Wild blueberry, blueberry and corymb blueberry, three different species
Above all, do not confuse wild blueberries with blueberries or corymbosium blueberries. In Lac St-Jean (Quebec region, Canada), this is an insult. Blueberry is a species that grows in Europe and Asia. Wild blueberries grow only in North America mainly in the northeast. And that’s not all. Nor should we confuse what the Jeannois (Lac St-Jean Region) call the big American blueberry (vaccinium corymbosium) from their small blue pearls, the wild blueberry (vaccinium angustifolium). According to them, a whole world separates them and they are largely right. Wild blueberries are sweeter and less fibrous, and their taste is significantly more delicate. A true Quebec culinary tradition, the use of wild blueberries for food purposes dates back to the Amerindians. It is made into pies, chocolate, cookies, smoothies, alcoholic beverages, tea and mixed with cereals. About 90% of wild blueberry production is frozen and exported all over the world. Between 2010 and 2015, Quebec produced an average of 23,842 tonnes of wild blueberries, the vast majority of which came from Lac St Jean. Production peaked in 2014, with a volume of more than 35,000 tons. A blueberry season begins around early August and ends around mid-September until the first full moon in September when the earth freezes.
Why is it called wild blueberry?
Because it doesn’t crash. The blueberry in corymbe is, just like the raspberry, a plant. Want some? You buy a blueberry plant in corymbe and you grow it in your garden. It will be able to reach more than 2 meters high. For its part, the wild blueberry is not planted because it is not a plant but an underground root tissue that has always been there and will not exceed 30 cm in height, hence its name of wild blueberry. In Lac-St-Jean and on the North Shore of Quebec, for example, if you want a blueberry field, the first thing to do is to identify a corner of the forest where blueberries are present. You then cut down the trees, turn the soil over and clean it, put a little fertilizer in it and it’s done. The blueberry is already in the ground, so it will start to grow. This explains why after a forest fire, one of the first things that grows is the wild blueberry which, exposed to the sun’s rays, suddenly appears. If you do not maintain your field, deciduous tree species will first begin to grow followed by conifers. The vegetation will become so dense that the light on the ground will no longer be sufficient and the blueberry will gradually disappear. The day the deciduous and coniferous trees die and the sun’s rays directly reach the ground, the wild blueberry will grow back in abundance. We are talking about a cycle of about 80 years.
For the pollination of fruits, bees are used. Each year, 30,000 hives land at Lac St-Jean, each housing 30,000 to 60,000 bees.
Wild blueberries of culture, forests, boreal or organic?
There is a tendency to confuse wild cultivated blueberries, wild forest blueberries and organic wild blueberries. The conventional wild blueberry is a blueberry grown in forest or blueberry fields. It may contain traces of pesticides. The so-called boreal blueberry is a blueberry that grows in a field and has not been exposed to any pesticide for at least twelve months before harvest. Organic blueberries, on the other hand, grew in the forest and contain no pesticides.
Its medicinal interest
The wild blueberry is one, if not the fruit that is currently the most studied by the scientific community. It tops the ORAC index (acronym for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity / absorption capacity of oxygen radicals). This ability to absorb oxygen radicals is the primary quality of what are commonly called antioxidants.
Wild dwarf blueberries also play an important role in the prevention of several chronic diseases, mainly due to the presence of phenolic compounds in particular anthocyanins and proanthocyan (Ref 8 and 9 W). Wild dwarf blueberry extract (Vaccinium augustifolium) has antioxidant properties that protect cells from free radical attacks (11-25). These properties are mainly explained by the presence of powerful antioxidant compounds called anthocyanosides (26-34). Several human studies show that anthocyanosides extracted from blueberries are absorbed by the body and distributed in part in blood serum (35-40). These studies also show that the anthocyanosides of blueberries increase the antioxidant capacity of blood serum (35-40).
The pharmacological properties attributed to blueberry extracts are numerous. Research in rats indicates that blueberry extracts have beneficial effects on the brain (41-48).
