Bilberry (Vaccinium Myrtillus)
Bilberry has a long medicinal history in Europe. It has been used to treat anything from kidney stones to Typhoid fever. During World War 2 British pilots noted that Bilberry jam before a flight dramatically improved night vision. Modern research now supports these claims.
Bilberry contains anthocyanosides which are potent antioxidants which strengthen blood vessels and capillary walls, improve red blood cells, stabilize collagen tissues such as tendons, ligaments and cartilage and has cholesterol lowering effects. They also increase retinal pigments that allow the eye to tolerate light. In addition, it helps to maintain the flexibility of red blood cells, allowing them to pass through the capillaries and supply oxygen. The herb has been shown to be a vasodilator that opens blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. Since the eyes have a high concentration of capillaries, bilberry may be particularly helpful in improving eyesight. The herb has been shown to improve night vision, slow macular degeneration, prevent cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. Scientific studies have shown improvement in the eyesight, circulation, angina, stroke and atherosclerosis. It is also used to improve varicose veins and has anti-aging effects on collagen structures.
Individuals with hardening of the arteries, diabetes, high blood pressure or other conditions that increase the likelihood of damage to the small blood vessels in the eyes are more likely to have serious vision problems as a result of blood vessel damage. Note that bilberry is taken by mouth to treat eye problems. It is not used as an eye drop.
Oral bilberry preparations are also used to prevent and treat a condition known as chronic venous insufficiency, which occurs when valves in the veins that carry blood back to the heart are weak or damaged.
Blood may collect in the veins of the legs and lead to varicose veins, spider veins, or sores on the legs. More serious results can include blood clots in the legs. Because bilberry may strengthen the walls of all blood vessels in the body. It may also relieve hemorrhoids.
In the past, dried bilberries have been used to treat diarrhea because the tannins it contains (1.5% and as much as 10%) act as an astringent to the gastrointestinal tract. An astringent shrinks and tightens the top layers of skin or mucous membranes thereby reducing secretions, relieving irritation, and improving tissue firmness. Tea brewed from dried bilberry fruits has also been used to soothe a sore throat or sore mouth tissue.
In folk medicine, bilberry leaf has been used to treat a number of conditions including diabetes. Limited evidence from a few animal studies shows that it may have a decreasing effect on blood sugar. Additionally, in at least one study, an extract of bilberry leaves may also have lowered cholesterol levels in laboratory animals. Other laboratory and animal studies have tested potential anticancer effects of bilberry. In a laboratory study, bilberry stopped the growth of both leukemic and colon cancer cells. While preliminary results suggest that anthocyanosides obtained from bilberries may also block the effects of an enzyme and other chemicals that promote tumor growth, much more study is needed. To date, no human clinical studies have confirmed any of these results from bilberry.
Recent research showed that Bilberry extract has promising anti-ulcer activity, both preventive and curative. It also has shown anti-cancer properties in animal experiments. When administered to diabetes patients, Bilberry normalised capillary collagen thickness and blood sugar levels in humans and animals.
Bilberry Tea In depth research has proved that regular consumption of Bilberry tea can improve vision by strengthening the retina and blood vessels of the walls in the eyes. Another benefit of Bilberry tea is that it reduces blood sugar levels and cholesterol, which in turn helps diabetics and reduces the risk of a heart attack for those with heart conditions.
Bilberry is the European cousin of the blueberry. In America, it goes by the name huckleberry. For generations, bilberry benefits have been touted as being effective for treating wide arrays of medical maladies. The tiny purple berry was even reportedly responsible for helping improve the vision of British pilots during World War II, thus enabling them to fire with spot-on accuracy.
But, while that story may have been somewhat embellished, modern science confirms that bilberries do present a range of health benefits to the human body, including improving one's vision.
What Makes Bilberries Beneficial?
Bilberries contain a potent type of flavonoid antioxidant called anthocyanosides. This antioxidant has been shown to support the cardiovascular system and eye health.
How Does Bilberry Benefit the Eyes?
The eyes have a high concentration of tiny capillaries that can be affected by inflammation, blood pressure, and other vascular disorders. Because bilberry is effective at helping reduce inflammation, and it has the ability to strengthen the capillaries, thin the blood, and stimulate the release of vasodilators, it is believed that the fruit can have a positive effect on eye health and eyesight in general.
Where Can I Find Bilberry?
In the United States, it can be difficult finding natural bilberry growing in the wild, as it is more common in Europe. It can be found as a jam, but in this form, it can often contain high levels of sugar and preservatives.
Astaxanthin is a natural and easy-to-find alternative to bilberry. This red-colored pigment is considered one of the most powerful antioxidants in nature, and it is one of the few that has the ability to cross the blood barrier, thus allowing it to fight free radicals within the eyes.