Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

Medical Uses

Bilberry is used as an antioxidant and as a treatment for varicose veins, night blindness, diabetes, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and gum inflammation. It may be used to treat diarrhea in children.

Historical Uses

This herb has been used since the Middle Ages, primarily in Europe, for kidney disorders, diarrhea, respiratory infections, and treatment for scurvy.


Bilberry is known as the European blueberry and is larger than the American blueberry. It grows in temperate zones. Bilberry and blueberry are from the same family.

Bilberry: Parts Used

• Dried, ripe fruit

• Leaves

Major Chemical Compounds

• Glucoquinones (in leaves), which reduce blood glucose

• Anthocyanosides (in fruits), which have been shown experimentally to dilate blood vessels

• Tannins, flavonoids

Bilberry: Clinical Uses

Bilberry is used for antioxidant effects and for varicose veins, night blindness, diabetes, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and gum inflammation. It is approved by the German Commission E for “non-specific acute diarrhea, mild inflammation of the mucous membranes and throat”. It maybe used to treat nonspecific diarrhea in children, as noted in Blumenthal et al. (2000).

Mechanism of Action

The tannins in the bilberry fruit have astringent properties that are helpful in easing diarrhea. Bilberry fruits also contain anthocyanosides, which are helpful because of their antioxidant effects, for forming collagen in connective tissue around blood vessels, and for eye health. Anthocyanosides have been shown to be helpful in preventing the breakdown and promoting the regeneration of rhodopsin in the rods of the retina. Bilberry leaves contain glucoquinones, which may reduce blood glucose.

Bilberry: Dosage

Dry extract: 80 to 160 mg standardized to 25 percent anthocyanosides two or three times a day. Take with food.

Tea: 1 teaspoon herb in 8 ounces of water, boiled for 10 minutes, then strained. For diarrhea, may use for up to 4 days.

The typical dose of bilberry extract is equal to about 3 bowls of bilberries a day.

Side Effects

Bilberry leaf may lower blood glucose and triglyceride levels.


Bilberry may be contraindicated in some patients because it affects clotting time by decreasing platelet aggregation.

Herb-Drug Interactions

Caution is warranted during use with anticoagulants.

Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding

No restrictions are known for bilberry fruits. Leaves should not be used during pregnancy or breast-feeding (Natural Medicines, 2000)

Summary of Studies

No recent clinical studies in humans are available.

Bilberry: Warnings

• Bilberry leaf may lower blood glucose and triglyceride levels.

• Bilberry may affect clotting times by decreasing platelet aggregation. Use it cautiously if you take a blood thinner.

• Don’t use bilberry leaves if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. No restrictions are known for the fruits.


Bilberry Bread (may substitute blueberries)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups bilberries or blueberries
  • ¼ cup molasses

Mix and spread on greased and floured cookie sheet with sides. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.

Blueberry Fruit Smoothie

  • 1 cup low-fat blueberry yogurt
  • 1 cup bilberries or blueberries
  • 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk

Blend in the blender until smooth. Enjoy!