They protect neurons from free radical toxicity. The authors also report that blueberries significantly improve the motor skills of older animals (42). Other work done on a mouse with Alzheimer’s show that blueberries can prevent the onset of disease despite the genetic predispositions of these rodents (45). Other studies conducted by this research group report that blueberries increases the memory and cognitive behavior of rats (46-48). In addition, blueberry extracts have anticarcinogenic properties that is, they prevent cell cancer and the appearance of tumors (49-53). They also block the tumor growth by inhibiting the formation of blood vessels feeding the tumor (angiogenesis) (53-55).
Blueberries contain a significant amount of resveratrol (56-57). This compound inhibits the aggregation of blood platelets and the oxidation of LDL (low-density lipoproteins) (58-59). Resveratrol has protective effects on the cardiovascular system and helps prevent arteriosclerosis. It is reported that blueberry extract is effective for the treatment of peripheral vascular diseases, i.e. it has allowed, in clinical trials, an improvement in blood circulation in pregnant women with chronic venous insufficiency. In addition, these extracts have proven useful in the pre- and post-operative treatment of varicose veins. and acute phases of hemorrhoids (Ref 6 W).
Marazzoni and Bombardelli (1996) demonstrated that anthocyanins have direct and indirect effects on collagen, which is the main protein element of connective tissues (tendons and cartilage). The reticular structure of anthocyanins therefore strengthens the collagen matrix. In addition, they are reported to be bio-active molecules inhibiting enzymes that break down collagen.
Another study looked at the antimicrobial property of certain fractions of wild dwarf blueberries on certain pathogenic bacteria.
The results suggest that blueberry extracts are effective against two pathogenic bacteria, Listeria monocytogenesis and Escherichia coli O157:H7,better known as Listeria and E. Coli (Ref 10W). Hippuric acid, contained in blueberry juice is the active ingredient in the treatment of urinary tract infections caused by E coli. The latter adheres to the wall of the bladder and urinary tract by its adhesives (designated MS and MR) located on the pilis, thus allowing massive bacterial colonization (Ref 11W). Blueberry contains a heat-stable, trypsin-resistant and non-dialysable inhibitor, which acts as an anti-adhesin that blocks the attachment of bacteria to the walls of the urinary tract and therefore reduces bacterial infection (Ref 12 W)
Several studies have also been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of blueberries on type 2 diabetes (Ref 13 and 14). The team of Professor Pierre Haddad Ph.D (Université de Montréal) conducted a study on the effect of the biological blueberry on diabetes. The researchers tested the effects of blueberry juice on a group of mice prone to obesity, diabetes and hypertension. This study made it possible to observe the potential of this juice in the fight against type 2 diabetes in humans.
A study by Matchett et al. (2006) highlighted, among other things, the reduction in the occurrence of prostate cancer, the main disease in men of our century, in Canada and the United States.
Health Canada Product Monograph
The purpose of this monograph is to serve as a guide for industry in the preparation of licence applications (MMDLs) and labels for the purpose of obtaining a product market authorization. It is not intended to be an in-depth study of the medicinal ingredient.
February 7, 2014
- Vaccinium corymbosum L. (USDA 2010a)
- Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton (USDA 2011)
- Vaccinium pallidum Aiton (USDA 2010b)
Blueberry (USDA 2010a,b,2011)
Fruit (USDA 2010a,b,2011)
Route(s) of administration
- Acceptable dosage forms include, but are not limited to, strips, capsules, tablets, chewable dosage forms (e.g., tablets, gummies), liquids or powders.
- Foods or food-like dosage forms such as bars, chewing gum or beverages are excluded from this monograph.
Recommended Use or Purpose
Statement(s) specifying the following:
Provides antioxidants (Serafini et al. 2009; Kolosova et al. 2004).
Statement(s) specifying the following:
Adults (≥ 18 years old)
Dry,no standardized extracts and standardized extracts:
- Up to 20 g gross equivalent (GWQ) per day (CNF 2010; McAnulty et al. 2004).
- Up to 150 g of fresh fruit, per day (CNF 2010; McAnulty et al. 2004).
