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Earthnotes
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.




BLUEBERRY
Ericaceae
(Vaccinium spp)
imageImage

NOTE: Most herbal literature, when referring to 'blueberry', most often mean the European Bilberry. Or in the case of The Herb Tea Book by Dorothy Hall (1981), 'Blueberry' is used to denote the Huckleberry (Gaylussacia frondoas). The information here is specific to the North American Blueberry, either Highbush Blueberry (V. corymbosum) or Lowbush Blueberry (V. angustifolium) which are native to the Northeastern to Central United States, although the Highbush variety has many cultivars these days and can be found throughout the United States in gardens and as commercial crops.

CONTAINS: Fruit contains: Anthocyanosides (also present in Bilberry, but in larger quanity), arbutin (antiobiotic and diuretic), tannins, pectins, oliogomeric procyanidins (OPCs).



HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRY (Vaccinium corymbosum) is native to the moist areas or bogs of Nova Scotia, west to Michigan, and south to Ohio and Indiana; stems are minutely warty, greenish-brown, and round; leaves are on short stalks, smooth above, usually hairy on veins beneath; flowers bell-shaped, white (sometimes pinkish); fruit a blue berry with a whitish bloom. image

LOWBUSH BLUEBERRY (V. angustifolium) is native to dry, rocky places and roadsides of eastern Canada south to Virginia. Stems green and minutely warty; leaves smooth with sharp teeth; flowers white; fruit a blue berry, sometimes nearly black. image

Seeds thousands of years old have been found at several archeological digs located at Lakes Huron and Ontario.



HARVEST: Leaves, berries.
RELATED SPECIES:
Big Whortleberry (V. membranaceum): Native to British Columbia, Montana, and Oregon. Berries were used fresh or dried for winter use by Native Americans. image
Blue Boxberry (V. ovatum): Northwestern United States, California, and British Columbia. Berries historically used for food. image
Blue Whortleberry (V. ovalifolium): Native to the Northwestern United States and Alaska. Berries historically used fresh or dry for food. image
Bog Bilberry (V. uliginosum): Found in zone 2 of North America, Europe and Asia. In Alaska dried berries have been used historically as food. image
Canada or Downy Blueberry or Velvet Leaf Blueberry (V. myrtilloides syn V. canadense): Found in moist or dry soil and bogs. Branches densely covered with hair; leaves thin and soft, half as wide as long, downy on both sides; flowers white or sometimes pinkish; berries blue to bluish-black with a whitish bloom. Native to eastern Canada west to Minnesota and south to Virginia. image
Dingleberry (V. erythrocarpum): Native to Georgia. (No image available)
Dryland Blueberry (V. vacillans): Northeastern United States. Berries have been used traditionally for food. image
Dwarf Whortleberry (V. caespitosum): Northeast United States and Alaska. image image
Grouse Whortleberry (V. scoparium): Berries historically used fresh or dried for food. image
Mountain Cranberry (V. vitis-idaea): Maine and Canada. Berries historically used for food. image
Red Whortleberry (V. parvifolium): British Columbia and Alaska. Berries historically used fresh or dried for food. image
Rocky Mountain Whortleberry (V. oreophilum): New Mexico and Rocky Mountain Regions. Berries historically used for food. image
Western Bog Blueberry (V. occidentale): Oregon. Berries historically used for food. image



