Since the blueberry is one of very few species of fruit native to North America, naturally, there is a particular soft spot in our continent’s history for the blueberry. The blossom end of each berry, the calyx, forms the shape of a perfect five-pointed star; the elders of Northern Native American tribes would tell of how the Great Spirit sent “star berries” to relieve the children’s hunger during a famine. Dried berries were added to stews, soups and meats or crushed into powder to flavor meats, especially for a kind of beef jerky referred to as Sautauthig (pronounced saw’-taw-teeg) produced and consumed year-round.
The blueberry also has a medicinal past that goes beyond just the natives of our continent. Native Americans used the leaves to produce tea, which was said to be good for the blood. The berry juice was extracted in order to treat coughs and the leaves, bark and roots were also included in other medical remedies for the Native American tribes, utilizing every part of the plant.
In 12th century Germany, St Hildegard of Bingen, the first woman to write on medicinal herbs, wrote that blueberry fruits were good for inducing menstruation. A few centuries later a German Herbalist named Hieronymus Bock, claimed that the fruit was useful for treating bladder stones, and lung and liver disorders. In 18th century Germany, blueberries (fresh or dried) were soaked in water to make infusions for syrups. These infusions were used to treat coughs, diarrhea, gout, and rheumatism, to relieve symptoms of typhoid fever, as a mouthwash to soothe mouth ulcers, as a diuretic, and to prevent against scurvy.
The British Royal Air Force pilots in World War II reported improved night vision on bombing missions after eating blueberry jam. Further research was conducted in the 1960’s and reported that the most effective medicinal use for blueberry extract appears to be for improving micro-circulation, which benefits the capillaries serving the eyes, and mucous membranes of the digestive and pulmonary systems (lungs).
So, throughout the years, the blueberry’s history has prooved it is held in high esteem in numerous countries during different time periods. It is believed to hold medicinal value in multiple cultures and situations, showing that the blueberry has charmed the world with its powers of intriguing spirits and improving life.