An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.
Bilberry - Vaccinium mytillus (Vaccinium frondosum) - family: Ericaceae (Heath Family).
This hardy dwarf deciduous shrub is native to heaths, moors and woods
in parts of the northern hemisphere. It grows to about one foot high. It
has small toothed oval-to-oblong-shaped leaves and in the spring and summer
it produces waxy pinkish flowers. The flowers are followed by small edible
round reddish fruits which ripen to a bluish-black color. Traditional European
folk use of berries in jams, jellies and in pastries. Fruits are also used
in wines and liqueurs. Traditional European folk use of leaf tea as a remedy
for anxiety, burns, diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, edema, heart problems,
indigestion, poor night vision, urinary tract infections, vomiting and as
a gargle for sore throats. A tea made from the leaves of the Bilberry, which
contain myrtillin, is reputed to lower blood glucose levels. Dried berries
have also been used as a traditional European folk remedy for diarrhea.
Modern American folk use of dried fruits as a possible remedy for angina,
atherosclerosis, circulation problems, coronary artery disease, heart disease
and varicose veins. Modern American folk use to possibly slow down the aging
process. It has also been suggested as a method of slowing the development
of certain vision problems, such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
The German Commission E has approved the use of fruits as a remedy for diarrhea
and sore throats. Extracts of the fruit are currently being marketed in
North America as a dietary supplement and as a support for eye health. Note:
Bilberry may increase the anti-blood-clotting effects of aspirin and other
drugs; it is probably not advisable to ingest Bilberry when taking aspirin
or anti-coagulant (blood thinning) drugs. Note: do not use leaves if you
are suffering from kidney disease. Note: at least three authorities suggest
that there may be toxicity associated with long term internal use of leaves
[German Commission E] [Karch] [Time-Life]. Note: one authority suggests
that there may be poisoning from hydroquinone with chronic use of leaf tea
[Pahlow]. Native to Europe, Asia and some wooded areas of western North
America. Cultivated as an ornamental in North America.
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Web page last updated on 20 May 2003.