Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

Traditional Indications

Bilberry is antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, kidney tonic, ophthalmic and tonic. The dried leaves of bilberries are used in the treatment of a variety of complaints. Bilberry is strongly astringent, diuretic, tonic and an antiseptic for the urinary tract. (1)

Bilberry is used for improving eyesight, including night vision. During World War II, British pilots in the Royal Air Force ate bilberry jam to improve their night vision.

Pharmacognosy

Bilberry is one of the richest sources of anthocyanins. The anthocyanins in bilberry display an anti-hyperglycamic blood sugar lowering effect. (2) Bilberry has been reported to lower blood glucose, has anti-inflammatory and lipid-lowering effects, and is an antioxidant. Bilberry is of potential to treat or prevention conditions associated with inflammation, dyslipidaemia, hyperglycaemia or increased oxidative stress, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes. (3)

Epidemiological evidence indicates that incorporating blueberries into the diet may lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and increase insulin sensitivity in obese and insulin-resistant rodents or humans. (4) Vaccinium myrtillus has also displayed anti-hyperglycemic and anti-hyperlipidemic effects. (5)

Bilberry is one of the richest natural sources of anthocyanins the polyphenolic components that give bilberry its blue/black colour and high antioxidant content, and they are believed to be the key bioactives responsible for the many reported health benefits of bilberry and other berry fruits.  (6)  Including protecting eye cells. (7) Evidence for the for of positive effects of anthocyanosides on night vision have been demonstrated. (8)

Anthocyanosides, which have been shown experimentally to dilate the blood vessels, this makes it a potentially valuable treatment for varicose veins, haemorrhoids and capillary fragility. (9)

 

1. PFAF. Vaccinium myrtillus 2019 [Available from: https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Vaccinium+myrtillus.
2. Stefanut MN, Cata A, Pop R, Tanasie C, Boc D, Ienascu I, et al. Anti-hyperglycemic effect of bilberry, blackberry and mulberry ultrasonic extracts on diabetic rats. Plant foods for human nutrition (Dordrecht, Netherlands). 2013;68(4):378-84.
3. Chu W CS, Lau RAW, et al. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). 2nd ed. Benzie IFF W-GS, editor: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011.
4. Stull AJ. Blueberries' Impact on Insulin Resistance and Glucose Intolerance. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland). 2016;5(4):44.
5. Asgary S, RafieianKopaei M, Sahebkar A, Shamsi F, Goli-malekabadi N. Anti-hyperglycemic and anti-hyperlipidemic effects of Vaccinium myrtillus fruit in experimentally induced diabetes (antidiabetic effect of Vaccinium myrtillus fruit). Journal of the science of food and agriculture. 2016;96(3):764-8.
6. Chu W, Cheung SCM, Lau RAW, Benzie IFF. Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.). In: nd, Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis
Llc.; 2011.
7. Song J, Li Y, Ge J, Duan Y, Sze SC, Tong Y, et al. Protective effect of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) extracts on cultured human corneal limbal epithelial cells (HCLEC). Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2010;24(4):520-4.
8. Canter PH, Ernst E. Anthocyanosides of Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) for night vision--a systematic review of placebo-controlled trials. Survey of ophthalmology. 2004;49(1):38-50.
9. Ulbricht C, Basch E, Basch S, Bent S, Boon H, Burke D, et al. An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration. Journal of Dietary Supplements. 2009;6(2):162-200.