The European cousin of the blueberry, bilberry is less popular but equally effective. Familiar to Americans as ‘huckleberry’, it has been used for treating an extensive range of medical conditions for many generations. It has an interesting history as it helped enhance the eyesight British pilots for firing on targets with spot-on accuracy during World War II. Bilberry is deemed a crucial and valued berry thanks to its numerous health benefits. It is best known for strengthening capillaries and preventing disorders, such as hemorrhoids and varicose veins, by stimulating circulation.
Bilberry extract is widely used for treating stomach ulcers and boost the production of useful stomach juices as well as to relieve menstrual cramps. Bilberry has anti-inflammatory attributes for treating conditions such as angina and thrombosis. It tightens and maintains the collagen structures, prevents bacterial development and helps detoxify the body. Doctors have long recommended bilberry prior to surgeries for reducing the risk of post-operation bleeding. By consuming bilberries, you get a naturally delicious boost to fulfill your daily nutritional quotient for maintaining good health.
How to Consume Bilberry
It is somewhat difficult to find naturally growing bilberry in the wild areas of the US. It is fairly popular and commonly found in Europe. Bilberry grows on small deciduous bushes with ovate leaves during the spring season. It can be consumed as a jam. However, the jam contains several preservatives and high levels of sugar.
There are several different and popular ways of consuming the plant for getting the most out of this gift of nature. It is naturally harvested from forests and consumed fresh in jams or other ways. In Poland, bilberries are placed as a filling in sweet buns and are one of the most popular bakery items of Poland in the summer season. The fruit is also used in dried form for brewing teas or in pill form. Bilberry in its natural form as well as supplements is popular for treating several chronic syndromes and for maintaining good health.
8 Health Benefits of Bilberry
Scientific researches confirm the many health benefits of bilberries. Let’s explore a few health benefits of bilberry, from treating eye disorders to curing rheumatoid arthritis.
1. Prevents Eye Disorders
Bilberries comprise of a potent type of flavonoid antioxidant known as anthocyanosides which helps maintain cardiovascular and eye health. The eyes have several tiny capillaries that can be affected by blood pressure, inflammation and other vascular ailments. As bilberry helps in curbing inflammation, it has a natural ability to fortify the capillaries, simulate the discharge of vasodilators and thin the blood. The fruit has produced positive effects on eyesight and eye health that have been scientifically proven.
Bilberry can be used in its natural form as well as supplements. It prevents age-related ocular disorders along with other numerous eye conditions, including night-blindness and cataracts. Strong radical scavengers present in bilberry greatly improve vision and restore homeostasis of the corneal limbal epithelial cells. The extract also boosts the production of rhodopsin pigment which is helpful in enabling the eye to adjust to light changes. Further research on bilberry has established the fruit contains a beneficial enzyme that stimulates activity for protecting the eyes from endotoxin-induced uveitis.
2. Prevents Diabetes
Bilberry is also popular for treating as well as preventing diabetes. Modern scientific researchers have also advocated the use of bilberry to regulate the body’s blood sugar levels as it contains a high level of anthocyanins. Studies also suggest that bilberry helps in improving insulin sensitivity and hyperglycemia type-2 diabetics.
3. Prevents Liver Damage
Another exceptional health benefit of bilberry is it guards against liver damage caused by restraint stress owing to its many antioxidants. Studies have proven that bilberry improves the level of beneficial vitamin C and glutathione in the body and greatly reduces nitric oxide concentration in the liver tissues. This makes it beneficial for liver health.
4. Prevents Cancer
Bilberry is also helpful in protecting the body against several kinds of cancers, including leukemia, breast cancer and colon cancer. A comparative study on different berries has proven that bilberry is undeniably the most potent of berries to inhibit the development of cancerous cells. Thanks to the phenolic components glycosides and delphinidin in bilberry, the impact of malignant cells is hampered to a large extent.
5. Protects the Kidneys
Bilberry is also effective at defending against any significant kidney damage. It normalizes critical factors, such as levels of blood urea nitrogen, nitric oxide and creatinine. Again, this inhibitory action is owing to the antioxidant content of bilberry that efficiently improves the capacity to absorb oxygen in the kidney tissues for protecting it against oxidative damage.
6. Protects the Heart
Bilberry has been used for maintaining cardiovascular health all around the world for a long time. The anthocyanins present in bilberry help regulate and stabilize HDL and LDL cholesterol levels. The positive health outcomes of the fruit on vascular health and blood pressure levels have been observed. It effectively smoothes muscle contraction and inhibits platelet aggregation. The anti-arrhythmic and anti-ischemic activity of bilberry has good effects on heart health. It aids in stimulating the coronary flow and plays a crucial part in preventing several cardiovascular conditions, including atherosclerosis.
7. Helps Maintain Good Digestive Health
The use of bilberry has been effective for treating stomach disorders, such as indigestion and diarrhea, and symptoms, such as nausea. This is thanks to the astringent action of pectin and tannins that are present in bilberry and have a healing effect on several stomach conditions. It also cures inflammation in the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat.
8. For Antioxidant Defense
Bilberry is a powerful antioxidant that makes it a resourceful remedy for several ailments. The bilberry plant is a rich source of Vitamin C and anthocyanosides and both these antioxidants work together for reversing and repairing any damage to cells from free radicals. This is the reason why we often find bilberry as a major ingredient in several antioxidant formulae. Since the fruit is exceptionally beneficial for the skin and contains high levels of pectin, which is a dietary fiber, it prevents acne and skin breakup.
Even though bilberry is considered safe for maintaining good health, there can be a few exceptions. People who are on anti-platelet and anticoagulant drugs must be cautious before consuming bilberry in its natural form or as a supplement. This may alter the results of the medication as well as produce detrimental outcomes.
A few recent studies have also revealed that consumption of bilberry in high concentrations or in excessive quantities can be toxic. In severe cases, high concentration consumption of bilberry can prove fatal. It is advisable that caution should be taken in special cases, such as pregnancy and lactation, or before trying it for the first time. It is recommended you consult a medical or nutritional expert for learning the accurate and appropriate dosage in its natural and supplement form for yielding maximum benefits without any side effects.