidant potential in cancer and heart/blood vessel conditions, and other applications may exist in diabetes, as well as in inflammatory bowel and eye conditions.

What is the recommended dosage?

Typical bilberry products are standardized to 25% anthocyanoside (an active molecule) content, and 100 g of fresh fruit contains anthocyanin content 300 to 700 mg. Limited clinical studies have evaluated supplemental bilberry 100 to 400 g over 4 to 8 weeks' duration.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Generally recognized as safe when used as food. Avoid dosages above those found in food because safety and effectiveness are unproven.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Information is lacking.

Toxicology

Information is lacking. Long-term use of bilberry leaves may lead to adverse effects.

References

1. Bilberry. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; June 2013.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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