The healing power of bilberry

The blueberry is super healthy but rarely available. Nowadays blueberries are for sale in every supermarket, but that is a different variety that looks a lot like them. The blueberry is a tasty berry with many medicinal qualities. In World War II, British pilots used it to treat night blindness. In addition, the blueberry is good for digestion and blood circulation. The antioxidants in this berry ensure that arteriosclerosis has less chance. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing bilberry / Source: Amédée Masclef, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)


  • Bilberry naming
  • Bilberry history
  • The active substances in bilberry
  • Dried blueberries for intestinal problems
  • Dried and fresh blueberries for the retina
  • Dried and fresh blueberries for blood circulation disorders
  • Fresh or dried blueberries for connective tissue disorders
  • Fresh blueberries for digestion
  • External use bilberry
  • Consult a herbal therapist


Bilberry naming

The Latin botanical name for the blueberry is Vaccinium Myrtillus , not to be confused with the common blueberry with the Latin name Vaccinium corymbosum . Vaccinum is the common name for shrubs that bear berries. The name is derived from ‘bacca’ meaning ‘berry’ and ‘vacca’ meaning cow’. Cows really love berries. That is why the Latin word is named after the cow. It is called ‘myrtillus’ because it resembles the myrtle, another berry species with the Latin name Myrtus Communis . In English this berry is called Bilberry or European Blueberry and in German it is called Schwarzbeere. Dutch has the following popular names: Bosbes, Blauwbes, Kraakbes, Bosbezen, Moerbezen, Heidelberen, Krakelbezie, Postelbezie, Klokkebeien, Walbeer, Aalsbeer, Kozijnekruid and Krakke.

Bilberry history

Unlike other berries, the bilberry has only been described sporadically in the historical medical literature. At the times it was described it was considered a medicinal agent for the circulatory, digestive, eye and urinary tract. Later the berry became famous as an anti-diarrheal agent. A tea was made from the dried berries or a handful of berries were placed in a glass of wine. During the Second World War, British Air Force pilots were fed blueberries to strengthen their visual acuity and improve night vision. In 1960, French scientific research showed that bilberries indeed improve vision. The eyes’ adaptation to bright light is improved and people can see better at night if they regularly eat bilberries.

The active substances in bilberry

Both the leaves and the fruit of the blueberry are used for medicinal purposes. The berry can be either dried or fresh. The berries contain the following active substances:

  • Flavonoids include flavanol glycosides, anthocyanin glycosides, monomeric flavanols and oligomeric flavanols.
  • The flavanol glycosides include hyperoside, quercitrin and isoquercitrin. Anthocyanin glycosides: delfidine, cyanidin, malvidin, peonidin and petunidin or myrtillin. Monomeric flavanols: catechin, epicatechin and catecholtannins.
  • Oligomeric flavanols: Oligomeric Procyanides (OPCs) and procyanidins B1 and B4.
  • It also contains tannins, pectin, cellulose and vitamins B1, B2, B3, C and beta-carotene.
  • To a lesser extent, bilberry contains the minerals potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, boron, silicon, selenium, organic acids, the phenolic acids caffeic acid and ursolic acid, fructose and quinolizidine alkaloids.


Dried blueberries for intestinal problems

The dried berries have an astringent effect on the intestinal mucosa due to the tannins they contain. It contains a number of substances, including myrtillin, which fights pathogenic bacteria. It helps combat both diarrhea and constipation; the dried berry makes digestion more harmonious. As a result, it has a deodorizing effect on bad-smelling stools. Due to these medicinal activities, the dried berry can be prescribed by herbalists for:

  • Diarrhea, acute diarrhea, diarrhea after antibiotherapy or treatment that kills bacteria,
  • Bilberry / Source: Thomas Mues, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-2.0)

Mild intestinal inflammation, dysentery,

  • Chronic fermentation dyspepsia,
  • Fermentation symptoms in the intestine,
  • Bad smelling stools,
  • Infant dyspepsia,
  • Intestinal poisoning by toxins,
  • Inflammation of the stomach wall, inflammation of the intestinal mucosa,
  • Spastic colon with diarrhea.


