Herbally, I mostly use lingonberries and cranberries. And black currants. And bilberries ... not to forget red raspberry, of course.
The juice of both lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) and cranberries (Vaccinium oxycoccos) (and American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon) (which we don't have) is very good for urinary tract infections.
While some think that it's because the juice is sour, thus making the pee more acidic, they're wrong: it's because something or other in cranberries (and lingonberries) makes the mucous membrane of the bladder more resistant to bacteria. They can't adhere, and are flushed out the next time you're going for a pee.
(On that note, did you know that princesses can pee through seven mattresses? Heh.)
The leaf of lingonberries can be used the same way as the leaf of bearberry or uva-ursi (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi): a decoction (or overnight infusion) will help if the urinary tract infection stems from alkaline urine.
That's arbutin, a hydroquinone alkaloid, doing its thing, but don't ask me what that thing is. Lingonberry leaves don't contain quite as much arbutin as uva ursi, so they're a) not as effective, and b) not as bad for you.
See, if your symptoms haven't gotten any better after you've been drinking uva-ursi tea for three days you've got the wrong herb. Stop doing uva ursi and do something else instead: the arbutin can give you hydroquinone poisoning, although I forget what the symptoms of that are.
And that poisoning is why most people do their uva ursi as 10-day sessions, after which they stop taking it.
You can use the leaf of other Vaccinium species as well, but don't bother trying to pick cranberry leaf. That's tiny.
The leaf of bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) works, too, but again, it contains arbutin, although again, not quite the amounts found in uva ursi. That leaf is used to keep blood sugar down, but Weiss (Rudolf Fritz, you know) found that it gave people - wait for it - hydroquinone poisoning, in the long run. Bilberry leaf was in the list of herbs for diabetes which Paul Bergner dissected in his excellent article on the topic in Medical Herbalism, lemmesee now, Vol. 13, No. 2, Winter 2002. Unfortunately, nobody knows how it works - and only one action (reduce insulin resistance in the cells) is OK.
Another use for the uva-ursi: an elderly gentleman told me that he's been using uva ursi tea for his prostatitis, every year or so. He said that he hasn't bothered going to the docs with it for years, as all they do is give antibiotics. He was attending one of my lectures, so I didn't get to dig deeper: why would he have recurrent prostatitis? Hmmm.
The berries of bilberry, now. They're quite good for constipation (if fresh) (don't ask about the several bowls full I ate a couple weeks ago ... I didn't have constipation before, and I certainly didn't, after), and very good for the runs (if boiled, in jams, etc.).
And of course, they're an excellent source of flavonoids, which are good for your capillaries, among other things.
Black currants (Ribes nigrum): a hot juice of the berries is very good for various lung grunges, fevers, and things. I expect that we use that like others use the berries of black elder.
Black currants are my favorite of all berries. I'll even eat them dried, nevermind that they have large seeds, which get stuck in my teeth.
One of my friends supplies me with black currant juice (homemade) every year. In return, I supply her with salves. Very good trade, that is.
I do have a couple bushes in the garden, but this years' crop (all of 13 berries) got divided in two and eaten in one go. (They're young, these bushes. I put them in a year ago.)
Red raspberry (Rubus idaeus): very tasty berries, and the leaf is one of my main herbs for ladies' troubles. I'm told that a vinegar of the berries is good for fevers, but I don't like vinegars all that much, and I like raspberries a LOT, so I haven't bothered making any raspberry vinegars. Yet. I still might, one of these centuries.
So, was I late for this blog party? Bother ...
Related entries: Strawberries - Juniper berry syrup - Lycium berries - Elder toxicity - Aronia berries - Rowanberries - Schisandra berries - Bilberry for dandruff - Black currant leaf drink - Using juniper berries - Hawthorn berries