Bilberry is a perennial shrub that grows to about 16 inches in height. It has sharp-edged, green branches and black wrinkled berries, which are ripe for picking in late summer. Bilberry is a relative of blueberry, cranberry, and huckleberry, and its fruit looks and tastes much like the American blueberry.
Bilberry is used by mouth to treat poor circulation that can cause the legs to swell. Some people take bilberry for diabetes, high blood pressure, gout, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and many other conditions.
What's It Made Of?:
- The key compounds in bilberry fruit are called anthocyanosides. These compounds help build strong blood vessels and improve circulation to all areas of the body. They also prevent blood platelets from clumping together (helping to reduce the risk of blood clots), and they have antioxidant properties (preventing or reducing damage to cells from free radicals). Anthocyanidins boost the production of rhodopsin, a pigment that improves night vision and helps the eye adapt to light changes.
- Bilberry fruit is also rich in tannins, a substance that acts as an astringent. The tannins have anti-inflammatory properties and may help control diarrhea.
- You may eat bilberries fresh or in dried forms, and you can make bilberry tea using fresh or dried berries. Bilberry extract should be standardized to contain 25% anthocyanidin. The extract contains the highest percentage of anthocyanosides, making it the strongest form of bilberry.
How to Take It:
- The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs under the supervision of a health care provider.
- Bilberry may be used in children 2 years of age and older for the treatment of diarrhea, but only under the supervision of your doctor.
- General: 80 - 120 mg 2 times per day of standardized bilberry extract (with 25% anthocyanidin)
- Diarrhea: 5 - 10 g of crushed dried bilberries in 150 mL (2/3 of a cup) cold water, brought to a boil for 10 minutes, then strained. Only dried bilberry should be used for diarrhea. Do not use for more than 4 days.
- Eye conditions and circulation: 80 - 480 mg a day in 2 - 3 divided doses of standardized bilberry extract (with 25% anthocyanidin) in capsule form.
- Bilberry fruit and extract are considered generally safe, with no known side effects. However, bilberry leaf and extract should not be taken in large quantities over an extended period of time because the tannins they contain may cause severe weight loss, muscle spasms, and even death.
- Anticoagulants (blood-thinning medication) -- In theory, because the anthocyanosides in bilberry may stop blood from clotting, there may be an increased risk of bleeding if you take bilberry with blood-thinning medication, including aspirin. The whole fruit may be safer in these instances. Ask your doctor before taking bilberry if you take blood-thinning medication.
- Medication for diabetes -- Because bilberry appears to lower blood sugar, it could make the effects of diabetes medication stronger. Also, taking bilberry with other herbs that also lower blood sugar may result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Herbs that also lower blood sugar include ginger, ginseng, fenugreek, and garlic. Do not take bilberry if you take medications for diabetes.