Wild Blueberries: an American Tradition and a Powerful Medicine

(Last Updated On: September 17, 2017)

Wild blueberries are anti diabetic, anti oxidant, and nutritious


 

Plant description

Blueberries are perennials from the section  cyanococcus within the genus Vaccinum which include cranberries and bilberries its European cousin. Cyanococcus  is the most common species. Blueberries are native of North America. The shrubs vary in size from 10 centimeters (3.9 in) to 4 meters (13 ft) in height. Twigs are yellow-green and covered with small wart-like dots.  The flowers are bell-shaped, white, pale pink or red. Fruiting occurs April to October, about 62 days after flowering.

Common Names: blueberry, “American” blueberry, Northern highbush blueberry, southeastern highbush blueberry, Maryland highbush blueberry, black highbush blueberry, American blueberry, New Jersey blueberry, rabbiteye blueberry, swamp blueberry, tall huckleberry, mayberry, whortleberry

Latin Name: Lowbush or wild blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton). Highbush or cultivated blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) – both plants are from the Vaccinium genus

High bush Vs. Low bush

An interesting distinction exist here and this might be important if you are using blueberries for its medicinal properties. High bush and low bush blueberries are the same plant but high bush is the domesticated variety and low bush the wild kind that grows mainly in Maine. Before 1911 only the wild plants could be found. High bush blueberries are the ones produced by commercial agriculture. There are some differences: while high bush are larger more juicy and plumper; low bush are hardy, smaller but contain a wider palate of flavors and according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2004, USDA studies show that wild blueberries has a higher amount of antioxidant — low bush blueberries has the highest antioxidant capacity per serving, compared with more than 20 other fruits.

History

These little blue berries are an important part of American early culture and history. Until 1911 blueberries were harvested in the wild and unable to be cultivated. Every attempt at domesticating them simply failed. Botanist Frederick Coville set the stage for cultivation by solving the puzzle and discovering the right conditions for growing blueberries. This makes blueberries among the most recently domesticated plants. American natives have been using blueberries for thousands of years. They dried the berries and added to other foods, a powder was made from the berries and used as a meat preservative. They used the leafs and roots for medicinal purposes. They also developed a baked good called Sautauthig (pronounced sawi-taw-teeg). Legend says blueberries helped Pilgrims survive their fist winter in the new world.

Main uses

Blueberries are mainly used raw or to make jams, pies, muffins and other baked goods. Blueberry wine can be made from a low bush variety. Blueberry supplements are also available in a variety of forms including capsules, liquid, extracts, vitamin, and workout supplements which are often mixed with other vitamins and minerals.




Properties

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants such  anthocyanins which give them their deep blue color, polyphenols and various phytochemicals. It is also rich in vitamin C, E, A, B complex, copper, zinc, selenium, and iron. Blueberry juice is among the top 4 fruits highest in antioxidants according to a comprehensive analysis [5]

  • Cardio protective benefits and blood pressure control
    • There are some evidence of cardiovascular protective effects in foods high in polyphenols. Bluberries are particularly high in polyphenolic flavonoids, in addition has significant amounts of micronutrients and fiber. In one single blinded controlled study [5], diabetic subjects were randomized in participants and control groups. The study was aimed at evaluating blueberries use to treat metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Forty-eight participants consumed freeze-dried blueberry beverage for 8 wk, while the control group only liquids. The blueberry group showed significant decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressures (21.5 and 21.2%). Those in the blueberry group had a significantly lower baseline serum LDL cholesterol concentration.  Changes in body weight, waist circumference, HbA1C, insulin resistance, and serum glucose concentration and lipid profile did not differ between the groups.
  •  Improve insulin sensitivity
    • Blueberries were found to have anti diabetic properties in a study using laboratory mice [4]. Supplementation with whole blueberries reduced glucose in vivo and in cell cultures. Anti anti inflammatory genes have also been reduced after blueberry consumption which suggest anti inflammatory responses. This study is unique because it used the gold standard  for measuring insulin action – hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp technique. Of the participants receiving blueberry treatment, 67% had a least 10% favorable change in insulin sensitivity. While only 41% from the placebo group showed any improvement.
  • Anti hyperglycemic [3]
    • Blueberry fruits are known as a rich source of anthocyanin and polyphenols, both powerful antioxidant compounds. In one study aimed at evaluating the hypoglycemic activity of these compounds, two preparations were created: one containing higher concentrations of anthocyanins and the other polyphenols. The study used laboratory mice but tested them in vivo; diabetic mice were used to evaluate changes in blood sugar concentrations. The anthocyanin enriched preparation exhibited greater hypoglycemic activity (51% decrease in blood glucose level) compared to the phenolic-rich extract (33% decrease in blood glucose level). Both extracts however showed higher potency in lowering blood glucose levels compared to the positive control drug metformin (32% decrease in blood glucose level).

