What is it?
Be careful not to confuse blueberry with bilberry. Outside of the United States, the name "blueberry" may be used for a plant called "bilberry" in the U.S.
Blueberry is used for a variety of conditions including improved memory and thinking skills, prevention of cancer and heart disease, and treatment of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and depression. But there is limited scientific research to support any of these uses.
How effective is it?
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
The effectiveness ratings for BLUEBERRY are as follows:
Possibly ineffective for...
- High blood pressure. Most research shows that taking blueberry does not reduce blood pressure.
Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...
- Decline in memory and thinking skills that occurs normally with age. Some research shows that taking blueberry daily for 3-6 months might help improve some thinking and memory tests in adults over 60 years of age. However, most tests for thinking and memory do not change. If there is a benefit, it is probably small.
- Aging. Some research shows that eating frozen blueberries can improve foot placement and balance in elderly people. However, other research shows that eating blueberries does not help with these things. Also, eating blueberries doesn't seem to improve strength or walking speed in elderly people.
- Memory and thinking skills (cognitive function). Early research shows that taking a single dose of blueberry may improve learning in children ages 7-10 years.
- Depression. Some people that have a clot in one of the vessels in the brain may experience depression. In those people with depression, they may be more likely to have infections in the GI tract. Some research suggests that taking blueberry extract daily for 90 days can reduce symptoms of depression and also reduce infections in this group of people.
- Arthritis in children (juvenile idiopathic arthritis). Early research shows that drinking blueberry juice daily while using the medication etanercept reduces symptoms of arthritis in children better than the medication alone. Drinking blueberry juice might also reduce side effects caused by etanercept.
- Memory. Early research shows that drinking a single blueberry beverage does not significantly improve memory in children.
- Bad circulation.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Labor pains.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Peyronie's disease (build-up of scar tissue in the penis).
- Preventing cataracts and glaucoma.
- Sore throat.
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- Varicose veins.
- Other conditions.
How does it work?
Are there safety concerns?
When applied to the skin: There isn't enough reliable information to know if blueberry is safe when applied to the skin or what the side effects might be.
Special precautions & warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Blueberry fruit is LIKELY SAFE when used in amounts commonly found in foods. But not enough is known about the safety of the larger amounts used for medicine. Stick to normal food amounts if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Diabetes: Blueberry might lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use blueberry products. The dose of your diabetes medications may need to be adjusted by your healthcare provider.
Surgery: Blueberry might affect blood glucose levels and could interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using blueberry at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Are there interactions with medications?
- Buspirone (BuSpar)
- The body breaks down buspirone (BuSpar) to get rid of it. Blueberry might decrease how fast the body gets rid of buspirone (BuSpar). However, this does not seem to be a concern in humans.
- Flurbiprofen (Ansaid, others)
- The body breaks down flurbiprofen (Froben) to get rid of it. Blueberry might decrease how fast the body gets rid of flurbiprofen (Froben). However, this does not seem to be a concern in humans.
- Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
- Blueberry leaves and fruit might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking blueberry leaves or fruit along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?
- Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar
- Blueberry might lower blood sugar. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that have the same effect might cause blood sugar to drop too low in some people. Some of these products include devil's claw, fenugreek, guar gum, Panax ginseng, and Siberian ginseng.
Are there interactions with foods?
- Drinking milk along with blueberries might lower the potential health benefits of blueberries. Separating the ingestion of blueberries and milk by 1-2 hours might prevent this interaction.
What dose is used?
To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.
- Boespflug EL, Eliassen JC, Dudley JA, et al. Enhanced neural activation with blueberry supplementation in mild cognitive impairment. Nutr Neurosci. 2018;21:297-305. View abstract.
- Whyte AR, Cheng N, Fromentin E, Williams CM. A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study to compare the safety and efficacy of low dose enhanced wild blueberry powder and wild blueberry extract (ThinkBlue™) in maintenance of episodic and working memory in older adults. Nutrients. 2018;10. pii: E660. View abstract.
- McNamara RK, Kalt W, Shidler MD, et al. Cognitive response to fish oil, blueberry, and combined supplementation in older adults with subjective cognitive impairment. Neurobiol Aging. 2018;64:147-156. View abstract.
