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Blueberry

Blueberry (Vaccinium spp.)

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • 3,4-Caffeoylquinic (chlorogenic) acid, anthocyanins (cyanidin-3-O-beta-arabinose, cyanidin-3-O-beta-galactoside, cyanidin-3-O-beta-glucoside, delphinidin-3-O-beta galactoside, malvidin-3-O-beta-arabinose, malvidin-3-O-beta-galactoside, malvidin-3-O-beta-glucoside, and peonidin-3-O-beta-arabinose), Blue Ridge blueberry, bluecrop, blueray, Brightblue, Brightwell, Canadian blueberry, Cape Fear, carotenoids (zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, lutein, and cryptoxanthin), Caucasian blueberry, Chai Cherniki, chlorogenic acid, cinnamic acids, cultivated blueberry, cyanidin, cyanidin-3-rutinoside, Cyanococcus, delphinidin-3-arabinoside, delphinidin-3-galactoside, delphinidin-3-glucoside, diabetic tea, ellagic acid, flavan-3-ol monomer (+)-catechin, flavan-3-ol monomer (-)-epicatechin, Friendship, Gulf Coast blueberry, half-high, highbush blueberry, high-bush blueberry, iron, Jersey blueberry, lowbush blueberry, low-bush blueberry, malvidin-3-arabinoside, methoxyl pectin, myricetin-3-arabinoside, myrtillin, Northblue, northern highbush, Northland, O’Neal, ortho-benzoyloxyphenyl acetic acid ester, patriot blueberry, peonidin, phenolics (anthocyanins, flavonols, flavanols, ellagitannins, gallotannins, proanthocyanidins, and phenolic acids), phenylalanine ammonia-lyase, petunidin-3-galactoside, petunidin-3-glucoside, piceatannol, Polaris, Powderblue, proanthocyanidins, procyanidin, pterostilbene, quercetin-3-arabinoside, quercetin-3-glucoside, rabbit-eye blueberry, raisin-type lowbush blueberry, resveratrol, southern highbush, Star, stilbenes, Tifblue, Top Hat, triterpenoids (ursolic acid and its esters), V. angustifolium, V. angustifolium Ait., V. boreale, V. caesariense, V. corymbosum, V. darrowii, V. elliottii, V. formosum, V. fuscatum, V. hirsutum, V. koreanum, V. myrsinite, V. myrtilloides, V. pallidum, V. simulatum, V. tenellum, V. virgatum, vaccihein A, Vaccinium, Vaccinium arctostaphylos, Vaccinium ashei, velvet leaf blueberry, wild blueberry.
  • Note: The family Ericaceae contains the genus Vaccinium, which includes a section called Cyanococcus, composed of several species of blueberries. Other species of Vaccinium, however, are not included in the section Cyanococcus. They include cranberries, huckleberries, bilberries, and deerberries.
  • Selected combination products: Blueberin™ (blueberry extract, chlorogenic acid, myristic acid), BlueBerry, Maxim01 Solutions®, OptiBerry®, Radical Fruits®, TrueBlue®, Evelle.

Background

  • Blueberries are native to North America but are now grown around the world. Native Americans ate blueberries, and by drying them in the sun and sometimes pulverizing them, they were able to use them throughout the year. In addition to the fruit, blueberry roots and leaves were also used in teas, particularly to help women relax during childbirth. Native Americans introduced Europeans to this fruit.
  • Blueberries have high antioxidant levels due to the presence of anthocyanins, which are the pigments many plants produce to attract the birds and insects necessary for pollination. Lowbush (wild) blueberries have higher levels of certain antioxidant compounds than highbush varieties.
  • In addition to antioxidant properties, limited research suggests that blueberries may also provide anti-inflammatory effects and help maintain the health of the brain. Also, according to limited studies, Blueberin™, which contains extract from blueberry plants and components from bayberry, as well as a combination of blueberry and sea buckthorn, may help manage diabetes. At this time, however, there is a lack of human evidence in support of any clinical use of blueberries. Further research is required.

