Vaccinium myrtillus L.

Last updated: 17 Aug 2016

Scientific Name

Vaccinium myrtillus L.  

Synonyms

Vaccinium oreophilum Rydb., Vitis-idaea myrtillus (L.) Moench [1]

Vernacular Name

English Bilberry, blueberry, blueberry, European bluberies, Slovenian bilberries, whortleberry [2], burren myrtle, dyeberry, huckleberry, hurtleberry, wineberry, black, whortles, hurts, bleaberry, airelle, trackleberry [3]
China Hei guo yue ju [2].

Geographical Distributions

Vaccinium myrtillus is naturally distributed in Central and Northern Europe, Asia, and North America. [3]

Botanical Description

V. myrtillus is a member of the Ericaceae family [1]. It is a deciduous, dwarf shrub, and green branches measures up to 15-50 cm high. [3]

The leaves are alternate, ernate, ovate or oblong-ovate, acuminate, and finely serrate. [3]

The flowers are axillary and solitary, measure 4-7 mm long, short-pedicled, grenish, and tinged with pale pink. [3]

The fruit is a globular, blue-black, frosted, many-seeded berry with purple pulp. [3]

Cultivation

No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

No documentation.

Plant Part Used

Leaves, fruits. [3]

Traditional Use

V. myrtillus or bilberry is one of the most popular herbs on the market. During World War II when British air pilots ate bilberries, they reported an improved ability to adjust to glare and an increase in their visual acuity and nighttime vision. [4] 

Preclinical Data

Pharmacology

Anti-inflammatory activity

Anthocyanins extracted from V. myrtillus have demonstrated vasoprotective and antiinflammatory properties in laboratory animals [5]V. myrtillus is claimed to exert a collagen stabilizing activity. Collagen is responsible for the integrity of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. In conditions such as arthritis, where the connective tissue is attacked and vascularized, anthocyanosides may be helpful. The plant has been reported can strengthen the cross-linking of the collagen matrix and stimulates the production of collagen and mucopolysaccharides [6] V. myrtillus compounds reportedly inhibit mediators of inflammation such as histamine, protease, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins [7]. Anthocyanosides may also decrease capillary permeability [8]. This is of particular importance because of the heightened integrity, which occurs at the blood/brain barrier. By strengthening collagen, brain capillary integrity can be improved, as well as a reduction in infiltration by potential toxins. In addition, V. myrtillus has the ability to stimulate gastric mucus production, which may be of value for those on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [9].

Antioxidant activity

V. myrtillus is reported to be a powerful antioxidant [7]. Berry anthocyanins antioxidant trigger genetic signaling in promoting human health and disease prevention [10].  

V. myrtillus extract was found in a laboratory animal study to decrease plasma ALT levels in stress-induced liver damage [11]. The extracts also increased glutathione (GSH) and vitamin C levels and significantly decreased MDA and nitric oxide (NO) levels in the liver tissue, suggesting V. myrtillus extract plays an important role in antioxidant protection against restraint stress-induced liver damage by both scavenging free radical activity and inhibiting lipid peroxidation. Laboratory animal studies have also reported that V. myrtillus extracts may decrease oxidative stress markers in the brain, along with altering dopamine neurotransmitter levels, suggesting V. myrtillus potential  usefulness for the treatment of cerebral disorders related to oxidative stress [12][13]. The antioxidant effects of V. myrtillus have also been reported in a laboratory study to have nephroprotective effects, normalizing serum BUN and creatinine to normal levels and decreased kidney malondialdehyde (MDA), nitric oxide (NO), and xanthine oxidase (XOD) levels [14].

