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Bilberry

BILBERRY PLANT DESCRIPTION

Bilberry is a perennial shrub that grows to about 16 inches in height. It has sharp-edged, green branches and black wrinkled berries, which are ripe for picking in late summer. Bilberry is a relative of blueberry, cranberry, and huckleberry, and its fruit looks and tastes much like the American blueberry.bilberry 150x150 Bilberry

The key nutrient compounds in bilberry fruit are called anthocyanosides – potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.

These compounds help build strong blood vessels and improve circulation to all areas of the body. They also prevent blood platelets from clumping together (helping to reduce the risk of blood clots), and they have antioxidant properties (preventing or reducing damage to cells from free radicals).

Anthocyanidins boost the production of rhodopsin, a pigment that improves night vision and helps the eye adapt to light changes.

Bilberry fruit is also rich in tannins, a substance that acts as an astringent. The tannins have anti-inflammatory properties and may help control diarrhea.

 

Chronic venous insufficiency

Bilberry extracts are used in Europe to treat this condition, which occurs when valves in veins in the legs that carry blood to the heart are damaged. Some studies have reported improvements in symptoms, but most of the studies were poorly designed.

 

Diabetes

Bilberry leaves have traditionally been used to control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Animal studies suggest bilberry may be effective, but no human studies have been done, so bilberry is not recommended for this use.

 

Atherosclerosis

Animal studies have found that anthocyanosides may strengthen blood vessels, improve circulation, and prevent the oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, a major risk factor for atherosclerosis (plaque that blocks blood vessels, leading to heart attack and stroke). Research in people is needed.

 

Diarrhea and wounds

Bilberry has been used in European medicine for nearly a thousand years, primarily to treat diarrhea. The fruit contains tannins, substances that act as both an anti-inflammatory and an astringent (constricting and tightening tissues). Bilberry is believed to help people with diarrhea by reducing intestinal inflammation. No studies, however, have examined bilberry’s use for diarrhea.

 

Vision

Anthocyanosides found in bilberry fruits may also be useful for people with vision problems. During World War II, British fighter pilots reported improved nighttime vision after eating bilberry jam. Studies have shown mixed, mainly negative results, however. Bilberry has also been suggested as a treatment for retinopathy (damage to the retina) because anthocyanosides appear to help protect the retina. Bilberry has also been suggested as treatment to prevent cataracts. However, studies are lacking in both areas.

(research contributed to by Nicole Cooper of Holistic Healing News)

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