Scientific Evidence

Uses

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

B Antioxidant

Results from preliminary studies suggest that consuming blueberries, including freeze-dried blueberries, increases antioxidants in the blood. However, the processing of blueberries into juices may degrade some of those properties, as similar results were not found in all studies. Further research is needed before conclusions can be drawn.

C Cardiovascular disease risk

The effect of blueberries on cardiovascular disease risk factors is not clear, due to a lack of well-designed studies. Further research is required.

C Diabetes

Limited research suggests that blueberries may be useful in lowering glucose (blood sugar) or modifying other factors associated with diabetes. However, blueberries may increase blood sugar levels. Further research is required before blueberry may be suggested for individuals with diabetes.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Aging, Alzheimer’s disease, anthelmintic (elimination of parasitic worms), antibacterial, anticarcinogenic (cancer treatment), antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antiviral, arthritis, astringent (causes shrinking of tissue), blood purifier, cancer, cataracts, childbirth, cholesterol levels, cognition (mental process), colon cancer, coughs, degenerative diseases, diabetic retinopathy (inflammation of the retina), diarrhea, diuretic (increases urine), dry skin, dysentery (diarrhea), dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), fevers, glaucoma (increased eye pressure), gout (joint inflammation), Helicobacter pylori infection, hemorrhoids, improved blood circulation, influenza (flu), ischemic stroke, kidney cleanser, laxative, macular degeneration (slow loss of vision), memory, nausea, neurodegenerative diseases (wasting away of nervous tissue), night vision, obesity, ocular disorders, osteoporosis, prostate cancer, skin aging, urinary tract infection, varicose veins.

Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

  • In general, blueberries are widely eaten as a food; however, dosing information on the medicinal use of blueberries is limited.
  • For antioxidant uses, 189 grams of frozen, wild blueberries has been dissolved in 315 milliliters of water and given by mouth as a juice. One cup of blueberries has been given by mouth daily for 14 days. A supplement containing 100 grams of freeze-dried Vaccinium angustifolium (lowbush blueberries) has been given by mouth as a one-time dose. A single dose of 500 milliliters of blueberry juice has been given by mouth.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for blueberries in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in people with a known allergy or sensitivity to blueberry, its parts, or members of the Ericaceae family, which includes cranberries, bilberries, and Labrador tea. There is rare allergy or sensitivity to certain proteins found in blueberries that may cause immediate and long-term problems.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Generally, blueberries are considered safe to consume by nonallergic individuals in the amounts normally found in food.
  • Blueberries may affect blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Use blueberries cautiously in individuals taking antibiotic, anticholinergic (nerve signal-blocking), or antilipemic (lipid-lowering) drugs, herbs, or supplements.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is currently a lack of scientific evidence on the medicinal use of blueberries during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • Blueberries may affect blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. People taking insulin or drugs for diabetes by mouth should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Blueberries may interact with antibiotics, anticholinergic (nerve signal-blocking), and antilipemic (lipid-lowering) agents.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Blueberries may affect blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
  • Blueberries may affect herbs and dietary supplements that have antibacterial, anticholinergic (nerve signal-blocking), or antilipemic (lipid-lowering) properties.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Gebhardt, C., Vieths, S., Gubesch, M., Averbeck, M., Simon, J. C., and Treudler, R. 10 kDa lipid transfer protein: the main allergenic structure in a German patient with anaphylaxis to blueberry. Allergy 2009;64(3):498-499. View Abstract
  2. Hilliard, J. J., Krause, H. M., Bernstein, J. I., Fernandez, J. A., Nguyen, V., Ohemeng, K. A., and Barrett, J. F. A comparison of active site binding of 4-quinolones and novel flavone gyrase inhibitors to DNA gyrase. Adv Exp Med Biol 1995;390:59-69. View Abstract
  3. Joseph, J. A., Denisova, N. A., Arendash, G., Gordon, M., Diamond, D., Shukitt-Hale, B., and Morgan, D. Blueberry supplementation enhances signaling and prevents behavioral deficits in an Alzheimer disease model. Nutr Neurosci. 2003;6(3):153-162. View Abstract
  4. Joseph, J. A., Neuman, A., Bielinski, D. F., and Fisher, D. R. Blueberry antagonism of C-2 ceramide disruption of Ca2+ responses and recovery in MAChR-transfected COS-7 cell. J Alzheimers.Dis 2008;15(3):429-441. View Abstract
  5. Kalt, W., Ryan, D. A., Duy, J. C., Prior, R. L., Ehlenfeldt, M. K., and Vander Kloet, S. P. Interspecific variation in anthocyanins, phenolics, and antioxidant capacity among genotypes of highbush and lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium section cyanococcus spp.). J Agric.Food Chem 2001;49(10):4761-4767. View Abstract
  6. Kay, C. D. and Holub, B. J. The effect of wild blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) consumption on postprandial serum antioxidant status in human subjects. Br.J.Nutr. 2002;88(4):389-398. View Abstract
  7. Martineau, L. C., Couture, A., Spoor, D., Benhaddou-Andaloussi, A., Harris, C., Meddah, B., Leduc, C., Burt, A., Vuong, T., Mai, Le P., Prentki, M., Bennett, S. A., Arnason, J. T., and Haddad, P. S. Anti-diabetic properties of the Canadian lowbush blueberry Vaccinium angustifolium Ait. Phytomedicine. 2006;13(9-10):612-623. View Abstract
  8. Marzban, G., Mansfeld, A., Hemmer, W., Stoyanova, E., Katinger, H., and da Camara Machado, M. L. Fruit cross-reactive allergens: a theme of uprising interest for consumers’ health. Biofactors 2005;23(4):235-241. View Abstract
  9. Pedersen, C. B., Kyle, J., Jenkinson, A. M., Gardner, P. T., McPhail, D. B., and Duthie, G. G. Effects of blueberry and cranberry juice consumption on the plasma antioxidant capacity of healthy female volunteers. Eur.J.Clin.Nutr. 2000;54(5):405-408. View Abstract
  10. Prior, R. L., Gu, L., Wu, X., Jacob, R. A., Sotoudeh, G., Kader, A. A., and Cook, R. A. Plasma antioxidant capacity changes following a meal as a measure of the ability of a food to alter in vivo antioxidant status. J Am Coll Nutr 2007;26(2):170-181. View Abstract
  11. Puupponen-Pimia, R., Nohynek, L., Hartmann-Schmidlin, S., Kahkonen, M., Heinonen, M., Maatta-Riihinen, K., and Oksman-Caldentey, K. M. Berry phenolics selectively inhibit the growth of intestinal pathogens. J Appl Microbiol. 2005;98(4):991-1000. View Abstract
  12. Rimando, A. M., Nagmani, R., Feller, D. R., and Yokoyama, W. Pterostilbene, a new agonist for the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha-isoform, lowers plasma lipoproteins and cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic hamsters. J Agric.Food Chem 5-4-2005;53(9):3403-3407. View Abstract
  13. Shukitt-Hale, B., Lau, F. C., Carey, A. N., Galli, R. L., Spangler, E. L., Ingram, D. K., and Joseph, J. A. Blueberry polyphenols attenuate kainic acid-induced decrements in cognition and alter inflammatory gene expression in rat hippocampus. Nutr Neurosci. 2008;11(4):172-182. View Abstract
  14. Vuong, T., Martineau, L. C., Ramassamy, C., Matar, C., and Haddad, P. S. Fermented Canadian lowbush blueberry juice stimulates glucose uptake and AMP-activated protein kinase in insulin-sensitive cultured muscle cells and adipocytes. Can J Physiol Pharmacol 2007;85(9):956-965. View Abstract
  15. Zhu, Y., Bickford, P. C., Sanberg, P., Giunta, B., and Tan, J. Blueberry opposes beta-amyloid peptide-induced microglial activation via inhibition of p44/42 mitogen-activation protein kinase. Rejuvenation.Res 2008;11(5):891-901. View Abstract

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.