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Herb Library

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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.




BILBERRY
ERICACEAE
aka Black Whortleberry, Blaeberry (Scot), Blue Berry, Burren Myrtle, Chernica (Russ), Dyeberry, Huckleberry, Hurtleberry, Trackleberry,
Whinberry, Whortleberry, Wineberry

(Vaccinium myrtillus)
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CAUTION! Leaves can be POISONOUS if consumed over a long period of time. High tannin content of leaves can cause digestive problems. According to the German Commission E Monographs, high doses on prolonged use have produced the following effects in animal testing: initial cachexia, anemia, icterus, acute excitation, disturbances of tonicity, followed by possible death after chronic ingestion of 1.5 grams per day. Which is another way of saying malnutrition, lowered red blood cell levels, yellowing of skin and whites of eyes all in advance of possible death. Theraputic use of the leaf is NOT CONSIDERED JUSTIFIABLE in view of the lack of documentation on effecacy weighed against risks.
Fresh berries can have a laxative effect on some people and a constipating one on others.

DRUG INTERACTIONS: May increase effects of Warfarin and antiplatelet drugs at high doses.

CONTAINS: 92% water when fresh, 8% water when dried; essential oil, resin, tannin, flavonoids (anthrocyanidins - purple-colored flavonoids, 3% in fruit: dilate blood vessels), polysaccharides (5% pectin), sugars (15% made up of glucose, fructose, glactose, arabinose), fruit acids, glycosides, alkaloids (myrtine and epimyrtine), organic acids, and carotene.
BASED ON ZERO MOISTURE PER 100 GRAMS =
Fruits: Aluminum 31.8 mg, Ash 4.8%, Calcium 638 mg, Chromium 0.070 mg, Cobalt 0.010 mg, Crude fiber 8.9%, Dietary fiber 37%, Fat 2.2%, Iron 15.1 mg, Magnesium 390 mg, Manganese 9.10 mg, Niacin 6.50 mg, Phosphorus 1070 mg, Potassium 1673 mg, Protein 12.9%, Riboflavin 0.26 mg, Selenium 0.28 mg, Silicon (trace mg), Sodium 5.0 mg, Thiamine 0.78 mg, Tin 5.0 mg, Vit. A 7800 IU, Vit. C 165 mg, Zinc 0.87 mg.
Leaves: Glucoquinones (reduce blood sugar).



John Gerard (1597): "...they cure the bloody flixe proceeding of choler."

This close relative of the cranberry is found growing in acid soil in sandy regions of North America from British Columbia south to New Mexico, and in the woods, forest meadows, heaths, rocky barrens, moorlands, and bogs of Europe. A low-growing shrubby perennial with angular green-branched stems arise from a creeping rootstock to a height of 1 to 2 feet with a width of 3 to 4 feet. Leaves are alternate, obovate to ovate, weakly serrate, shiny, leathery, and bright green on top, 1/2 to 1 inch in length. Axillary flowers are a pale greenish-pink, reddish pink, red, or white with red lips, with pitcher-shaped corolla, 1/4 inch in size and solitary. Fruit is a 5-seeded berry, small, slightly acid, globe-shaped, dark blue or black with a purplish bloom, 1/2 inch in diameter, appearing by twos and threes at the bases of the leaves instead of in clusters terminating the branches as with true blueberries.

The name is derived from the Danish 'bollebbar' (dark berry).



