This fact sheet provides basic information about bilberry--common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources for more information. Bilberry is a relative of the blueberry, and its fruit is commonly used to make pies and jams. Bilberry grows in North America, Europe, and northern Asia.
Common Names--European blueberry, whortleberry, huckleberry
Latin Names--Vaccinium myrtillus
What Bilberry Is Used For
- Bilberry has been used for nearly 1,000 years in traditional European medicine.
- Historically, bilberry fruit was used to treat diarrhea, scurvy, and other conditions.
- Today, the fruit is used to treat diarrhea, menstrual cramps, eye problems, varicose veins, venous insufficiency (poor blood flow to the heart), and other circulatory problems.
- Bilberry leaf is used for entirely different conditions, including diabetes.
How Bilberry Is Used
The fruit of the bilberry plant can be eaten or made into extracts. Similarly, the leaves of the bilberry plant can be made into extracts or used to make teas.
What the Science Says about Bilberry
- Some claim that bilberry fruit improves night vision, but clinical studies have not shown this to be true.
- There is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of bilberry fruit or leaf for any other health conditions.
- NCCAM has not yet funded any research on bilberry.
Side Effects and Cautions
- Bilberry fruit is considered safe. However, high doses of bilberry leaf or leaf extract are considered unsafe; animal studies have shown high doses to be toxic.
- Tell your health care providers about any herb (a plant or part of a plant used for its flavor, scent, or potential therapeutic properties. herb includes flowers, leaves, bark, fruit, seeds, stems, and roots.) or dietary supplement (a product that contains vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and/or other ingredients intended to supplement the diet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has special labeling requirements for dietary supplements and treats them as foods, not drugs.) you are using, including bilberry. This helps to ensure safe and coordinated care.
Bilberry. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed March 29, 2006.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed March 29, 2006.
Bilberry fruit. In: Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000:16-21.
NCCAM has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your primary health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCAM.
NCCAM Publication No. D312