Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)
Bilberry is a perennial shrub originating from northern and central Europe. Traditionally, bilberry is used to promote good vision.
Traditionally, bilberry is used for eye conditions. Bilberry is stated to possess astringent and diuretic properties. The herb also has an application in the management of gastrointestinal disorders and Diarrhoea.
Part of the plant used: fruit
Herb powder, 5-10 g three times daily.
Bilberry has been used for Hypertension, Arteriosclerosis, haemorrhages, blood vessel problems (including Varicose veins), kidney haematuria, phlebitis, myopia, day and Night blindness, retinitis and general visual acuity (sharpness of vision).
Bilberry is useful in the treatment of visual problems including night blindness (Nyctalopia), by accelerating adaptation to light following exposure to bright light (1,2). Bilberry has been shown to speed-up the regeneration of rhodopsin (visual purple) - a process which is slowed in many eye conditions.
Bilberry has been used to treat severe myopia (shortsightedness), retinal disturbances, macular degeneration and visual Fatigue (caused by prolonged reading and working in dim light). In addition, the anthocyanosides act favourably on a number of important enzymes involved in the metabolism of retinal in the eye (3).
Anthocyanosides are used in maintaining the structural integrity of capillaries and other blood vessels and in stabilising collagen (4-7). As a result, bilberry has been shown to reduce the permeability and fragility of capillary walls. Bilberry has been shown to be effective in the treatment of circulatory disorders, Varicose veins, and other arterial/venous disorders. In addition, bilberry may be effective for certain central nervous system disorders.
Anthocyanosides in bilberry prevent aggregation (clumping/clotting) and the sticking of blood platelets to the blood vessel walls, a process that is linked to the development of Atherosclerosis (8). Bilberry improves the structural integrity of the blood vessels, lowers high blood pressure and protects the heart from stress caused by physical exertion.
Due to its tannin content, bilberry has been used successfully as an antidiarrhoeic, especially in cases of enteritis (Inflammation of the intestine) (9).
Bilberry is effective in lowering blood sugar (glucose) levels in diabetics and for certain eye conditions related to diabetes (10,11).
SAFETY AND PRECAUTIONS
Bilberry is free from side effects.
Pregnant and lactating women should consult with a qualified health professional before taking bilberry due to a lack of safety data during these times.
Bilberry is not recommended for use by children.
INTERACTIONS AND CONTRA-INDICATIONS
The anti-inflammatory activity of bilberry may be inhibited by phenobarbitol, certain sedatives and hypnotics.
Bilberry may potentiate the effects of anticoagulant drugs such as heparin.
1. Jayle GE and Aubert L. Action des glucosides d'anthocyanes sur la vision scotopique et mesopique du sujet normal. Therapie 19: 171-185, 1964.
2. Jayle GE, et al. Etude concernant l'action sur la vision nocturne. Ann Ocul (Paris) 198: 556-562, 1965.
3. Wegmann R, et al. Effects of anthocyanosides on photoreceptors. Cyto-enzymatic aspects. Ann Histochim 14: 237-256, 1969.
4. Monboisse JC, et al. Non-enzymatic degradation of acid-soluble calf skin collagen by superoxide ion: Protective effect of flavonoids. Biochem Pharmacol 32: 53-58, 1983.
5. Havsteen B. Flavonoids, a class of natural products of high pharmacological potency. Biochem Pharmacol 32: 1141-1148, 1983.
6. Gabor M. Pharmacologic effects of flavonoids on blood vessels. Angiologica 9: 355-374, 1972.
7. Mian E, et al. Anthocyanosides and the walls of microvessels: Further aspects of the mechanism of action of their protective effect in syndromes due to abnormal capillary fragility. Minerva Med 68: 3565-3581, 1977.
8. Puilleiro G, et al. Ex vivo study of the inhibitory effects of Vaccinium myrtillus anthocyanosides on human platelet aggregation. Fitoterapia 60: 69-75, 1989.
9. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals, N Grainger Bissett, Medpharm, 1994.
10. Bone K, et al. Mediherb Professional Review 59(3): 1997.
11. Scharrer A, et al. Anthocyanosides in the treatment of retinopathies. Klin Monatsbl Augenheilkd 178: 386-389, 1981.