Name: Bilberry (Vaccinium spp.)


Family: Ericaceae

Common Names: Sarva Roga, Nivarini, Indian Lilac, Heal All, Village Pharmacy

Range: Native to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, East Africa. Neem is also cultivated in various parts of the world, including the southeastern U.S.

Parts Used: Dried leaf, powdered leaf, oil extracted from the seeds

Preparations: The oil is used neat (direct and undiluted). The fresh leaf is used to make tinctures. The dried, powdered leaf is made into tea or formulated into ointments, creams, and other topical applications.

History: Since bilberry is difficult to cultivate, the berries are largely collected from the wild. However, in some parts of the world, namely in Sweden, Switzerland, and Austria, it is considered an “everyman’s right” (right of public access) to pick bilberries from public or privately owned lands, as long as the plant isn’t part of an individual’s private garden. Bilberry fruit can be baked into pies and tarts, or made into jams, wines, and liquors. Bilberries are featured during the Celtic grain festival and are gathered on the last Sunday in July (Fraughan Sunday) in preparation for Lughnassadh (a/k/a Lammas), the cross-quarter festival that takes place on August 1st and marks the end of the summer harvest season. In terms of medicine, bilberry has historically been used to treat scurvy and kidney stones. Modern herbalists use bilberry to treat circulatory disorders, such as varicose veins and general poor circulation (venous insufficiency). Bilberry is also known to help preserve and even improve vision. The extract contains pigments called anthocyanidins that appear to provide protection from damage caused by lipid and protein leakage associated with macular degeneration by inhibiting enzymatic activity. These agents also regenerate rhodopsin, a chromoprotein that delivers the pigments retinal, retinene, and opsin to retinal rods. Several studies have found positive results when applying this botanical in the treatment of glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and cataracts. It has also been shown to improve night vision. Studies have also shown that bilberry extract induces apoptosis (cellular death) in human leukemia cells and colon cancer cells in vitro.

Constituents: Anthocyanosides, flavonol glycosides (quercetin, isoquercitrin, astragalin, hyperoside), catechins (epicatechin, epigallocatechin), caffeic acid.

Cautions/Contraindications: Those at risk for or with a history of hypoglycemia should not consume bilberry leaf. Those with a blood-clotting disorder, such as hemophilia, should avoid also avoid bilberry leaf. Due to an increased risk of bleeding, consult your physician if you are currently taking blood thinners (warfarin) before supplementing with bilberry. Generally, long-term, habitual use of the leaf is not recommended, but may be alternated. However, bilberry fruit is considered safe with no toxicity reported.

Disclaimer: This information has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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