Duration of use
Statement not required.
Statement(s) specifying the following:
Precaution(s) and warning(s)
Products providing ≥ 5 g or more per day; Products providing ≥ 37.5 g of fresh fruit per day
If you are taking blood thinners, consult a health care practitioner prior to use (ASHP 2005; Franco et al. 2004; IOM 2001; Hansten et al. 1997).
Statement not required.
Known adverse reaction(s)
Statement not required.
Must be selected from the current version of the NNHPD List of Acceptable Non-Medicinal Ingredients
- Finished product specifications must be established in accordance with the requirements outlined in the
NNHPDNatural Health Product Quality Reference Guide.
- The medicinal ingredient must comply with the requirements set out in the Nature Health Product Ingredient Database
- ASHP 2005: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Amercan Hospital Formulary Service (AHFS) Drug Information. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott Williams and Wilkins;2005.
- CNF 2010: Canadian Nutrient File (CNF). 2010 . Ottawa (ON): Food and Nutrition, Health Canada. [Date Modified 2012 April 26; Accessed 2013 August 06].
- Franco V, Polanczyk CA, Clausell N, Rohde LE. Role of dietary vitamin K intake in chronic oral anticoagulation: prospective evidence from observational and randomized protocols. The American Journal of Medicine 2004;166(10):651-6.
- Hansten PD, Horn JR, editors. Drug Interactions Analysis and Management. Vancouver (WA): Applied Therapeutics Inc.; 1997.
- IOM 2001: Institute of Medicine. Panel on Micronutrients, Subcommittees on Upper Reference Levels of Nutrients and Interpretation and Uses of Dietary Reference Intakes, and the Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington (DC): National Academies Press; 2001.
- McAnulty SR, McAnulty LS, Nieman DC, Dumke CL, Morrow JD, Utter AC, Henson DA, Proulx WR, George GL. Consumption of blueberry polyphenols reduces exercise induced oxidative stress compared to vitamin C. Nutrition Research 2004;24:209-221.
- Kolosova, NG, Lebedev PA, Dikalova AE. Comparison of antioxidants in the ability to prevent cataract in prematurely aging OXYS rats. Bulletin of experimental biology and medicine 2004;3:249-251.
- Serafini M, Testa MF, Villano D, Pecorari M, van Wieren K, Azzini E, Brambilla A, Maiani G. Antioxidant activity of blueberry fruit is impaired by association with milk. Free Radical Biology & Medicine 2009;46:769-774.
- USDA 2010a: United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network GRIN).. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, MD. [Vaccinium corymbosum L.. Last updated 2010 January 14; Accessed 2013 July 12].
- USDA 2010b: United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, MD. [Vaccinium pallidum Aiton. Last updated 2010 January 14; Accessed 2013 July 12].
- USDA 2011: United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, MD. [Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton. Last updated 2011 September 27; Accessed 2013 July 12].
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- Bove M. An Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants. 2nd edition. New York (NY): McGraw-Hill Publishing, Incorporated;2001.
- Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions, 3rd edition. Sandy (OR): Eclectic Medical Publications;2001.
- Heinonen I, Meyer A, Frankel E. Antioxidant Activity of Berry Phenolics on Human Low-Density Lipoprotein and Liposome Oxidation. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 1998;46(10):4107-4112
- Martindale 2010: Sweetman SC (ed), Martindale: The Complete Drug Reference.
Medecines complete London (GB): Pharmaceutical Press; Copyright 1933-2010. [Accessed 2013 August 06].
- Merck 2012: The Merck Index Version 14.1 Complete medicine Merck. Whitehouse Station (NJ): Merck & Co., Inc. [Published 2006; Updated 2010; Accessed 2011 June 16].
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- Schilcher H. Phytotherapy in Paediatrics: Handbook for Physicians and Pharmacists: With reference to Commission E Monographs of the Federal Department of Health in Germany. Includes 100 Commission E monographs and 15 ESCOP Monographs. Stuttgart (DE): Medpharm Scientific Publishers;1997.