Bilberry is a low-growing, an ornamental shrub perennial by nature. It needs acidic soils to grow. It grows in heaths, meadows, and moist coniferous forests. The ground must be moderately humid, and it likes moderate shade.
Bilberry: medicinal uses, information and side effects (Vaccinium myrtillus)
Common name, Botanical name and Family
The common names for this plant are bilberry, blaeberry, whortleberry, winberry, huckleberry, and hurtleberry. Its botanical name is Vaccinium myrtillus. It belongs to Verbenaceae family.
Geographical places where Bilberry plant grows
You find this plant natively in Greenland, northern Asia, Europe, Western United States, and Western Canada.
Bilberry medicinal uses for curing diseases
Bilberry is one of the richest, natural sources of anthocyanins. The polyphenolic compounds and the high oxidant content, plant pigment known as flavonoids present in bilberry give it the blue colour. The use of anthocyanidins includes the purposes given below.
Improve vision: It has anthocyanosides, so it is widely used to improve night vision or vision handicaps in low light, decreasing vascular permeability and capillary fragility. Bilberry has been proposed as a treatment for retinopathy, which is harm to the retina. This plant has additionally shown defensive impacts against macular degeneration, glaucoma and waterfalls.
Build strong capillaries: Flavonoids show a remarkable reduction in the fragility and permeability of capillaries. This vasoprotective effect helps improve the health and correct many disorders.
Strengthen the collagen structure: The anthocyanosides help improve the connective tissue stabilizing effects. They inhibit collagen degradations and improve cross linking of collagen.
Prevent clumping of blood platelets: A study showed how the platelet aggregation reduced in patients over a 30-day and 60-day period. They were studied in comparison to ascorbic acid, but bilberry showed superior action in preventing clumping.
Increase rhodopsin production: Anthocyanosides show significant direct effects on the retina. This includes changing the local enzymatic reactions and enhancement of rhodopsin absorption. Bilberry reduces intraocular pressure which causes the flow of ocular blood.
Relax the muscles: Anthocyanosides extract has a pronounced effect on easing the tension in the smooth muscles. This is readily observed in the way it helps women who suffer from dysmenorrhea. This is due to the presence of bioflavonoid along with the anthocyanosides extract that relaxes the vascular smooth muscles.
Anti-carcinogenic effect: The action of Vaccinium myrtillus seems to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the colon. They showed inhibitive action, but it was subdued. Further studies are underway with the concentration of bilberry being made more to see if this affects the outcome.
Anti-galactagogue action: Nursing women who suffer from too much milk are given the bilberry extract. This causes the milk to dry up and gives relief to the women.
Action as a diuretic: It helps promote the flow of urine and thus helps to get rid of problems associated with the bladder. It can help patients with urine retention problems. Helping the flow of urine helps flush the body of wastes and improve the overall health.
Astringent action: The bilberry extract helps to dry up secretions and discharges. This is useful for curing the patients completely. You can use it for cosmetic applications too as when your face is oily, and you need to dry it up. Apply a paste of the leaves of the bilberry plant, and you will soon have a shining face.
Use as an antibiotic: The antibiotic action helps to prevent the infection by germs and pathogens. You can use the mild solution made with crushed bilberry leaves for this purpose.
Hepatoprotective activity: Bilberry extract shows a distinct hepatoprotective action in the body. It helps to prevent any injuries to the liver. This study was conducted on animals and shows promise for humans too.
Anti-ulcer effect: The cyanidin chloride extracted from Vaccinium myrtillus showed remarkable anti-ulcer activity in a study conducted on animals. This shows that bilberry has the potential to be a good anti-ulcer agent.
Helps reduce inflammation: The anti-inflammatory action of the Vaccinium myrtillus extracts helps in reducing the inflammation in the joints. This helps reduce the symptoms of gout and arthritis. You can apply a paste made from the leaves and berries of the bilberry plant. Apply it on the joints when you go to sleep at night.
Good antiseptic action: The antiseptic action helps destroy the pathogenic bacteria easily. This inhibits the growth of the microorganisms on living tissues. Apply the tincture or paste on open wounds and get relief immediately.
Refrigerant action of bilberry: Vaccinium myrtillus shows remarkable action in lowering the body temperature and giving a feeling of coolness. It helps to relieve the feeling of thirst and helps to refresh you. On a sweltering day, you can have the juice prepared from the bilberries.
Action of glucoquinine: This is a natural compound. It shows the action of decreasing the blood sugar levels. Nevertheless, it shows good anti-hyperglycaemic effect. It can reduce the sugar levels in the blood. So, if you take sugar medication, then it may lead to low blood sugar levels. This condition is known as hypoglycaemia. If you plan to use Vaccinium myrtillus, then check with your doctor if you take any of these – Glucotrol, DiaBeta, Avandia, Insulin, or Orinase.
Anticoagulant drugs: Bilberry provides one of the nature’s anticoagulant drugs. It makes the blood thin and reduces the formation of blood clots. So, if you take anticoagulant drugs or NSAIDs and you want to take bilberry in medicinal doses, you must consult your physician. Also, if you are scheduled for surgery, then you must discontinue the use of Vaccinium myrtillus, two weeks before. Drugs such as Aspirin, Warfarin, Advil, Ibuprofen, and Heparin among others will interact with bilberry.
Possible interaction and side effects
Among herbs, there is a chance that some herbs may interact with bilberry. This includes the common herbs and spices that we use such as Aloe Vera, Garlic, Ginseng, Milk Thistle, Ginger, and Stinging Nettle. You can make bilberry leaf tea in this way. Chop finely two teaspoonfuls of bilberry leaves. Steep it in ½ cup of hot water; strain and set aside. Always use freshly brewed tea as mixing two or more different preparations could result in an overdose. Side effects include diarrhea, confusion, vomiting, rash, and swelling of lip, tongue, or skin.
The long-term use of bilberry has not been studied yet. In the short-term, there are no side effects. However, since the plant has medicinal properties, there is always the risk of poisoning. In this case, one must watch for chromium poisoning and tannin poisoning. There is no reported case of poisoning.