- Miller MG, Hamilton DA, Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B. Dietary blueberry improves cognition among older adults in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Nutr 2018;57:1169-80. View abstract.
- Zhong S, Sandhu A, Edirisinghe I, Burton-Freeman B. Characterization of wild blueberry polyphenols bioavailability and kinetic profile in plasma over 24-h period in human subjects. Mol Nutr Food Res 2017;61. View abstract.
- Whyte AR, Schafer G, Williams CM. Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year-old children. Eur J Nutr 2016;55:2151-62. View abstract.
- Xu N, Meng H, Liu T, Feng Y, Qi Y, Zhang D, Wang H. Blueberry phenolics reduce gastrointestinal infection in patients with cerebral venous thrombosis by improving depressant-induced autoimmune disorder via miR-155-mediated brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Front Pharmacol 2017;8:853. View abstract.
- Whyte AR, Williams CM. Effects of a single dose of a flavonoid-rich blueberry drink on memory in 8 to 10 y old children. Nutrition. 2015 Mar;31:531-4. View abstract.
- Rodriguez-Mateos A, Rendeiro C, Bergillos-Meca T, Tabatabaee S, George TW, Heiss C, Spencer JP. Intake and time dependence of blueberry flavonoid-induced improvements in vascular function: a randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover intervention study with mechanistic insights into biological activity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Nov;98:1179-91. View abstract.
- Rodriguez-Mateos A, Del Pino-García R, George TW, Vidal-Diez A, Heiss C, Spencer JP. Impact of processing on the bioavailability and vascular effects of blueberry (poly)phenols. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2014 Oct;58:1952-61. View abstract.
- Kalt W, Liu Y, McDonald JE, Vinqvist-Tymchuk MR, Fillmore SA. Anthocyanin metabolites are abundant and persistent in human urine. J Agric Food Chem. 2014 May 7;62:3926-34. View abstract.
- Zhu Y, Sun J, Lu W, Wang X, Wang X, Han Z, Qiu C. Effects of blueberry supplementation on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. J Hum Hypertens. 2016 Sep 22. View abstract.
- Lobos GA, Hancock JF. Breeding blueberries for a changing global environment: a review. Front Plant Sci. 2015 Sep 30;6:782. View abstract.
- Zhong Y, Wang Y, Guo J, Chu H, Gao Y, Pang L. Blueberry Improves the Therapeutic Effect of Etanercept on Patients with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: Phase III Study. Tohoku J Exp Med. 2015;237:183-91. View abstract.
- Schrager MA, Hilton J, Gould R, Kelly VE. Effects of blueberry supplementation on measures of functional mobility in older adults. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2015 Jun;40:543-9. View abstract.
- Johnson SA, Figueroa A, Navaei N, Wong A, Kalfon R, Ormsbee LT, Feresin RG, Elam ML, Hooshmand S, Payton ME, Arjmandi BH. Daily blueberry consumption improves blood pressure and arterial stiffness in postmenopausal women with pre- and stage 1-hypertension: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Mar;115:369-77. View abstract.
- Hanley MJ, Masse G, Harmatz JS, Cancalon PF, Dolnikowski GG, Court MH, Greenblatt DJ. Effect of blueberry juice on clearance of buspirone and flurbiprofen in human volunteers. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Apr;75:1041-52. View abstract.
- McIntyre, K. L., Harris, C. S., Saleem, A., Beaulieu, L. P., Ta, C. A., Haddad, P. S., and Arnason, J. T. Seasonal phytochemical variation of anti-glycation principles in lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium). Planta Med 2009;75:286-292. View abstract.
- Nemes-Nagy, E., Szocs-Molnar, T., Dunca, I., Balogh-Samarghitan, V., Hobai, S., Morar, R., Pusta, D. L., and Craciun, E. C. Effect of a dietary supplement containing blueberry and sea buckthorn concentrate on antioxidant capacity in type 1 diabetic children. Acta Physiol Hung. 2008;95:383-393. View abstract.
- 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;11:172-182. View abstract.
- Kalt, W., Blumberg, J. B., McDonald, J. E., Vinqvist-Tymchuk, M. R., Fillmore, S. A., Graf, B. A., O'Leary, J. M., and Milbury, P. E. Identification of anthocyanins in the liver, eye, and brain of blueberry-fed pigs. J Agric.Food Chem 2-13-2008;56:705-712. View abstract.