PROPAGATION: By seed in autumn; by semiripe cuttings in summer; by root cuttings.
NEEDS: Perennial to zone 5. Moist, acid soil in full to part sun (likes filtered shade). Plant 2 feet apart with a soil temperature of 65 to 75 degrees F. in damp, peaty, humusy soil with a pH of 4 to 5. Likes a lot of water, but does not like standing water. Soil must drain well. Trim in spring to encourage growth.
HARVEST: Leaves when fully formed, but before flowers appear; fruits in late summer to early fall to use fresh or dry for decoctions and liquid extracts.
FLOWERS: May to August
PART USED: Leaves, fruit.
SOLVENT: Dilute alcohol and boiling water.
RELATED SPECIES:
COWBERRY (V. Vitis-idaea): Contains up to 7% arbutin; a strong infusion of the leaves was used to treat urinary tract infections, cystitis, diabetes, and diarrhea (although large quantities of fruit can have a laxative effect - a large bowl of fresh berries eaten for constipation); leaves are harvested in summer.

USES

MEDICINAL:
STUDY: Bettine, V. et al, 1985. Fitotherapia 56(1):3 = Showed an effect on heart contractions and blood vessels. The conclusion drawn being that the berries somehow stimuate the production of protaglandins.
Bittersweet, astringent, anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant (flavonoids), antithrombotic, antispasmodic, cooling (lowering body heat), diuretic; lowers blood sugar; tonic effect on the blood, vasodilator. Believed to lower cholesterol.
The dried fruit is listed in the German Commission E Monographs as being used for non-specific acute diarrhea and mild inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat; the leaf (with cautions!) as being used for prevention and treatment of diseases and problems in the gastro-intestinal tract, kidney and urinary tract, for arthritis, gout, dermatitis, hemorrhoids, poor circulation, and functional heart problems.
Popular OTC in Europe with claims of inhibiting collagen destruction (anti-aging from flavonoid activity), a free radical scavenger (flavonoids), increasing blood circulation to the brain's peripheral blood vessels, reducing inflammation and pain and relieving muscle spasms. There is some belief the berries help prevent blood clots. Has been used to prevent ischemic stroke without increasing the chances of hemorrhagic stroke. Anthocyanins help prevent formation of blood clots that trigger heart attack; other sources of anthocyanins are blackberries, boysenberries, black currants, bluberries, cherries, cranberries, red grapes, and red raspberries. Has also been used to treat angina.
Has been used as a nutritive tonic for wasting diseases.
In Russia the berries and leaves have been used for colitis, stomach problems, and diabetes. Fruit has been used in treatment of ulcers.
A primary herb which has been used to improve vision. Flavonoids present in the fruit improve capillary strength within the eye. A single dose is said to improve night vision within hours through its ability to accelerate regeneration of retinal purple (aka visual purple) which is required for good sight. Possibly useful in the prevention and treatment of glaucoma (strengthens connective tissue and prevents free radical damage by retarding breakdown of Vitamin C responsible for protecting the eyes). Used to slow macular degeneration; often combined for this purpose with butcher's broom, centella, and ginger as a tea (1 tsp dried herbs steeped 15 minutes in 1 cup boiling water; 1 to 4 cups per day). Italian researchers discovered that a mixture of anthocyanosides from bilberry and Vitamin E slowed the formation of cataracts on 97% of subjects tested with early stage cataracts. Blueberries can be substituted at the rate of 1 cup per day, or a tea can be made using 2 to 4 tbsp of crushed blueberries per cup of boiling water.
Has been used to treat bruising, capillary fragility, varicose veins (stimulates new capillary formation, strengthens capillary walls), poor circulation, circulatory problems related to diabetes, Raynaud's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and peridontal disease. Said to reduce inflammation and pain in cases of rheumatoid arthritis while keeping connective tissue damage to a minimum.
Has been used to improve circulation problems in the elderly or for post-op to support circulation; goes well with lemon rind; taken as an infusion.
Historically the leaves have been used internally for diabetes. In late-onset, non-insulin-dependant diabetes, 1 cup of infusion before each meal was taken as an addition to dietary controls (blood sugar must be monitored).
Has been used internally for edema, anemia, diarrhea (although large quantities of berries can have a laxative effect), dysentery, and urinary problems. For diarrhea 2 tsp of the unsweetned juice was taken as needed, or, 1 glass daily of the decoction if diarrhea was chronic; one other solution was to grate an apple and leave sitting out for several hours while it darkens, then add bilberries. IF DIARRHEA DOES NOT RESPOND AFTER THREE DAYS, SEE A DOCTOR!
Has been used externally for gum inflammations (diluted juice as mouthwash - hold in mouth for several minutes), hemorrhoids and burns (fruit). Juice diluted with an equal portion of witch hazel has been used as a lotion for sunburn and skin problems. In cases of eczema, the scales have been painted with the extract once daily, then covered with gauze.
Has been used for menstrual cramps (20 to 40 ml of cencentrated bilberry extract taken 3 times daily). A decoction of the leaf has been used as a douche for leukorrhea.
Dried berries have been used in cases of vomiting; also in cases of feverish liver, dropsy, and gravel.
A concentrated decoction of the dried, powdered berries was once used for typhoid fever.
Berries were used in Scandinavian countries to prevent scurvy.
Eating fresh berries believed to be useful against round worms.
A syrup of the berries made with honey was called 'rob' and used by Elizabethan apothecaries as a diarrhea remedy.
An old remedy for diarrhea, nausea, and indigestion was to steep the berries and roots in gin.
Ancient Greeks used a syrup of the berries to control the flow of mother's milk.

