Blueberry, Bilberry, Huckleberry - Vaccinium Spp.

Photo of Sharol Tilgner

This Blueberry or Bilberry or Huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.) monograph is an excerpt from the 1999, first edition of Dr. Sharol's book "Herbal Medicine From The Heart of The Earth." You can purchase the 2020, third edition of this book with an expanded materia medica/monograph section, herbal formulas and directions on making herbal products in Dr. Sharol's Book Store. You receive free shipping in the USA.

Bilberry/Huckleberry - Vaccinium spp. in the Ericaceae or Heath family

Part used: Leaves and berries.

Taste/smell: The leaves are astringent and the berries are sweet and tart.

Tendencies: Leaves are drying.

Dosage: Decoction: 1 teaspoon - tablespoon of the leaves per cup of water, steeped; or 1:1 fresh plant liquid extract of the leaves and berries: 20-40 drops 1-4 times per day in a little water.

The berries can be eaten freely.

Use: (a) Hypoglycemic, (b) Antioxidant, (c) Anti-inflammatory, (d) Vasoprotectant, (e) Astringent (leaves), (f) Antimutagenic, (g) Antiangiogenic, (h) Neuroprotective.

The leaves have been used for diarrhea, as a urinary tract antiseptic, as well as for diabetes. The berries have also been used for many conditions that are a result of diabetes. Be aware that the berries do contain sugar which is often a problem for diabetics, but many use them without problems and are benefited by them. This is due to their low glycemic load. As with all things moderation is the key. Blueberries appear to decrease insulin sensitivity and assist with weight loss which are both beneficial in metabolic syndrome or diabetes. In animal studies, blueberries have been shown  to protect animals with metabolic syndrome from kidney damage (seen with metabolic syndrome/diabetes) and support glucose tolerance.

The berries are used for vision support, circulatory problems, including varicose veins, hemorrhoids, peripheral vascular insufficiency and easy bruising. The circulatory actions are thought to be due to blueberries ability to strengthen capillary walls and reduce capillary leakage by supporting crosslinkage of collagen and inhibiting collagenase and elastase. It also enhances microcirculation by supporting capillary walls, inhibiting platelet aggregation and acting as an antioxidant.

The berries are used to prevent cataracts, retinopathy, macular degeneration, myopia, eyestrain and night blindness. Bilberry/huckleberry/blueberry may be useful in diarrhea.

Contraindications: Large doses of the leaves may cause gastric irritation due to the tannin content.  Weiss states long term use of the leaves can cause hydroquinone poisoning, but there have been people who have used them long term without problems. Certainly caution would be advised. Although the berries contain sugar, Type II diabetics have been known to use the berries without raising their glycemic status or insulin levels and have in fact found in moderation they are able to help support glucose tolerance. Diabetics should only use the berries under the guidance of a qualified health care practitioner.

If you are looking for directions on making teas or tinctures, please see our "Making Herbal Products" page.

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Copyright 1999 by Sharol Tilgner, N.D. (ISBN 1-881517-02-0) - all rights reserved.

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