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Bilberry

Bilberry

Uses

Botanical names:
Vaccinium myrtillus

Parts Used & Where Grown

A close relative of American blueberry , bilberry grows in northern Europe, Canada, and the United States. The ripe berries are primarily used in modern herbal extracts.

What Are Star Ratings?

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.

2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.

1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
2 Stars
Glaucoma
60 mg twice a day
In a preliminary trial, supplementing with anthocyanins (flavonoids found in bilberry) improved symptoms in people with normal-tension glaucoma.
In a preliminary trial, supplementing with anthocyanins (a group of flavonoids found in bilberry and certain other plant foods) improved visual acuity and partially reversed visual field damage in patients with normal-tension glaucoma (a type of glaucoma associated with normal intraocular pressure). The amount used was 60 mg twice a day for an average of two years.2
2 Stars
Retinopathy
360 to 600 mg daily of an extract standardized for 25% anthocyanosides
Bilberry extract has been shown to strengthen blood vessels in the eye and improve vision in people with diabetic and hypertensive retinopathy.

Bilberry extracts standardized to contain 25% anthocyanosides have been suggested as a treatment for people with early-stage diabetic or hypertensive retinopathy. In a small preliminary trial, people with various types of retinopathy, including diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration , were given 600 mg of bilberry extract per day for one month.3 While researchers found that the tendency to hemorrhage in the eye was reduced and that blood vessels were strengthened, there were no reports of improved vision. A small double-blind trial found that 160 mg of bilberry extract taken twice per day for one month led to similar improvements in blood-vessel health in the eye and slightly improved vision in people with diabetic and/or hypertensive retinopathy.4 Larger and longer clinical trials are needed to establish the effectiveness of bilberry for treating retinopathies.

2 Stars
Type 1 Diabetes
160 mg twice per day of an herbal extract containing 25% anthocyanosides
Bilberry may lower the risk of some diabetic complications, such as diabetic cataracts and retinopathy.
Bilberry may lower the risk of some diabetic complications, such as diabetic cataracts and retinopathy. One preliminary trial found that supplementation with a standardized extract of bilberry improved signs of retinal damage in some people with diabetic retinopathy.5
2 Stars
Type 2 Diabetes
160 mg twice per day of an herbal extract containing 25% anthocyanosides
Bilberry may lower the risk of some diabetic complications, such as diabetic cataracts and retinopathy.
Bilberry may lower the risk of some diabetic complications, such as diabetic cataracts and retinopathy . One preliminary trial found that supplementation with a standardized extract of bilberry improved signs of retinal damage in some people with diabetic retinopathy.6
1 Star
Atherosclerosis
Refer to label instructions
Bilberry has been shown to prevent platelet aggregation.

Turmeric ’s active compound curcumin has shown potent anti-platelet activity in animal studies.7 It has also demonstrated this effect in preliminary human studies.8 In a similar vein, bilberry has been shown to prevent platelet aggregation9 as has peony .10 However, none of these three herbs has been documented to help atherosclerosis in human trials.

1 Star
Cataracts
Refer to label instructions
Bilberry is high in flavonoids called anthocyanosides, which may protect both the lens and retina from oxidative damage and reduce the risk of cataracts.

Bilberry , a close relative of blueberry, is high in flavonoids called anthocyanosides.11 Anthocyanosides may protect both the lens and retina from oxidative damage. The potent antioxidant activity of anthocyanosides may make bilberry useful for reducing the risk of cataracts.12 , 13 Doctors sometimes recommend 240 to 480 mg per day of bilberry extract, capsules or tablets standardized to contain 25% anthocyanosides.

1 Star
Diarrhea
Refer to label instructions
Bilberry has been used traditionally in Germany for adults and children with diarrhea. Only dried berries or juice should be used—fresh berries may worsen diarrhea.

Astringent herbs traditionally used for diarrhea include blackberry leaves, blackberry root bark, blueberry leaves, and red raspberry leaves.14 Raspberry leaves are high in tannins and, like blackberry, may relieve acute diarrhea. A close cousin of the blueberry, bilberry , has been used traditionally in Germany for adults and children with diarrhea.15 Only dried berries or juice should be used—fresh berries may worsen diarrhea.