Literature reviews have indicated that V. myrtillus may also have a potential beneficial role in treating chronic fatigue syndrome which caused by oxidative stress. [15]

Eye health activity

A laboratory study found that V. myrtillus extract may be beneficial for the physiological renewal and homeostasis of corneal epithelial cells [16]. An in vitro study found that V. myrtillus extract significantly reduced UVA-stimulated ROS formation in keratinocytes., along with preventing or reducing UVA-caused lipid peroxidation and depletion of intracellular glutathione [17]. Another study reported that V. myrtillus extract significantly inhibited SIN-1-induced neurotoxicity and free radical activation when given intravenously, supporting the antioxidative mechanism of V. myrtillus in retinal diseases [18]. V. myrtillus also was found to be effective against retinal diseases involving angiogenesis [19].

Cardiovascular activity

Flavonoids including anthocyanosides from V. myrtillus have been reported to be effective against cardiovascular disease, including vascular health and cholesterol balance [20][21]. The anthocyanosides of V. myrtillus are also reported effective in promoting and enhancing arteriolar rhythmic diameter changes, which play a role in the redistribution of microvascular blood flow and interstitial fluid formation [22]. A study also found that V. myrtillus exerts ACE inhibiting effects [23].

V. myrtillus leaf extract may also be effective in helping control blood cholesterol levels. One in-vitro study reported the antioxidative potential of this extract on human LDL cholesterol [24]. The results demonstrated that V. myrtillus leaf may exert a protective action on LDL cholesterol particles during in vitro copper-mediated oxidation. An animal study in rats reported that a V. myrtillus leaf extract decreased plasma triglycerides by 39% following treatment, claiming that V. myrtillus leaf extract is comparable to ciprofibrate in lowering triglycerides. Both agents reduced triglyceride levels of rats on hyperlipidemic diets in a dose-dependent fashion. Unlike ciprofibrate, V. myrtillus leaf failed to prevent a rise in plasma triglycerides elicited by fructose and did not affect free fatty acid levels [25].

Anthocyanosides reportedly inhibit platelet aggregation. Platelet aggregation tendencies relate to atherosclerotic and blood clotting tendencies. [26]

Anticancer activity

V. myrtillus can induce cancer cell apoptosis [27]. Research has also reported that the proanthocyanidins isolated from V. myrtillus have exhibited anti-carcinogenic activity in- vitro [28][29]. V. myrtillus extract was also found in a laboratory study to have protective potential against the antineoplastic drug 5-fluorouricil (5-FU)-induced myelotoxiciy and/or the ability to enhance the chemotherapeutic effectiveness of 5-FU [30].

Antidiabetic activity

A laboratory study found that V. myrtillus extract activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) leading to a significant reduction in blood glucose concentration and enhancing insulin sensitivity. [31]

Toxicity

No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Eye health activity

With age, oxidative stress due to free radicals increases in some people more than in others. This damage to ocular tissues may lead to various eye pathologies. If it improves the oxygenation of tissue, V. myrtillus may show promise in the areas of prevention for diabetic retinopathy, minimizing the advance of macular degeneration, and arresting cataract progression [32][33]. A human study of V. myrtillus activity on night visual acuity and contrast sensitivity reported that 160 mg 3 times daily (containing 25% anthocyanosides per dose) did not improve this condition when compared to placebo [34].

Anti-inflammatory activity

A small clinical study found that supplementation with V. myrtillus juice resulted in significant decreases in plasma concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin (IL)-6, IL-15, and monokine induced by INF-gamma (MIG). However, the study also reported an increase in the plasma concentration of tumor nuclear factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). [35]

Anticancer activity

A small clinical study found that V. myrtillus anthocyanins decreased tumour growth in patients with colorectal cancer. [36]

Precautions

No documentation.

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation.

Interaction with drug

Anticoagulant medications

Studies have reported that Bilberry affects the blood's clotting ability and may alter the effects of these medications and possibly the dose needed for treatment. Use with caution. [7]

These drugs include warfarin, heparin, dalteparin, tinzaparin, enoxaparin, danaparoid sodium, antithrombin III, lipirudin, argatroban, bivalirudin.

