History

Vaccinium myrtillus L. (Ericaceae) is a shrub found in the mountains of Europe and North America (1). It is related to the North America's blueberry and huckleberry (2). The shrub produces a blue-black or purple berry with purple meat from July through September, depending on the elevation (3). This berry is the part of the plant of interest. In addition to its use as a food, it was documented as being used to treat kidney stones, biliary problems, scurvy, coughs, and tuberculosis in the 1500s (3). It has also been used to make a traditional tea to treat diabetes, and purportedly has a hypoglycemic effect (1). Little is known about bilberry's active constituents and their pharmacology (1), although it has been studied since at least 1964 for ophthalmological and vascular disorders (4). Most of these studies were performed in Europe, and many are published in non-English or obscure journals. Stories of British Royal Air Force pilots eating bilberry jam during World War II to improve their night vision may have prompted some of these studies (2).

From Forensic Science and Medicine:

Herbal Products: Toxicology and Clinical Pharmacology, Second Edition

Edited by: T. S. Tracy and R. L. Kingston © Humana Press Inc., Totowa, NJ

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