Fruit, leaf, root, stem properties [9]

Extracts and other concentrates will vary in composition depending of what part of the plant is used. In a study aimed at determining what benefits each component has in diabetes related conditions, four categories were studied using all parts of blueberries.

    1. Glucose uptake in muscle cells
    2. Insulin secretion by pancreatic b cells
    3. b cell proliferation
    4. Lipid accumulation
    5. Protection against glucose toxicity

The results indicate that roots, stems and leaf extracts enhance glucose transport in muscle cells by  15–25% in the presence or absence of insulin. This in turn can lower blood sugar. Fruit extract however had no effect on glucose transport therefore not recommended if you want to lower blood sugar using blueberry. Treatment with leaf extract resulted in a small but statistically significant increase in insulin secretion. Fruit extract however was found to increase pancreatic b-cell proliferation while other extracts from root, leaf, and stem had no effect

Pancreatic b-cell proliferation

Stem, leaf and fruit extracts were also found to increase the number of pancreatic cells by 20–33%, thus demonstrating its protective effects against hyperglycemia. However root extract had no effect in cell protection. Fruit extracts protection was highest at 25 mg/ml doses, root and stem extracts were found to be slightly cytotoxic at this concentration.

 

Protection from glucose toxicity

Available forms

  • Fresh fruit including wild blueberries (low bush) and cultivated blueberries (high bush)
  • Dried blueberries
  • Blueberry concentrate (pills)
  • Blueberry extract (soft gel)
  • Blueberry leaf extracts
  • Blueberry dried leafs (for tea)

How to use it

For cardiovascular protection, against high blood sugar damage and anti-inflammatory benefits of antioxidants, use the fruit extract or the plain fruit pulp. One good healthy habit is to start the day with a wild blueberry smoothly. For lowering blood sugar and enhancing insulin production use the leaf extract.

Precautions
As with any herb preparation that lowers blood sugar; be careful when you taking it while you are using any other oral anti hyperglycemic drug such as metformin, glipizide or insulin



 

Resources

Whitesbog Village

Blueberries – Little Blue Dynamos®

 


Photos

 


Videos

One of three berries native to North America, the Wild Blueberry has been used for food and medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. Today’s commercial growers carefully tend the Wild Blueberry lands of Maine and Canada, nurturing them for future generations.

Wild Blueberries are Nature’s Antioxidant Superfruit, with twice the antioxidant capacity of larger cultivated blueberries. Learn why scientists around the world are studying the potential of Wild Blueberries to help combat diseases and promote healthy aging.

 

 

 

References:

  1. Blueberries Decrease Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Obese Men and Women with Metabolic Syndrome
  2. Phenolic profile and antioxidant activity of highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) during fruit maturation and ripening
  3. Hypoglycemic activity of a novel Anthocyanin-rich formulation from Lowbush Blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton
  4. Bioactives in Blueberries Improve Insulin Sensitivity in Obese, Insulin-Resistant Men and Women
  5. Comparison of Antioxidant Potency of Commonly Consumed Polyphenol-Rich Beverages in the United States
  6. The role of skeletal muscle insulin resistance in the pathogenesis of the metabolic syndrome
  7. Anti-angiogenic, Antioxidant, and Anti-carcinogenic Properties of a Novel Anthocyanin-Rich Berry Extract Formula
  8. Dietary Blueberry Attenuates Whole-Body Insulin Resistance in High Fat-Fed Mice by Reducing Adipocyte Death and Its Inflammatory Sequelae
  9. Anti-diabetic properties of the Canadian lowbush blueberry Vaccinium angustifolium Ait.
  10. Blueberry Peel Extracts Inhibit Adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 Cells and Reduce High-Fat Diet-Induced Obesity
  11. Polyphenolics enhance red blood cell resistance to oxidative stress: in vitro and in vivo
  12. Obesity, Insulin Resistance, and Cardiovascular Disease
  13. Inflammation and insulin resistance
  14. HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRY Vaccinium corymbosum L. Plant fact sheet
  15. Blueberry Growing Comes to the National Agriculture Library

 

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In Category: DIABETES

Marcos Taquechel

Marcos is an RN. Thanks for stopping by and reading my posts. I hope you are able to get something useful out of this blog. Take good care of yourself and don’t worry about anything until you have something to worry about.

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