Cranesbill has been used by several of the indigenous tribes of North America to treat diarrhea. The tannins in cranesbill likely account for the anti-diarrheal activity16—although there has been little scientific research to clarify cranesbill’s constituents and actions.

1 Star
Edema
Refer to label instructions
Because coumarin, hydroxyethylrutosides, and diosmin are not widely available in, flavonoids such as anthocyanosides (from bilberry), have been substituted by doctors. The effects of these flavonoids against edema has not been well studied.
Because coumarin, hydroxyethylrutosides, and diosmin are not widely available in the United States, other flavonoids, such as quercetin , rutin, or anthocyanosides (from bilberry), have been substituted by doctors in an attempt to obtain similar benefits. The effect of these other flavonoids against edema has not been well studied. Also, optimal amounts are not known. However, in one study, quercetin in amounts of 30-50 mg per day corrected abnormal capillary permeability (leakiness),17 an effect that might improve edema. A similar effect has been reported with rutin at 20 mg three times per day.18 Doctors often recommend 80 to 160 mg of a standardized extract of bilberry, three times per day.
1 Star
Macular Degeneration
Refer to label instructions
Supplementing with bilberry may help prevent and treat early-stage macular degeneration.

Bilberry’s active flavonoid compounds, anthocyanosides, act as antioxidants in the retina of the eye. Therefore, supplementing with bilberry would theoretically be of value for the prevention or treatment of early-stage macular degeneration.19 Bilberry has also been shown to strengthen capillaries and to reduce bleeding in the retina.20 A typical amount of bilberry used in studies was 480–600 mg per day of an extract standardized to contain 25% anthocyanosides, taken in capsules or tablets.

1 Star
Night Blindness
Refer to label instructions
Bilberry is high in flavonoids that speed the regeneration of the pigment used by eye for night vision. Supplementing with bilberry has been shown to improve dark adaptation in people with poor night vision.

Bilberry , a close relative of the blueberry, is high in flavonoids known as anthocyanosides. Anthocyanosides speed the regeneration of rhodopsin, the purple pigment that is used by the rods in the eye for night vision.21 Supplementation with bilberry has been shown in early studies to improve dark adaptation in people with poor night vision.22 , 23 However, two newer studies found no effect of bilberry on night vision in healthy people.24 , 25 Bilberry extract standardized to contain 25% anthocyanosides may be taken in capsule or tablet form. Doctors typically recommend 240 to 480 mg per day.

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

The dried berries and leaves of bilberry have been recommended for a wide variety of conditions, including scurvy, urinary tract infections , kidney stones , and diabetes . Perhaps the most sound historical application is the use of the dried berries to treat diarrhea . Modern research of bilberry was partly based on its use by British World War II pilots, who noticed that their night vision improved when they ate bilberry jam prior to night bombing raids.1

How It Works

Botanical names:
Vaccinium myrtillus

How It Works

Anthocyanosides, the flavonoid complex in bilberries, speed the regeneration of rhodopsin, the purple pigment that is used by the rods in the eye for night vision.26 While earlier trials suggested that taking bilberry could benefit people with night blindness ,27 , 28 more recent trials with healthy volunteers have found no effect of bilberry on night vision.29 , 30 Preliminary human trials conducted in Europe show that bilberry may prevent cataracts ,31 and may even help to treat people with mild retinopathies (such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy ).32 , 33 Anthocyanosides are potent antioxidants .34 They support normal formation of connective tissue and strengthen capillaries in the body. Anthocyanosides may also improve capillary and venous blood flow. Bilberry may also prevent blood vessel thickening due to diabetes .35

Bilberry protects cholesterol from oxidizing in test tubes.36 While this action is thought to help prevent atherosclerosis , no human trials have studied whether bilberry may be useful in the regard.

How to Use It

Bilberry herbal extract in capsules or tablets standardized to provide 25% anthocyanosides are typically recommended at 240–600 mg per day.37 Herbalists have traditionally recommended taking 1–2 ml two times per day in tincture form, or 20–60 grams of the fruit daily.

