Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.)
Ericaceae Heath family
Bilberry is a perennial, ornamental shrub that is commonly found in various climates in damp woodlands and moorlands. In the United States they are known as huckleberries, and there are over 100 species with similar names and fruit throughout the Europe, Asia and North America. The English call them whortleberries. The Scots know them as blaeberries. Bilberry has been used as a medicinal herb since the 16th century.
Bilberry is also used in connection with vascular and blood disorders and shows positive effects when treating varicose veins, thrombosis, and angina. Bilberry's fruit contains flavonoids and anthocyanin, which serve to prevent capillary fragility, thin the blood, and stimulate the release of vasodilators. Anthocyanin, a natural antioxidant, also lowers blood pressure, reduces clotting and improves blood supply to the nervous system. Bilberry also contains glucoquinine that has the ability to lower blood sugar.
The herb contains Vitamins A and C, providing antioxidant protection which can help prevent free radical damage to the eyes. Vitamin A is required for sharp vision, while Vitamin C helps form collagen and is needed for growth and repair of tissue cells and blood vessels. Anthocyanosides support and protect collagen structures in the blood vessels of the eyes, assuring strong, healthy capillaries that carry vital nutrients to eye muscles and nerves.
Bilberry has long been a remedy for poor vision and "night blindness." Clinical tests confirm that given orally it improves visual accuracy in healthy people, and can help those with eye diseases such as pigmentosa, retinitis, glaucoma, and myopia. During World War II, British Royal Air Force pilots ate Bilberry preserves before night missions as an aid to night vision. Bilberry works by improving the microcirculation and regeneration of retinal purple, a substance required for good eyesight.
Dried Bilberry fruit and Bilberry tea has been used as a treatment for diarrhea and as a relief for nausea and indigestion. Bilberry is also used as a treatment for mild inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat.
Part Used: Berries, leaves
Uses: For diabetes, (bilberry berries increases insulin production, caution should be taken by diabetics and cases of hypoglycemia), sinusitis, kidney and bladder problems, ulcers. Leaves help to lower blood sugar levels and to ease inflammation. The leaf is effective as a remedy for diarrhea. Fresh berries can produce diarrhea in some people and stop it in others. Also the fruit is used for anemia, consumptive wasting, indigestion, and colitis. Roots are used for dropsy, and urinary stones. Dried berries pass through the stomach without affecting it; beginning work in the small intestine. A strong decoction of the berries is said to be used for typhoid fever. Fresh or well-preserved berry juice makes a good gargle for sore throats or as a mouthwash for inflamed gums or for leucoplasia (an inflammation of the tongue producing white patches). Eating the fresh berries help regulate bowel action, stimulate appetite, end intestinal putrefaction which causes gas. Leaf tea used for coughs, vomiting, stomach cramps, and catarrhal enteritis. Externally, use as a wash for skin problems, sores, wounds, ulcers, and burns. Strengthens capillaries that feed eye muscles and nerves reducing and even reversing the damage caused by blood vessel deterioration. Increases night vision, reduces eye fatigue, helpful for nearsightedness (myopia). Helps preserve eyesight and prevent eye damage. At one time, it was used in the treatment of scurvy in Norway and other northern countries.
Biochemical Information: Fatty acids, hyroquinone, iron, loeanolic acid, neomyrtillin, sodium, tannins, and ursolic acids, quinnic acid (in the leaves) potassium, and vitamins A and C.
Legends, Myths and Stories
Bilberry is a well-known folk remedy for poor vision, especially for people who suffer from "night blindness," that is, they have difficulty seeing in the dark. In fact, bilberry jam was given to Royal Air Force pilots who flew nighttime missions during World War II. It works by accelerating the regeneration of retinol purple, commonly known as visual purple, a substance that is required for good eyesight. European medical journals are filled with studies confirming bilberry's positive effect on vision. Unfortunatley, this herb has not received the attention it deserves in the American medical community so far.
Used to make wine.
Elizabethan apothecaries made a syrup of the berries with honey, called rob, as a remedy for diarrhea.
Bilberry is a home and industrial leather dye of brown and yellow colors. Combined with other chemicals to produce violet, red, green and blue for wool, cotton and linen material.
Common Use: Bilberry contains nutrients needed to protect eyes from eyestrain or fatigue, and can improve circulation to the eyes. Bilberry tea is administered to treat stomach problems and soothe the digestive tract. The leaves and berries are used in the homeopathic treatment of diabetes. Bilberries are used in making jams, preserves, liqueurs, and wines.
Care: Prefers filtered shade and moist, fertile soil that is acidic and non calcareous. *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.