Blueberries Are Fabulous
Health Matters, June 2024

Blueberries Are Fabulous

By Kathy Abascal

Blueberry plants are nothing short of amazing. They produce luscious berries that most of us love to eat and are rich in a type of omega 3 fat that we do not get enough of. In addition, blueberry leaves and berries have useful medicinal properties. They grow well in the Northwest, and if we were smarter (which we might be if we ate more blueberries), we would replace our lawns and herbicides with woods and blueberries.

Our bodies need antioxidants to keep free radicals (reactive compounds implicated in cancer and many other chronic diseases) in check. Free radicals are waste products generated by normal cell metabolism. They are also created by environmental toxins, rancid fats, and radiation. In one study, the United States Department of Agriculture compared the antioxidant action of 77 different fruits, vegetables, spices, and nuts. Blueberries placed highest.

Animal studies suggest that blueberries may help slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In one study, old rats (about 60-65 in human years) were fed dried blueberries for eight weeks. Other old rats were fed spinach, strawberries, or a standard lab rat diet. 

At the end of the experiment, the rats (now 70-75 human years old) were tested to measure their physical agility, balance, memory, and ability to learn new skills. Those fed blueberries consistently outperformed the other rats, and the blueberries seemed to reverse the decline in mental functioning that often comes with aging. The benefits seen in this study would only require a person to eat one-half to one cup of blueberries a day!

Blueberries are also good for hearing function and eyesight. Rats respond quickly to sound, but lose this ability as they age. Old rats eating blueberries, however, do almost as well as young rats. This does not mean that blueberries reduce deafness, but instead improve the brain’s ability to respond to sound. 

In humans, bilberry (a close but somewhat less sweet relative of blueberry) supports healthy intraocular pressure and thus helps prevent glaucoma, as well as helping to stop the formation of cataracts. The very best, wild bilberries, do contain a bit more of the compounds that are thought responsible for these beneficial effects on eyesight. 

However, a good-quality blueberry will have more of these compounds than the average commercial bilberry. This means that blueberries should provide the same benefits for vision as their less available and more expensive cousin.

What else, besides preventing loss of brain function, hearing response, and eyesight can blueberries do for you? Well, they contain compounds that help lower cholesterol levels. Blueberries, like cranberries, can help fight urinary tract infections by making it difficult for bacteria to attach to the bladder wall. In the petri dish, blueberries also slowed the growth of cervical, breast, and colon cancer cells. Finally, blueberry leaf tea is a traditional remedy for blood sugar issues. In diabetic rats, blueberry leaf tea reduced blood sugar levels by 26%, and also reduced triglycerides by 39%, which does tend to confirm traditional wisdom.

Traditional herbal wisdom also suggests that the smaller, tarter blueberries work more effectively than the larger, sweeter commercial varieties, and herbalists generally prefer wild-gathered blueberry leaves for diabetes. Fresh blueberries are likely best, but studies show that frozen berries retain almost all of the beneficial compounds. Unfortunately, some of these compounds are reduced as the berries are dried or processed, so I suggest eating fresh or frozen, although the old rats did do fine on dried berries.

While smaller, truly wild blueberries are strongest, finding “clean” blueberries is a bit of a minefield. A whole host of chemicals that are toxic to us, wildlife, and insects were found on nearly all conventional blueberries (if you want to learn more, go to this site: And unfortunately, in the commercial blueberry world, “wild” does not mean untreated by humans. If you search for “insecticides approved for wild blueberry pests,” you will find a whole list of strong chemicals approved for use. Herbicides are also approved for use on “wild” blueberries. 

My conclusion is that you should either grow your own blueberries (with a good deer fence) or buy organic berries and leaves (wild or cultivated). 

June 2, 2024

About Author

kathy I was born in Chicago, but mostly grew up in Sweden. After completing high school, I moved back to the US to attend college and graduated with a degree in neurobiology with a minor in biochemistry and French from the University of California at Berkeley. Immediately after graduating, I spent a year doing quality control testing at Chevron's pesticide factory in Richmond and then transitioned to working on a number of medical research studies. I helped conduct physician peer reviews at a San Francisco hospital and, when I eventually began looking for more challenging work, the doctors I worked with recommended that I apply to medical school. In retrospect, I should have followed their advice, but I instead decided to get a juris doctor degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. I worked as a research attorney at the California Court of Appeal for a number of years before going into private practice specializing in complex consumer litigation. As time passed, the California courts became more conservative and less receptive to consumer litigation and I found myself once again looking for a new direction. Now, I teach online classes on how to quiet inflammation. I am a professional herbalist and have written several books. You can learn more about my work and classes at