What is bilberry? What is it used for?
Bilberry is a small shrub-like plant native to western Europe and North America. It is known by a variety of names, including the whortleberry and the European blueberry. Both the leaf and the fruit are used in herbal remedies; however, different parts of the plant have different properties.
Bilberry has been used in traditional European medicine for nearly 1,000 years. Traditionally, it was used an astringent to treat conditions like diarrhea and dysentery. Today, bilberry fruit is still used as an astringent, particularly in children, and also to treat mild inflammation of the mouth and throat.
Some research suggests that bilberry fruit extracts may treat certain circulatory disorders, and protect and improve vision, especially in diabetics and the elderly. Other studies suggest that extracts of bilberry leaf can control levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood and fight chronic fatigue syndrome.
How much bilberry should I take?
The recommended daily dosage of bilberry is 20 to 60 grams of dried fruit, taken internally and depending on the condition being treated. For bilberry powder, 4 grams per day is recommended. Bilberry syrup can also be added to water for a decoction.
What forms of bilberry are available?
Bilberry is available in raw, capsule, powder and decoction forms.
What can happen if I take too much bilberry? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?
Bilberry fruit has been given a class 1 rating by the American Herbal Products Association, which means that it can be safely consumed when used appropriately. There are no known side-effects or interactions with bilberry fruit.
As for bilberry leaf, the AHPA has given it a class 4 rating, meaning there is insufficient data to determine exactly how safe it is. Anecdotal evidence suggests that chronic use of bilberry leaf at high doses may cause adverse side-effects, but more research must be conducted before a definitive link can be established.
As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking bilberry fruit, bilberry leaf, or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.
- Barrette EP. Bilberry fruit extract for night vision. Alternative Medicine Alert 1999;2(2):20-21.
- Blumenthal M, Busse WE, Goldberg A, et al. (eds.) The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Tehraeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, p. 88.
- Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J (eds.) Herbal Medicine. Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: Integrative Medicine Communications, 2000, pp. 16-21.
- Foster S. Bilberry: a long history. Health Food Business August 1996;40.
- McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, pp. 119-120.