Antiplatelet medications

Studies have reported that Bilberry affects the blood's clotting ability and may alter the effects of these medications and possibly the dose needed for treatment. Use with caution. [7]

These drugs include aspirin, dipyridamole, anagrelide, cilostazol, clopidogrel, ticlopidine, abciximab, tirofiban, eptifibatide

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.

Contraindications

No documentation.

Dosage

Dosage Range

Tea: 1 cup, 2 to 3 times daily with 1 gram of bilberry leaf herb per cup. [3]

Most Common Dosage

No documentation.

Standardisation

No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.

References

  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Vaccinium myrtillus L.[homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Aug 10]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2457648
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume V R-Z. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 699.
  3. PDR for Herbal Medicines, 2nd ed. Montvale, New Jersey: Medical Economics Company, 2000; p. 77.
  4. Jayle GE, Aubry M, Gavini H, Braccini G, De la Baume C. Study concerning the action of anthocyanoside extracts of Vaccinium myrtillus on night vision. Ann Ocul. Paris. 1965;198(6):556-562. French.
  5. Lietti A, Cristoni A, Picci M. Studies on Vaccinium myrtillus anthocyanosides. I. Vasoprotective and antiinflammatory activity. Arzneimittelforschung. 1976;26(5):829-832.
  6. Jonadet M, Meunier MT, Bastide J, Bastide P. Anthocyanosides extracted from Vitis vinifera, Vaccinium myrtillus and Pinus maritimus, I. Elastase-inhibiting activities in vitro, ii. compared angioprotective activities in vivo. J Pharm Belg. 1983;38(1):41-46.
  7. Morazonni P, Bombardelli E. Vaccinium myrtillus L. Fitoterapia. 1996;67(1):3-29.
  8. Detre Z, Jellinek H, Miskulin M, Robert AM. Studies on vascular permeability in hypertension: Action of anthocyanoside. Clin Physiol Biochem. 1986;4(2):143-149.
  9. Wichtl M, editor. Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers, 1994; p. 351-352.
  10. Zafra-Stone S, Yasmin T, Bagchi M, Chatterjee A, Vinson JA, Bagchi D. Berry anthocyanins as novel antioxidants in human health and disease prevention. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007;51(6):675-683.
  11. Bao L, Yao XS, Yau CC, et al. Protective effects of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) extract on restraint stress-induced liver damage in mice. J Agric Food Chem. 2008;56(17):7803-7807.
  12. Yao Y, Vieira A. Protective activities of Vaccinium antioxidants with potential relevance to mitochondrial dysfunction and neurotoxicity. Neurotoxicology. 2007;28(1):93-100.
  13. Rahman MM, Ichiyanagi T, Komiyama T, Sato S, Konishi T. Effects of anthocyanins on psychological stress-induced oxidative stress and neurotransmitter statusJ Agric Food Chem. 2008;56(16):7545-7550.
  14. Bao L, Yao XS, Tsi D, Yau CC, Chia CS, Nagai H, Kurihara H. Protective effects of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) extract on KBrO3-induced kidney damage in mice. J Agric Food Chem. 2008;56(2):420-425.
  15. Logan AC, Wong C. Chronic fatigue syndrome: oxidative stress and dietary modifications. Altern Med Rev. 2001;6(5):450-459.
  16. Song J, Li Y, Ge J, et al. Protective effect of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) extracts on cultured human corneal limbal epithelial cells (HCLEC). Phytother Res. 2010;24(4):520-524.
  17. Svobodová A, Rambousková J, Walterová D, Vostalová J. Bilberry extract reduces UVA-induced oxidative stress in HaCaT keratinocytes: a pilot study. Biofactors. 2008;33(4):249-266.
