• Poor Night Vision
Often called European blueberry, bilberry is closely related to American blueberry, cranberry, and huckleberry. Its meat is creamy white instead of purple, but it is traditionally used, like blueberries, in the preparation of jams, pies, cobblers, and cakes.
Bilberry fruit also has a long medicinal history. In the twelfth century, Abbess Hildegard of Bingen wrote of bilberry's usefulness for inducing menstruation. Over subsequent centuries, the list of uses for bilberry grew to include a bewildering variety of possibilities, from bladder stones to typhoid fever.
What Is Bilberry Used for Today?
The modern use of bilberry dates back to World War II, when British Royal Air Force pilots reported that a good dose of bilberry jam just prior to a mission improved their night vision
However, neither anecdote nor basic scientific evidence of this type can prove a treatment effective. Only
Finally, because the anthocyanosides in bilberry resemble the oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Bilberry?
A double-blind crossover trial of 15 individuals found no short- or long-term improvements in night vision attributable to bilberry. 9
In contrast, two much earlier controlled, but not double-blind, studies of bilberry found that the herb temporarily improved night vision.
Visual benefits have also been reported in other small trials, but these studies did not use a placebo control group and are therefore not valid as evidence.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of bilberry extract in 14 people with
The standard dosage of bilberry is 120 to 240 mg twice daily of an extract standardized to contain 25% anthocyanosides.
Bilberry fruit is a food and, as such, is quite safe. Enormous quantities have been administered to rats without toxic effects.
One study of 2,295 people given bilberry extract found a 4% incidence of side effects such as mild digestive distress, skin rashes, and drowsiness.
Little is known about the safety of bilberry leaf. Based on animal evidence that it can reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, it is possible that use of bilberry leaf by people with diabetes could require a reduction in drug dosage.
Interactions You Should Know About
If you are taking:
4. Mian E, Curri SB, Lietti A, et al. Anthocyanosides and the walls of the microvessels: further aspects of the mechanism of action of their protective effect in syndromes due to abnormal capillary fragility [in Italian; English abstract]. Minerva Med . 1977;68:3565-3581.
7. Cluzel C, Bastide P, Wegman R, et al. Enzymatic activities in the retina and anthocyanosides extracted from Vaccinium myrtillus (lactate dehydrogenase, alpha-hydroxybutyrate dehydrogenase, 6-phosphogluonate dehydrogenase, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, alpha-glycerophosphate dehydrogenase, 5-nucleotide, and phosphoglucose isomerase) [translated from French]. Biochem Pharmacol. 1970;19:2295-2302.
8. Cignarella A, Nastasi M, Cavalli E, et al. Novel lipid-lowering properties of Vaccinium myrtillus L. leaves, a traditional antidiabetic treatment, in several models of rat dyslipidaemia: a comparison with ciprofibrate. Thromb Res. 1996;84:311-322.
23. Eandi M. Post marketing investigation on TegensŴ preparation with respect to side effects. Unpublished results. Cited by: Morazzoni P, Bombardelli E. Vaccinium myrtillus. Fitoterapia . 1996;67:3-29.
26. Cignarella A, Nastasi M, Cavalli E, et al. Novel lipid-lowering properties of Vaccinium myrtillus L. leaves, a traditional antidiabetic treatment, in several models of rat dyslipidaemia: a comparison with ciprofibrate. Thromb Res. 1996;84:311-322.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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