Scientific: Vaccinium myrtillus [WikiPedia]
Composition: Bilberry contains chemicals called tannins
Appearance: Bilberry is a plant. The dried, ripe fruit and leaves are used to make medicine. The bilberry bush is a relative of the blueberry and is native to many areas, including the Rocky Mountains and regions of Europe and Asia.
Parts Used: Fruit and leaves
Common Uses: Bilberry suggested uses include for chest pain (angina), hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), circulatory problems, degenerative retinal conditions, diarrhea, mouth/throat inflammation (topical), retinopathy, and varicose veins. Clinical studies show bilberry is effective for diarrhea and retinopathy. Bilberry is available under the following different brand and other names: airelle, black whortles, burren myrtle, dyeberry, huckleberry, hurtleberry, myrtilli fructus, trackleberry, Vaccinium myrtillus, whortleberry, and wineberry. Of interest to veterinarians is relatively new research into bilberry’s effects on circulation. The flavonoids in bilberry have long been known to improve circulation, presumably by reducing capillary fragility. Bilberry has been used in humans to improve retinal blood flow and to treat peripheral circulation disorders such as bruising and varicosities (e.g. varicose veins). More recently, it was found that the flavonoids strongly inhibit the formation of hemangioma (benign tumors), resulting in a reduction of tumor size by about 50 percent in one human study. These results suggest bilberry extract may hold promise in treating vascular (blood vessel) tumors in dogs, such as hemangiosarcoma. An anti-neoplastic (i.e. anti-tumor) effect against other cell types has also been demonstrated, due in part to bilberry’s content of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are a powerful antioxidant that play a significant role in inhibiting tumor formation due to their ability to reduce free radicals which might otherwise damage DNA and promote tumor formation.
Bilberry is unlikely to be effective for progressive retinal atrophy (PRA or deterioration of the blood vessel and nerve-rich back of the eye) in dogs, since the problem does not arise from poor blood flow (instead, PRA creates poor blood flow). While it hasn’t been proven yet, bilberry may be of far more benefit for dogs in the treatment of hemangiosarcoma (blood vessel cancer). Bilberry can be expected to benefit any condition that would benefit from antioxidant therapy, given bilberry’s content of potent flavonoids.
Topic Specific Research:
PLEASE NOTE that herbal and other natural products can harm your animals – not all plants are safe and gentle! Do not attempt using any of the ingredients listed, or any other plant matter, without the guidance of a qualified herbalist.