  18. Matsunaga N, Imai S, Inokuchi Y, et al. Bilberry and its main constituents have neuroprotective effects against retinal neuronal damage in vitro and in vivo. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2009;53(7):869-877.
  19. Matsunaga N, Chikaraishi Y, Shimazawa M, Yokota S, Hara H. Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) extracts reduce angiogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2007;7(1):47-56.
  20. Cohen-Boulakia F, Valensi PE, Boulahdour H, et al. In vivo sequential study of skeletal muscle capillary permeability in diabetic rats: effect of Anthocyanosides. Metabolism. 2000;49(7):880-885.
  21. Mauray A, Milenkovic D, Besson C, et al. Atheroprotective effects of bilberry extracts in apo e-deficient mice. J Agric Food Chem. 2009;57(23):11106-11111.
  22. Colantuoni A, Bertuglia S, Magistretti MJ, et al. Effects of Vaccinium myrtillus anthocyanosides on arterial vasomotion. Arzneimittelforschung. 1991;41(9):905-909.
  23. Persson IA, Persson K, Andersson RG. Effect of Vaccinium myrtillus and its polyphenols on angiotensin-converting enzyme activity in human endothelial cells. J Agric Food Chem. 2009;57(11):4626-4629.
  24. Laplaud PM, Lelubre A, Chapman MJ. Antioxidant action of Vaccinium myrtillus extract on human low density lipoproteins in vitro: initial observations. Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 1997;11(1):35-40.
  25. Cignarella A, Nastasi M, Cavalli E, et al. Novel lipid-lowering properties of Vaccinium myrtillus L. leaves, a traditional antidiabetic treatment, in several models of rat dyslipidaemia: a comparison with ciprofibrate. Thromb Res. 1996;84(5):311-322.
  26. Bottecchia D, et al. Vaccinium myrtillus. Fitoterapia. 1977;48:3-8.
  27. Katsube N, Iwashita K, Tsushida T, Yamaki K, Kobori M. Induction of apoptosis in cancer cells by bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and the anthocyanins. J Agric Food Chem. 2003;51(1):68-75.
  28. Bomser J, Madhavi DL, Singletary K, et al. In vitro anticancer activity of fruit extracts from vaccinium species. Planta Med. 1996;62(3):212-216.
  29. Seeger PG. The anthocyans of Beta vulgaris var. rubra (red beets), Vaccinium myrtillis (whortleberries), Vinum rubrum (red wine) and their significance as cell respiratory activators for cancer prophylaxis and cancer therapy. Arztl Forsch. 1967;21(2):68-78. German.
  30. Choi EH, Ok HE, Yoon Y, Magnuson BA, Kim MK, Chun HS. Protective effect of anthocyanin-rich extract from bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) against myelotoxicity induced by 5-fluorouracil. Biofactors. 2007;29(1):55-65.
  31. Takikawa M, Inoue S, Horio F, Tsuda T. Dietary anthocyanin-rich bilberry extract ameliorates hyperglycemia and insulin sensitivity via activation of AMP-activated protein kinase in diabetic mice. J Nutr. 2010;140(3):527-533.
  32. Bonanni R, Molinelli G. [Clinical study of the action of myrtillin alone or associated with betacarotene on normal subjects and on patients with degenerative changes of the fundus oculi]. Atti Accad Fisiocrit Siena. 1968;17(2):1470-1488. Italian.
  33. Varma SD, Mizuno A, Kinoshita JH. Diabetic cataracts and flavonoids. Science. 1977;195(4274):205-206.
  34. Muth ER, Laurent JM, Jasper P. The effect of bilberry nutritional supplementation on night visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. Altern Med Rev. 2000;5(2):164-173.
  35. Karlsen A, Paur I, Bøhn SK, et al. Bilberry juice modulates plasma concentration of NF-kappaB related inflammatory markers in subjects at increased risk of CVD. Eur J Nutr. 2010;49(6):345-355.
  36. Thomasset S, Berry DP, Cai H, et al. Pilot study of oral anthocyanins for colorectal cancer chemoprevention. Cancer Prev Res. 2009;2(7):625-633.