Vaccinium myrtillus

Also known as black whortleberry, blueberry, burren myrtle, dyeberry, huckleberry, hurtleberry, whinberry, whortleberry and wineberry. Bilberry is a perennial shrub which grows in northern USA, and in woods and forest meadows of Europe. The plant has a green, branched stem which grows from creeping roots, and can reach heights of between 1 to 1 1/2 feet. The leaves are slightly serrated, and are a dark, shiny green on top. In May and June, pink or red and white flowers bloom. These have a pitcher-shaped corolla. The fruit of this plant is blue-black in colour (or sometimes red), and is a 5-seeded berry. Although the bilberry is commonly called a huckleberry, it is more closely related to the cranberry.

The leaves and berries of the bilberry plant are antiseptic and astringent. It is often used to treat diarrhea, with interesting results. The leaves may be safely used as a remedy, but the berries need to be experimented with, as they cause diarrhea in some individuals, and stop it in others!! The dried berries have a strong astringent property, and can be taken alone, or with apple powder. The berries actually pass through the stomach without affecting it, and begin to work when they reach the small intestine. Typhoid fever is sometimes treated with a decoction of the berries, and the fresh juice makes a good mouthwash or gargle for respiratory catarrhal problems. Inflamed gums and leucoplasia can be remedied by keeping a mouthful of bilberry juice in the mouth for a few minutes. Consumption of fresh berries has been known to regulate bowel action, stimulate appetite, end intestinal putrefaction, and expel ascarids. A tea made from the leaves is useful for coughs, vomiting, stomach cramps and catarrhal enteritis, and when used as a wash, can help skin problems and burns. If used over long periods of time, the leaves can produce symptoms of poisoning.

Bil"ber*ry (?), n.; pl. Bilberries (). [Cf. Dan. bollebaer bilberry, where bolle is perh. akin to E. ball.]

1. Bot.

The European whortleberry (Vaccinium myrtillus); also, its edible bluish black fruit.

There pinch the maids as blue as bilberry. Shak.

2. Bot. Any similar plant or its fruit; esp., in America, the species Vaccinium myrtilloides, V. caespitosum and V. uliginosum.


© Webster 1913.

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