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Parts Used & Where Grown
Blueberry is closely related to the European bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). Several species of blueberries exist—including V. pallidum and V. corymbosum —and grow throughout the United States. Blueberry leaves are the primary part of the plant used medicinally. However, the berries are occasionally used.
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3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Common Cold and Sore Throat
Refer to label instructions
Blueberry leaves contain astringent tannins that are helpful for soothing sore throats.
Refer to label instructions
Blueberry is an astringent herb traditionally used to treat diarrhea.
Astringent herbs traditionally used for diarrhea include blackberry leaves, blackberry root bark, blueberry leaves, and red raspberry leaves.3 Raspberry leaves are high in tannins and, like blackberry, may relieve acute diarrhea. A close cousin of the blueberry, bilberry, has been used traditionally in Germany for adults and children with diarrhea.4 Only dried berries or juice should be used—fresh berries may worsen diarrhea.
Cranesbill has been used by several of the indigenous tribes of North America to treat diarrhea. The tannins in cranesbill likely account for the anti-diarrheal activity5—although there has been little scientific research to clarify cranesbill’s constituents and actions.
Urinary Tract Infection
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Blueberry may help prevent and treat UTIs by keeping bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract.
Blueberry contains similar constituents as cranberry, and might also prevent bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary bladder.6 However, studies have not yet been done to determine if blueberry can help prevent bladder infections.
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis), birch (Betula spp.), couch grass (Agropyron repens), goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea), horsetail, Java tea (Orthosiphon stamineus), lovage (Levisticum officinale), parsley (Petroselinum crispum), spiny restharrow (Ononis spinosa), and nettle are approved in Germany as part of the therapy of people with UTIs. These herbs appear to work by increasing urinary volume and supposedly helping to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.7 Juniper is used in a similar fashion by many doctors. Generally, these plants are taken as tea.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
How It Works
How It Works
Tannins make up as much as 10% of blueberry leaves. The astringent nature of tannins likely accounts for the usefulness of blueberry leaf in treating diarrhea.8 The astringent effect may also be soothing for sore throats.9 Bilberry, blueberry’s European cousin, is used primarily for maintaining blood vessels, particularly those in the eyes. Some preliminary evidence indicates that anthocyanosides, the bioflavonoid complex common to bilberrry and blueberry may help people with diabetes, particularly if they have damage to the retina (retinopathy). However, these studies are primarily based on a standardized extract from bilberry fruit.10
How to Use It
A tea is prepared by combining 1 cup (250 ml) boiling water and 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 grams) of dried leaves and steeping for 15 minutes. As many as 6 cups (1,500 ml) each day may be taken for diarrhea and 3 cups (750 ml) each day for diabetes. Alternatively, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of tincture can also be used three times per day.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Interactions with Medicines
If the tea does not significantly reduce diarrhea within two to three days, consult with a healthcare practitioner. Fresh (but not dried) berries tend to be laxative and should be avoided in cases of diarrhea.11
1. Tilford GL. Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1997, 80-1.
2. Schilcher H. Phytotherapy in Paediatrics. Stuttgart, Germany: Medpharm Scientific Publishers, 1997, 126-7.
3. Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 51-4.
4. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, 1988, 101-2.
5. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 209.
6. Ofek I, Goldhar J, Zafriri D, et al. Anti-Escherichia coli adhesin activity of cranberry and blueberry juices. New Engl J Med 1991;324:1599 [letter].
7. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 428.
8. Tyler V. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 52-4.
9. Schilcher H. Phytotherapy in Paediatrics. Stuttgart, Germany: Medpharm Scientific Publishers, 1997, 126-7.
10. Passariello N, Bisesti V, Sgambato S. Influence of anthocyanosides on the microcirculation and lipid picture in diabetic and dyslipic subjects. Gazz Med Ital 1979;138:563-6.
11. Tyler V. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 52-4.
Last Review: 01-20-2015
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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2016.