Interactions

Botanical names:
Vaccinium myrtillus

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Botanical names:
Vaccinium myrtillus

Side Effects

At the time of writing, there were no well-known side effects caused by this supplement.

References

1. Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Health and Healing. Roseville, CA: Prima Health, 2000, 47-54.

2. Shim SH, Kim JM, Choi CY, et al. Ginkgo biloba extract and bilberry anthocyanins improve visual function in patients with normal tension glaucoma. J Med Food 2012;15:818-23.

3. Scharrer A, Ober M. Anthocyanosides in the treatment of retinopathies. Klin Monatsblatt Augenheilk 1981;178:386-9.

4. 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;113:1173-7 [in Italian].

5. Scharrer A, Ober M. Anthocyanosides in the treatment of retinopathies. Klin Monatsblatt Augenheilk 1981;178:386-9.

6. Scharrer A, Ober M. Anthocyanosides in the treatment of retinopathies. Klin Monatsblatt Augenheilk 1981;178:386-9.

7. Srivastava R, Dikshit M, Srimal RC, Dhawan BN. Anti-thrombotic effect of curcumin. Thromb Res 1985;40:413-7.

8. Srivastava KC, Bordia A, Verma SK. Curcumin, a major component of food spice turmeric (Curcuma longa) inhibits aggregation and alters eicosanoid metabolism in human blood platelets. Prost Leuk Essen Fat Acids. 1995;52:223-7.

9. Pulliero G, Montin S, et al. Ex vivo study of the inhibitory effects of Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) anthocyanosides on human platelet aggregation. Fitoterapia 1989;60:69-75.

10. Liu J. Effect of Paeonia obovata 801 on metabolism of thromboxane B2 and arachidonic acid and on platelet aggregation in patients with coronary heart disease and cerebral thrombosis. Chin Med J 1983;63:477-81 [in Chinese].

11. Van Acker SA, van den Berg DJ, Tromp MN, et al. Structural aspects of antioxidant activity of flavonoids. Free Rad Biol Med1996; 20:331-42.

12. 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.

13. Bravetti G. Preventive medical treatment of senile cataract with vitamin E and anthocyanosides: Clinical evaluation. Ann Ottalmol Clin Ocul 1989;115:109 [in Italian].

14. Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 51-4.

15. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1988, 101-2.

16. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 209.

17. Griffith JQ. Clinical application of quercetin: preliminary report. J Am Pharm Assoc 1953;42:68-9.

18. Shanno RL. Rutin: a new drug for the treatment of increased capillary fragility. Am J Med Sci 1946;211:539-43.

19. Scharrer A, Ober M. Anthocyanosides in the treatment of retinopathies. Klin Monatsblatt Augenheilk 1981;178:386-9.

20. Mian E, Curri SB, Lietti A, Bombardelli E. Anthocyanosides and the walls of microvessels: Further aspects of the mechanism of action of their protective in syndromes due to abnormal capillary fragility. Minerva Med 1977;68:3565-81.

21. Alfieri R, Sole P. Influencedes anthocyanosides admintres parvoie parenterale su l'adaptoelectroretinogramme du lapin. CR Soc Biol 1964;15:2338 [in French].

22. 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].

23. 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.

24. Zadok D, Levy Y, Glovinsky Y. The effect of anthocyanosides in a multiple oral dose on night vision. Eye 1999;13:734-6.

25. 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.

26. Sala D, Rolando M, Rossi PL, et al. Effect of anthocyanosides on visual performance at low illumination. Minerva Oftalmol 1979;21:283-5.

27. 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].

28. 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.

29. Zadok D, Levy Y, Glovinsky Y. The effect of anthocyanosides in a multiple oral dose on night vision. Eye 1999;13:734-6.

30. 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.

31. Bravetti G. Preventive medical treatment of senile cataract with vitamin E and anthocyanosides: Clinical evaluation. Ann Ottalmol Clin Ocul 1989;115:109 [in Italian].

32. 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].

33. Scharrer A, Ober M. Anthocyanosides in the treatment of retinopathies. Klin Monatsblatt Augenheilk 1981;178:386-9.

34. 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.

35. 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.

36. 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.

37. Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Health and Healing. Roseville, CA: Prima Health, 2000, 47-54.

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