Billberry ( botanical name Vaccinium myrtillus ) is a close relative of American blueberry. The plant grows in northern Europe, Canada, and the United States. The ripe berries are primarily used in modern herbal extracts as well as the leaves. Mostly are recommended for a wide range of common ailments like scurvy, infections in urinary tract, kidney stones and diabetes. The most reasonable application of the dried berry was in treating diarrhea (in decoction form) mainly by the Native Americans and as an aid to ease the birth.

They also used it as a preservative in order to decelerate their food from rotting. The plant’s most absurd use, was in the form of marmalade from bomber pilots in second world war, since it improved night vision and ensured a quick adaptability to darkness… Surprisingly modern research of bilberry was based on its use by British World War II pilots who ate the jam prior to bombing raids[1].

The particular berry exhibits a high synergy of multiple phytonutritients as polyphenols(anthocyanins,elagic acid,quercetin and catechins), sakylic acid, fibres, vitamins C,E and some of the Bcomplex(1,2), magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron and phytoestrogens.

It has a high concentration in antioxidants [10]. One portion provides as many antioxidants as five portions of carrots, apples and broccoli. The darker the berry, the higher the concentration in anthocyanosides. These particular antioxidants also possess ant-inflammatory properties. They act in conjunction with vitamin C and conduce in sustaining the connective tissues and strengthening the capillaries. Also to mention their anticoagulant action.

Anthocyanosides, this flavonoid complex in the plant enforces the functions and structure of the eye, in patients who suffer by night blindness[1,2,3,4]. In healthy volunteers no significant results were observed [5,6]. Preliminary research in humans had shown that it may prevent cataract [7] and can also help people with mild retinopathies ( macular degeneration and retinopathy)[8,9].

Since those antioxidants attain sustainability of connective tissue and capillaries, blood flow is improved in vessels and arteries. Hence, they obstruct the growth of vessels from diabetes[11].

In test tubes, bilberry is shown to prevent cholesterol from oxidizing[12]. This fact is said to prevent atherosclerosis. No human trials though, have justified that.

In experiments there is efficiency in treating ulcers, induced by, anxiety, stress, other pharmaceutical treatments and alcohol[14].

-Dose and directions-

It is recommended daily 20-60grams of the fruit. If possible try to combine it along with other berries to enhance their potentials. There are supplements(capsules) with billbery in standardized quantity of 20% in anthocyanosides. It is suggested 240-600mg daily[13]. Herbalists recommend traditionally the intake of 1-2ml of the herbal extract twice daily. As an ulcer preventative, 20-40mg of the extract is suggested three times daily or 2-4ml tincture(1:5) at the same frequency. Alternatively, half a cup of fresh berries.

-Contraindications and Warnings-

Use of blueberry in parallel with anticoagulants like warfarin, may lead to hemorrhage so extra caution is required.

Dear reader, as with all herbs and supplements, do not attempt any, if you are on any medication, unless you consult your GP first.

References :

1. Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Health and Healing. Roseville, CA: Prima Health, 2000, 47–54.
2. Sala D, Rolando M, Rossi PL, et al. Effect of anthocyanosides on visual performance at low illumination. Minerva Oftalmol 1979;21:283–5.
3. Jayle GE, Aubry M, Gavini H, et al. Study concerning the action of anthocyanoside extracts of Vaccinium myrtillus on night vision. Ann Ocul 1965;198:556–62 [in French].
4. Belleoud L, Leluan D, Boyer YS. Study on the effects of anthocyanin glycosides on the nocturnal vision of air controllers. Rev Med Aeronaut Spatiale 1966;18:3–7.
5. Zadok D, Levy Y, Glovinsky Y. The effect of anthocyanosides in a multiple oral dose on night vision. Eye 1999;13:734–6.
6. Muth ER, Laurent JM, Jasper P. The effect of bilberry nutritional supplementation on night visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. Altern Med Rev 2000;5:164–73.
7. Bravetti G. Preventive medical treatment of senile cataract with vitamin E and anthocyanosides: Clinical evaluation. Ann Ottalmol Clin Ocul 1989;115:109 [in Italian].
8. Perossini M, Guidi G, Chiellini S, Siravo D. Diabetic and hypertensive retinopathy therapy with Vaccinium myrtillus anthocyanosides (Tegens®): Double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Ann Ottalmol Clin Ocul 1987;12:1173–90 [in Italian].
9. Scharrer A, Ober M. Anthocyanosides in the treatment of retinopathies. Klin Monatsbl Augenheikld Beih 1981;178:386–9.
10. Salvayre R, Braquet P, Perruchot T, DousteBlazy L. Comparison of the scavenger effect of bilberry anthocyanosides with various flavonoids. Proceed Intl Bioflavonoids Symposium, Munich, 1981, 437–42.
11. Boniface R, Miskulin M, Robert AM. Pharmacological properties of myrtillus anthocyanosides: Correlation with results of treatment of diabetic microangiopathy. In Flavonoids and Bioflavonoids, L Farkas, M Gabors, FL Kallay, eds. Ireland: Elsevier, 1985, 293–301.
12. Francesca Rasetti M, Caruso D, Galli G, et al. Extracts of Ginkgo biloba L. leaves and Vaccinium myrtillus L. fruits prevent photo induced oxidation of low density lipoprotein cholesterol. Phytomedicine 1997;3:335–8.
13. Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Health and Healing. Roseville, CA: Prima Health, 2000, 47–54.
14. Magistretti NJ, Conti M, Cristini A. Antiulcer activity of an anthocyanidin from Vaccinium myrtillus. Arzneim-Forsch. 1988;38:686–690.