- 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;85:956-965. View abstract.
- Kornman, K., Rogus, J., Roh-Schmidt, H., Krempin, D., Davies, A. J., Grann, K., and Randolph, R. K. Interleukin-1 genotype-selective inhibition of inflammatory mediators by a botanical: a nutrigenetics proof of concept. Nutrition 2007;23(11-12):844-852. View abstract.
- Pan, M. H., Chang, Y. H., Badmaev, V., Nagabhushanam, K., and Ho, C. T. Pterostilbene induces apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in human gastric carcinoma cells. J Agric.Food Chem 9-19-2007;55:7777-7785. View abstract.
- Wilms, L. C., Boots, A. W., de Boer, V. C., Maas, L. M., Pachen, D. M., Gottschalk, R. W., Ketelslegers, H. B., Godschalk, R. W., Haenen, G. R., van Schooten, F. J., and Kleinjans, J. C. Impact of multiple genetic polymorphisms on effects of a 4-week blueberry juice intervention on ex vivo induced lymphocytic DNA damage in human volunteers. Carcinogenesis 2007;28:1800-1806. View abstract.
- 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;26:170-181. View abstract.
- Neto, C. C. Cranberry and blueberry: evidence for protective effects against cancer and vascular diseases. Mol.Nutr Food Res 2007;51:652-664. View abstract.
- Torri, E., Lemos, M., Caliari, V., Kassuya, C. A., Bastos, J. K., and Andrade, S. F. Anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive properties of blueberry extract (Vaccinium corymbosum). J Pharm Pharmacol 2007;59:591-596. View abstract.
- Srivastava, A., Akoh, C. C., Fischer, J., and Krewer, G. Effect of anthocyanin fractions from selected cultivars of Georgia-grown blueberries on apoptosis and phase II enzymes. J Agric.Food Chem 4-18-2007;55:3180-3185. View abstract.
- Abidov, M., Ramazanov, A., Jimenez Del, Rio M., and Chkhikvishvili, I. Effect of Blueberin on fasting glucose, C-reactive protein and plasma aminotransferases, in female volunteers with diabetes type 2: double-blind, placebo controlled clinical study. Georgian.Med News 2006;:66-72. View abstract.
- Tonstad, S., Klemsdal, T. O., Landaas, S., and Hoieggen, A. No effect of increased water intake on blood viscosity and cardiovascular risk factors. Br J Nutr 2006;96:993-996. View abstract.
- Seeram, N. P., Adams, L. S., Zhang, Y., Lee, R., Sand, D., Scheuller, H. S., and Heber, D. Blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, red raspberry, and strawberry extracts inhibit growth and stimulate apoptosis of human cancer cells in vitro. J Agric.Food Chem 12-13-2006;54:9329-9339. View abstract.
- 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.
- Matchett, M. D., MacKinnon, S. L., Sweeney, M. I., Gottschall-Pass, K. T., and Hurta, R. A. Inhibition of matrix metalloproteinase activity in DU145 human prostate cancer cells by flavonoids from lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium): possible roles for protein kinase C and mitogen-activated protein-kinase-mediated events. J Nutr Biochem 2006;17:117-125. View abstract.
- McDougall, G. J., Shpiro, F., Dobson, P., Smith, P., Blake, A., and Stewart, D. Different polyphenolic components of soft fruits inhibit alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase. J Agric.Food Chem 4-6-2005;53:2760-2766. View abstract.
- Parry, J., Su, L., Luther, M., Zhou, K., Yurawecz, M. P., Whittaker, P., and Yu, L. Fatty acid composition and antioxidant properties of cold-pressed marionberry, boysenberry, red raspberry, and blueberry seed oils. J Agric.Food Chem 2-9-2005;53:566-573. View abstract.
- Casadesus, G., Shukitt-Hale, B., Stellwagen, H. M., Zhu, X., Lee, H. G., Smith, M. A., and Joseph, J. A. Modulation of hippocampal plasticity and cognitive behavior by short-term blueberry supplementation in aged rats. Nutr Neurosci. 2004;7(5-6):309-316. View abstract.
