Latin Name – Vaccinium myrtillus
Bilberry is a relative of the blueberry that has been used for nearly 1,000 years as an herbal remedy. The small blue fruit of the bilberry plant is eaten or made into juice, jam or extracts. Bilberry grows in North America, Europe, and northern Asia.
Historically, bilberry fruit was used for diarrhea, scurvy, and other problems. Today, the bilberry is used as an herbal remedy in the hope of improving menstrual cramps, eye problems, and varicose veins.
Although there have been claims that bilberry fruit improves night vision, 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 health conditions.
Side Effects and Cautions Summary
- High doses of bilberry leaf or leaf extract are considered unsafe due to possible toxic side effects.
- Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health to help ensure coordinated and safe care. Complementary or alternative therapy should not be used in place of conventional medical care or to delay seeking that care.
- Bilberry. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Accessed July 2, 2007.
- Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). Natural Standard Database Web site. Accessed June 28, 2007.
- Bilberry fruit. In: Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000:16–21.
For More Information
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Clearinghouse
The NCCAM Clearinghouse provides information on CAM and NCCAM, including publications and searches of Federal databases of scientific and medical literature. The Clearinghouse does not provide medical advice, treatment recommendations, or referrals to practitioners.
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
Web site: ods.od.nih.gov
NIH National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus
Bilberry Listing: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-bilberry.html
Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Bilberry fact sheet Created May 2006 Updated April 2008