Alternative names: Bilberry, Whortleberry, Huckleberry.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) and many similar species are native to Europe and most of the United States. The blue/black berry is known for its edibility as well as for its medical action.
Standardized extracts of bilberry are currently available. Extract ratios of 100:1 are not uncommonly used to obtain extracts that are standardized to contain 25% total anthocyanidins. Bilberry fruit preparations are "Approved" while the leaf preparations are "Unapproved" by the German Commission E.
The major medicinal compounds in bilberries are the flavonoids, especially the anthocyanosides. These compounds are similar to those found in grapes. The actions of concentrated extracts have been shown to be effective in stabilizing collagen, normalizing capillary permeability, preventing platelet aggregation, and relaxing smooth muscles among other things.
The clinical applications of bilberry extracts have been in two major areas: the eyes and the joints. Bilberry extracts were shown to be effective in improving night-time vision, and have been used in the prevention and treatment of glaucoma and have been used in cases of cataracts and macular degeneracy.
The ability of the flavonoids found in bilberry to stabilize collagen as well as their potent antioxidant activity make them very good agents for joint care. They have been used successfully in both osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis. The uses for bilberry extracts will continue to increase as we understand its flavonoids more completely.
Bilberry contains compounds which act as antioxidants in the retina, making it a possible preventive measure for macular degeneration [Klin Monatsbl Augenheilkd Beih 1981;178: pp.386-9]. It also strengthens capillaries in the retina and reduces hemorrhaging [Minerva Med 1977;68: pp.3565-81]. An oral dose is in the range of 40 to 80mg (24% anthocyanosides) per day.