DOSE: TRADITIONAL DOSAGES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY!
!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
INTERNALLY = 20 to 60 grams or 1 to 2 oz of berries
EXTERNALLY = 10% decoction
INFUSION = 1 tsp dried leaves to 1 cup boiling water, steeped and drunk cold throughout the day, one mouthful at a time.
DECOCTION = 1 tsp dried berries simmered in 1 cup water; 1 to 2 cups a day taken cold.
TINCTURE = 1/2 to 1 fluid dram.
CAPSULE (dried fruit) = 1 capsule up to 3 times daily.
COLD EXTRACT = 1/3 oz. dried berries combined with 1 cup water; let stand 8 hours.
EXTRACT = 15 to 40 drops in water or juice 3 times daily.
THERAPUTIC DOSE = 1/2 to 1 cup of fresh fruit daily; 12 to 24 grams of dried fruit daily; 1/2 gram standarized extract (25% anthocyanidin).
BILBERRY BRANDY =2 or 3 handfuls of berries in a bottle, then covered with brandy; secure cap and let sit for 2 weeks before using; 1 tbsp taken in 1/4 pint of water for continuous diarrhea; may be repeated in 8 to 10 hours. Blueberry Brandy can also be used: 1 handful blueberries in 1 pint brandy; dose = 1 tbsp in 1/2 glass of room-temperature water every 2 hours till diarrhea stops.

HOMEOPATHIC:
Used to offset symptoms of vaccination related problems.

VETERINARY:
A tea of the leaves is used in scours in puppies.
The berries are added to the diet of a dog for anemia (OR: 2 tbsp of infusion for an average sized dog).
For farm animals in cases of diarrhea, vomiting, throat ailments, or as a nerve tonic: 1 cup decoction of the leaves taken fasting twice daily, OR, 2 handfuls of berries pounded into milk and taken twice daily.

CULINARY:
Fruits used to make jams, syrups, conserves, desserts, and are added to salads.
Fruits are added to wine; extracts are used to flavor liqueurs.
Berries stewed with lemon and sugar.
BILBERRY PUNCH: In a large bowl, add diced fruits of choice (and/or juices), apple cider, a bit of lemon juice, and cold bilberry tea; garnish with fresh sprigs or leaves of mint.
TEA: 1¼ to 2½ tsps of mashed berries in cold water; simmer for 10 minutes, then strain.
See: Cooking with Herbs and Wild Foods for more recipes.

DYE:
The berries produce blue-purple with an alum mordant.
Used industrially as a brown and yellow leather dye; a variety of mordants produce violet, green, red and blue for fabrics.





©2000 and 2003 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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