Vaccinium myrtillus, Vaccinium uliginosum. Family: Ericaceae
blueberry, bog whortleberry, northern bilberry
Bilberries are a type of blueberry found in Europe and the Northern United States and are closely related to the U.S. blueberry. Although the entire plant is used, the berries and their juice are the most commonly known. Historically, bilberry was used to improve eye disorders such as retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. Bomber pilots in WWII would often eat bilberries before a flight in the belief that bilberries improved vision, particularly night vision.
Medically valid uses
Currently, there are no documented valid medical uses for bilberry.
Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.
Bilberry fruit contains anthocyanosides (anthocyanidins), which may strengthen the capillary walls and therefore protect the blood vessels and reduce potential excess fluid in the body. Anthocyanidins are also natural antioxidants.
Bilberry may prevent or slow the progress of macular degeneration (a condition causing deterioration of central vision).
Bilberry has been claimed to alleviate night blindness, but scientific studies have shown that this is not true.
Bilberry is claimed to have a diuretic effect, increasing the production and elimination of urine from the body, and to be a urinary tract antiseptic and anti-inflammatory agent. Bilberry is also claimed to help control hypoglycemia (regulate insulin levels), alleviate stress and anxiety, and heal gastrointestinal ulcers. Bilberry is claimed to lower lipids (protect low-density lipoproteins from oxidative stress) and strengthen connective tissue. Some claims suggest that bilberry may also slow the progression of cataracts.
Bilberry extracts are available in tablets and capsules. Follow packaging instructions for correct dose.
Fresh berries or juice are safe to consume in normal quantities.
Side effects, toxicity, and interactions
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a physician before taking any herbal medicines.
There are no significant food or drug interactions associated with bilberry.
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There is not enough scientific evidence to support the use of bilberry for any specific health condition.