USES

MEDICINAL:
Used in the same manner as Bilberry. Eating Blueberries is known to improve visual accuity and protect against ulcers Research indicates that OPCs help prevent the breakdown of the myelin sheaths that surround nerve fibers and have an anti-inflammatory effect that could help relieve Multiple Sclerosis symptoms.
The juice of the berries is helpful in preventing bacteria (including E. coli) from adhering to the bladder walls; useful in cases of UTI.
The dried fruit, as-is or in decoction form, have been used to relieve diarrhea; also a tincture of the berries and a decoction of the root has been used for diarrhea as well as for other bowel complaints.
The root is diuretic, astringent and antispasmodic.
The root and the berries were once bruised then tinctured in gin to use as a diuretic and for gravel in the urinary tract.
Leaves have been used to help regulate blood sugar in borderline diabetes and hypoglycemia (diet is the key to controlling both these conditions). Both a decoction of the leaves and the seedcoats of the berries have been used in diabetes treatment.
A tea of the leaves has been used for sore mouth.
The Downy Blueberry (V. myrtilloides) was once used by Canadians for diabetes (to lower blood sugar count). They also used a decoction of the leaves (2 or 3 cups daily) for inflammation of the genito-urinary tract (especially cystitis), childhood incontinence, enteritis, dysentary, skin diseases, pruritis, and eczema. Research showed the decoction sterilized cultures of colibacilla and Eberth's bacilla (responsible for typhoid).
A tea of the root was used by Native Americans as an antispasmodic for cramps, hiccups, colic, cholera morbus, epilepsy and hysterics; this tea was also used by Native American women to ease childbirth during labor (a handful of fresh or dry root was added to 1 cup of water, then infused for 10 to 15 minutes; to one half cup of the infusion, enough hot water was added to make 1 cup; it was taken, then repeated every 10 minutes until a positive effect was noticed). Berries were used for scurvy, diarrhea, dropsy, and bilious fevers.
The Chippewa dried the low bush blueberries and placed them on hot stones; the fumes were inhaled to drive out madness. The Flambeau Ojibwe used the leaves as a medicinal tea and blood purifier. The root bark of the Downy Blueberry (V. myrtilloides) was used by the Forest Potawatomi as a medicine.

DOSE: TRADITIONAL FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY
!All others purchase commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!.
TINCTURE = place 3 to 5 oz. of berries in a 1 quart jar; fill jar, covering berries, with vodka or brandy; steep 3 weeks, shaking daily; taken 10 to 30 drops on a sugar cube with a second dose 8 to 10 hours later.

CULINARY:
Used in many ways both fresh and frozen. Baked goods, jams, jellies, pies, vinegars, wines.
The Native Americans of the Lake Huron region boiled dough to make it easier to whip, then added dried berries (blueberry or raspberry) and pieces of suet (when available), then moistened the batter with warm water and shaped into cakes which they baked.
The Iroquois mashed blueberries fresh, then made them into cakes and placed them on basswood leaves to dry, or else cooked them to preserve them; they were stored in elm bark boxes or baskets; to use, they were rehydrated by soaking the cakes in warm water, then cooking as a sauce or mixing with bread. These cakes along with dried berries were also used as trail food by their hunters.
The Chippewa often combined the dried berries with moose fat and/or deer tallow.
The Menomini dried the berries along with sweet corn then ate them sweetened with maple sugar as a special dish.
The Flambeau Ojibwe cooked the berries with wild rice and venison, and also made a sweet bread with them.
The Forest Potawatomi, when gathering berries of the Downy Blueberry, lined their pails with sweet fern to retard spoilage.
The Tete de Boule preserved blueberries for winter use by simmering into a paste (10 hours or longer) which could be kept for up to 2 years.
ALSO SEE: Cooking with Herbs and Wild Foods.

CRAFTS:
Leaves are high in tannins and were once used to tan leather.

DYE:
Berries are used and produce a grayish-blue tone.



RECIPES
(Also see Cooking with Herbs and Wild Foods)

BLUEBERRY VINEGAR

2 to 2½ cups fresh berries, lightly mashed
2 Tbsp sugar or honey
2 C. white wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients in top of double boiler; place over boiling water, uncovered, for 10 minutes; place in large jar and store for 3 weeks; strain, pressing on berries to remove all juices; if cloudy, run through coffee filter; bottle.

BLUEBERRY VINEGAR CANDY
2 Tbsp butter (plus some to grease pan)
2 C. sugar
1/2 C. Blueberry vinegar

Grease large pan or cookie sheet; melt butter in saucepan, then add sugar and vinegar; stir over medium heat til sugar is dissolved, then turn the heat up a bit and boil gently, stirring frequently, til the mixture reaches 300 degrees F.; pour onto pan or cookie sheet; when semi-set, score with a knife to allow breakage into proper sized smallish pieces.





©2000 & 2004 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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