Bilberry Side Effects

Fresh Bilberries

You might be wondering if bilberry is the right herb for you when considering some of the risks of bilberry side effects. Generally, bilberry has no known adverse side effects when taken in moderate doses, aside from certain preexisting medical conditions. However, there are few, if any, research studies on the side effects of bilberry; thus, it is better to err on the side of caution regarding some of the potential adverse effects known about bilberry. As with any herbal preparation or allopathic medication, always consult with your health care provider if you have any doubts.

What Is Bilberry?

Bilberry, also known botanically as Vaccinium myrtillus, is a small perennial shrub bearing dark-blue to black wrinkled berries closely related to cranberries, huckleberries and blueberries. The herb grows wild in western Asia, Europe and western regions of North America.

Bilberries are often used in jams, pies and juices, traditional herbal remedies and over-the-counter supplements as a remedial measure for an assortment of bodily ailments, such as cataracts. The parts of the plant used for its medicinal properties are the berries, fresh or dried, along with the leaves. The leaves are additionally used to make bilberry recipes for herbal tea. Bilberry is normally taken orally as a tea, liquid supplement, capsule, extract or tincture.

Other Known Names for Bilberry

  • Airelle
  • Blaeberry
  • Bog bilberries
  • Burren myrtle
  • European blueberries
  • Hurtleberries
  • Whinberry
  • Wineberries
  • Whortleberries

What Is Bilberry Used For?

Since the Middle Ages, the leaves and berries of this medicinal herb have been used to remedy a plethora of common ailments:

  • Macular degeneration
  • Night blindness
  • Cataracts
  • Microcirculation diseases
  • Varicose veins
  • Blood thinner
  • Arthritis
  • Gout
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Diarrhea and indigestion
  • Kidney stones
  • Urinary infections
  • Oral inflammation
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Anticancer properties

Mild Bilberry Side Effects

A few reports of mild to moderate side effects have been linked to the use of bilberry. Some minor side effects are known to occur, but are rare. If any of these side effects should occur, either cut down on your dosage or stop taking the herb immediately:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Digestive distress
  • Drowsiness
  • Skin rashes

Other Bilberry Side Effects

While there is yet sufficient research about the potential side effects of bilberry, there are still some possible risks to consider before taking bilberry. If you take medications or herbal supplements, talk to your health provider. Drug interactions are a common concern with bilberry side effects because this herb may increase the effects of certain medications. Those who take medications or herbs to thin the blood, or to lower blood sugar or blood pressure should not take bilberry supplements.

Interactions with Anticoagulants

Bilberry's active ingredients include anthocyanosides: A natural anticoagulant with the capability of dissolving blood clots, thinning the blood and increasing the flow of blood. Due to its antiplatelet activities, bilberry may have an adverse reaction with NSAID's, such as aspirin. If you are on anticoagulant medications, you should not take bilberry without first talking to your doctor.

Interactions with Antidiabetes Drugs and Herbs

The leaves of the bilberry plant are believed to treat diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels. While there is yet conclusive research about the effects of bilberry on diabetes, it is believed doses of bilberry along with antidiabetes medication could make the effects of the drug stronger. It may also cause hypoglycemia when taken with herbs known to reduce blood sugar levels, such as devils' claw, garlic or ginseng.

Interactions with Chromium

Bilberry may increase the risk of developing chromium poisoning when taken with other chromium-rich herbs, such as brewer's yeast or horsetail.

Who Else Should Avoid Bilberry?

It is not known how bilberry may affect young children or infants until sufficient research is undertaken. If any of the following applies to you, either avoid taking bilberry altogether, or consult with a health care provider as a precautionary measure:

  • Pregnant
  • Breast feeding
  • Young children
  • Other known allergies
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