- Goyarzu, P., Malin, D. H., Lau, F. C., Taglialatela, G., Moon, W. D., Jennings, R., Moy, E., Moy, D., Lippold, S., Shukitt-Hale, B., and Joseph, J. A. Blueberry supplemented diet: effects on object recognition memory and nuclear factor-kappa B levels in aged rats. Nutr Neurosci. 2004;7:75-83. View abstract.
- 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;6:153-162. View abstract.
- Sweeney, M. I., Kalt, W., MacKinnon, S. L., Ashby, J., and Gottschall-Pass, K. T. Feeding rats diets enriched in lowbush blueberries for six weeks decreases ischemia-induced brain damage. Nutr Neurosci. 2002;5:427-431. View abstract.
- 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;88:389-398. View abstract.
- Spencer CM, Cai Y, Martin R, et al. Polyphenol complexation - some thoughts and observations. Phytochemistry 1988;27:2397-2409.
- Serafini M, Testa MF, Villano D, et al. Antioxidant activity of blueberry fruit is impaired by association with milk. Free Radic Bio Med 2009;46:769-74. View abstract.
- Lyons MM, Yu C, Toma RB, et al. Resveratrol in raw and baked blueberries and bilberries. J Agric Food Chem 2003;51:5867-70. View abstract.
- Wang SY, Lin HS. Antioxidant activity in fruits and leaves of blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry varies with cultivar and developmental stage. J Agric Food Chem 2000;48:140-6.. View abstract.
- Wang SY, Jiao H. Scavenging capacity of berry crops on superoxide radicals, hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radicals, and singlet oxygen. J Agric Food Chem 2000;48:5677-84.. View abstract.
- Wu X, Cao G, Prior RL. Absorption and metabolism of anthocyanins in elderly women after consumption of elderberry or blueberry. J Nutr 2002;132:1865-71. View abstract.
- Joseph JA, Denisova N, Fisher D, et al. Membrane and receptor modifications of oxidative stress vulnerability in aging. Nutritional considerations. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1998;854:268-76.. View abstract.
- Hiraishi K, Narabayashi I, Fujita O, et al. Blueberry juice: preliminary evaluation as an oral contrast agent in gastrointestinal MR imaging. Radiology 1995;194:119-23.. View abstract.
- Ofek I, Goldhar J, Zafriri D, et al. Anti-Escherichia coli adhesin activity of cranberry and blueberry juices. N Engl J Med 1991;324:1599. View abstract.
- Pedersen CB, Kyle J, Jenkinson AM, et al. Effects of blueberry and cranberry juice consumption on the plasma antioxidant capacity of healthy female volunteers. Eur J Clin Nutr 2000;54:405-8. View abstract.
- Howell AB, Vorsa N, Foo LY, et al. Inhibition of the Adherence of P-Fimbriated Escherichia coli to Uroepithelial-Cell Surfaces by Proanthocyanidin Extracts from Cranberries (letter). N Engl J Med 1998;339:1085-6. View abstract.
- Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Denisova NA, et al. Reversals of age-related declines in neuronal signal transduction, cognitive, and motor behavioral deficits with blueberry, spinach, or strawberry dietary supplementation. J Neurosci 1999;19:8114-21. View abstract.
- Cignarella A, Nastasi M, Cavalli E, Puglisi L. Novel lipid-lowering properties of Vaccinium myrtillus L. leaves, a traditional antidiabetic treatment, in several models of rat dyslipidaemia: a comparison with ciprofibrate. Thromb Res 1996;84:311-22. View abstract.
- Bickford PC, Gould T, Briederick L, et al. Antioxidant-rich diets improve cerebellar physiology and motor learning in aged rats. Brain Res 2000;866:211-7. View abstract.
- Cao G, Shukitt-Hale B, Bickford PC, et al. Hyperoxia-induced changes in antioxidant capacity and the effect of dietary antioxidants. J Appl Physiol 1999;86:1817-22. View abstract.
- Youdim KA, Shukitt-Hale B, MacKinnon S, et al. Polyphenolics enhance red blood cell resistance to oxidative stress: in vitro and in vivo . Biochim Biophys Acta 2000;1519:117-22. View abstract.
- Bomser J, Madhavi DL, Singletary K, Smith MA. In vitro anticancer activity of fruit extracts from Vaccinium species. Planta Med 1996;62:212-6.. View abstract.