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Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

Synonyms/Common Names/Related Substances:

  • Airelle, anthocyanidins, anthocyanins, anthocyanosides, antocyans, Bickbeere (German), bilberry leaf, black whortle, Blaubeere (German), blaubessen (Dutch), bleaberry, blueberry, blueberry leaf, bog bilberry, bogberry, burren myrtle, cranberry, dwarf bilberry, dyeberry, epicatechin, Ericaceae (family), European blueberry, flavonoids, Heidelbeere (German), Heidelbeereblatter (German), heidelberry, huckleberry, hurtleberry, hydroquinone, lingonberry, lowbush blueberry, mirtillo nero (Italian), Mirtoselect®, Myrtilli folium, Myrtilli fructus, Myrtilus niger Gilib., neomyrtillin, oleanolic acid, Optiberry, quercetin, resveratrol, sambubiosides, sodium, tannins, Tegens®, trackleberry, ursolic acid, Vaccinium angulosum Dulac, Vaccinium montanum Salisb., Vaccinium myrtillus anthocyanoside extract, Vaccinium myrtillus L., Vaccinium uliginosum L., VMA extract, VME, whortleberry, wineberry.
  • Select combination products: Difrarel® (100mg of bilberry extract and 5mg of beta-carotene) (1), Focus (50mg of bilberry extract including 12.5mg of anthocyanidin, 2mg of lutein, 1mg of lycopene, 3mg of beta-carotene, 0.5mg of vitamin A, 1.7mg of vitamin B2, 70mg of vitamin C, 10mg of vitamin E, and 15mg of zinc), Medox® (purified anthocyanins isolated from bilberries and blackcurrant), Mirtogenol™ (40mg of Pycnogenol®, French maritime pine bark extract, and 80mg of Mirtoselect®, a standardized bilberry extract).

Clinical Bottom Line/Effectiveness

Brief Background:

  • The bilberry plant is a deciduous, leafy, freely branched, perennial shrub that is native to northern Europe, the northern United States, and Canada. It is found in heaths, moors, and woods in most of Europe, northern Asia, and in the mountain and subalpine areas of western North America. Bilberry grows 35-60cm in height and flowers from April through June. It produces a fruit similar to the American blueberry, and the ripe fruits can be collected from July through September. The name bilberry is derived from the Danish word bollebar, which means "dark berry." The berries are purple-black in color and coarsely wrinkled. The berries contain many small, shiny, brownish-red seeds.
  • Bilberry, a close relative of blueberry, has a long history of medicinal use. The dried fruit has been popular for the symptomatic treatment of diarrhea, for topical relief of minor mucus membrane inflammation, and for a variety of eye disorders, including poor night vision, eyestrain, and myopia. Bilberry is also commonly used to make jams, pies, cobblers, syrups, and alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. Fruit extracts are also used as coloring agents in wines.
  • Bilberry fruit and its extracts contain a number of biologically active components, including a class of compounds called anthocyanosides, which have been the focus of recent research in Europe.
  • Bilberry extract has been evaluated for its efficacy as an antioxidant, mucostimulant, hypoglycemic, anti-inflammatory, vasoprotectant, and lipid-lowering agent. Although preclinical studies have been promising, human data are limited and largely of poor quality. At this time, there is insufficient clinical evidence in support of (or against) the use of bilberry for most indications. Notably, the available evidence suggests a possible lack of benefit of bilberry for the improvement of night vision.

Dosing/Toxicology

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Precautions/Contraindications

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Mechanism of Action

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History

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Evidence Table

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Evidence Discussion

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Products Studied

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.