Dried and fresh blueberries for the retina

Both the dried and fresh berries work as a tonic or tonic for the retina. It improves the microcirculation of delicate blood vessels, acts as an antioxidant and has a blood thinning effect. Anthocyanins, flavonoids and vitamin C are mainly responsible for its retina-enhancing properties. This means it is used for:

  • Poor vision, myopia, eyestrain,
  • Night blindness, reduced adaptation in the dark/bright light transition,
  • Tired, watery eyes, circulatory disorders of the eye,
  • Prevention of retinal disorders in diabetes or diabetes mellitus,
  • Prevention of macular degeneration,
  • Prevention of retinitus pigmentosa,
  • Prevention of glaucoma and cataracts.


Dried and fresh blueberries for blood circulation disorders

Dried and fresh berries increase resistance and reduce the permeability of blood vessels. This strengthens and stabilizes the capillaries. It has a blood thinning effect and prevents platelets from sticking together. It protects the vessel wall because it has an antioxidant effect on the vessel walls. This improves overall blood circulation. In addition, it is a strengthening agent for tissue building, making the blood vessels stronger. Because of these medicinal properties, dried berries are prescribed by herbalists for:

  • Weak blood vessels, weak capillaries, poor microcirculation (blood circulation through smallest arteries),
  • Prevention of thrombosis, prevention of atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis,
  • Adjuvant for high blood pressure or hypertension,
  • Diabetic vascular disease: hypertension, vascular wall inflammation, arterial wall inflammation, microangiopathy or disease of small blood or lymphatic vessels,
  • Couperose,
  • Hemorrhoids,
  • Varicose veins, including consequences such as edema, feeling of heaviness and night cramps,
  • Bruises from minor blows,
  • Nosebleed, spontaneous bleeding.


Fresh or dried blueberries for connective tissue disorders

Silicon, vitamin C, malvidin and cyanidin all help build connective tissue or collagen tissue. The strength and resilience of connective tissue increase. The connective tissue is protected against free radicals that can damage this tissue. In addition, the gastrointestinal wall is protected against ulcers. To these medicinal aspects one can

Bilberry / Source: Katarzyna Matylla, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-2.5)

phytotherapists decide to prescribe bilberry for:

  • Weak connective tissue, collagen diseases or scleroderma,
  • Recovery after surgery, major body trauma due to collision, for example,
  • Swelling of tissues after surgery,
  • Spontaneous bleeding,
  • Loose teeth, bleeding gums,
  • Prevention of gastrointestinal ulcers,
  • Cellulite or orange peel peel.


Fresh blueberries for digestion

The fresh berries have a specific effect that is not or less true of dried berries: the laxative or bowel movement-promoting effect. The intestinal flora is improved, resulting in better digestion. In addition, it slightly improves appetite and has a mild astringent effect. For these reasons, the fresh berry is recommended by herbalists for:

  • Chronic constipation,
  • Disrupted intestinal flora, intestinal toxins, intestinal poisoning,
  • Poor appetite,
  • Diarrhea without specific cause.


External use bilberry

The tannins provide an astringent effect and antiseptic quality. Together with quercetin, the tannins tackle inflammation on the skin and in the mouth. It is a wound healing agent. Due to these medicinal properties, bilberry is used for:

Cross section of bilberry / Source: B.navez, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Gargling, rinsing:

  • Oral mucosal inflammation,
  • Canker sores,
  • Gingivitis,
  • Laryngeal inflammation with possibly hoarseness,
  • Strep throat.

Lotion, infusion:

  • Skin conditions, eczema, burns,
  • conjunctivitis,
  • Hemorrhoids.


Consult a herbal therapist

Anyone who wants to use bilberry as a medicinal remedy is recommended to consult a herbal therapist. Bilberry extracts and medicines in the form of mother tinctures, powders, nebulisate, liquid extract, ointment, cream and capsules should only be used on the prescription of authorized persons. A herbal therapist can inform you about this as well as about any side effects and interactions with medicines or herbs. There are also medicinal combinations with herbs. All medicinal effects of this medicinal herb mentioned in this article are based on scientific research and come from Geert Verhelst’s Large Handbook of Medicinal Plants, a standard work in the field of healing plants. The book is used in phytotherapy.

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