Herb: Bilberry


Latin name: Vaccinium myrtillus


Family: Ericaceae (Heath Family)



Medicinal use of Bilberry:

The dried leaves of bilberries are used in the treatment of a variety of complaints. These leaves should be harvested in early autumn, only green leaves being selected, and then dried in gentle heat. The leaves should not be used medicinally for more than 3 weeks at a time. A tea made from the dried leaves is strongly astringent, diuretic, tonic and an antiseptic for the urinary tract. It is also a remedy for diabetes if taken for a prolonged period. Another report says that the leaves can be helpful in pre-diabetic states but that they are not an alternative to conventional treatment. The leaves contain glucoquinones, which reduce the levels of sugar in the blood. A decoction of the leaves or bark is applied locally in the treatment of ulcers and in ulceration of the mouth and throat. A distilled water made from the leaves is an excellent eyewash for soothing inflamed or sore eyes. Whilst the fresh fruit has a slightly laxative effect upon the body, when dried it is astringent and is commonly used in the treatment of diarrhoea etc. The dried fruit is also antibacterial and a decoction is useful for treating diarrhoea in children. The skin of the fruits contains anthocyanin and is specific in the treatment of hemeralopia (day-blindness). The fruit is a rich source of anthocyanosides, which have been shown experimentally to dilate the blood vessels, this makes it a potentially valuable treatment for varicose veins, haemorrhoids and capillary fragility.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Deciduous
Shrub

Height:
20 cm
(7 3/4 inch)

Flovering:
April
to June

Habitat of the herb:

Heaths, moors and woods on acid soils to 1250 metres.

Edible parts of Bilberry:

Fruit - raw or cooked. Sweet and very tasty, they make an excellent preserve, their small seeds making them suitable for jam. A slightly acid flavour when eaten raw. The fruit can be dried and used like currants. The fruit is up to 10mm in diameter. A tea is made from the leaves.

Other uses of the herb:

A green dye is obtained from the leaves and the fruit and is used to colour fabrics. A blue or black dye is obtained from the fruit. This can be used as an ink.

Propagation of Bilberry:

Seed - sow late winter in a greenhouse in a lime-free potting mix and only just cover the seed. Stored seed might require a period of up to 3 months cold stratification. Another report says that it is best to sow the seed in a greenhouse as soon as it is ripe. Once they are about 5cm tall, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, August in a frame. Slow and difficult. Cuttings of mature wood in late autumn. Layering in late summer or early autumn. Another report says that spring is the best time to layer. Takes 18 months. Division of suckers in spring or early autumn.

Cultivation of the herb:

Heaths, moors and woods on acid soils to 1250 metres.

Known hazards of Vaccinium myrtillus:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.