By Karen Appold
The health benefits of bilberries have been known for centuries. Chemicals in its fruit, known as anthocyanosides, have great antioxidant properties. They get rid of free radicals, which damage cells. Bilberries also contain vitamin C, another antioxidant. More research is needed to learn about all of bilberry’s true benefits.
Bilberries look a lot like blueberries, but they are deeper purple. In addition to blueberries, they are related to cranberries and huckleberries. Bilberries have a tart, edible fruit that is popular in pies and jams. The shrubbery-type plant, which has bright green leaves and bell-shaped flowers, grows wild in the Rocky Mountains, northern Europe, and western Asia.
Perhaps the most impressive health benefit of bilberries is its ability to help with vision problems. Its anthocyanosides have been used to treat damage to the retina (retinopathy) due to high blood pressure or high blood sugar. Anthocyanosides also help to prevent retinal inflammation.
Bilberries may also protect against other vision problems such as glaucoma, cataracts, poor night vision, and macular degeneration. Its powerful antioxidants protect cells in the eyes.
Anthocyanosides may improve circulation, strengthen blood vessels, and prevent oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (bad) cholesterol. The latter is a risk factor for atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in blood vessels), which can lead to heart attack and stroke. These chemicals may also prevent blood platelets from clumping together, lowering the risk of blood clot formation.
Chronic venous insufficiency
Chronic venous insufficiency occurs when valves in leg veins that transport blood to the heart get damaged. This causes leg pain, swelling, and itching, as well as skin ulcers and varicose veins. Anthocyanosides seem to strengthen blood vessels and lesson symptoms.
All types of berries reduce blood glucose levels after eating high sugar foods.
Bilberry fruit contains tannins, substances that tighten and constrict tissues and have anti-inflammatory properties. It may help diarrhea by lowering inflammation in the intestines.
You can get the health benefits of bilberries by eating them dried or fresh, obtaining bilberry extract from its berries or leaves, or drinking bilberry tea. Bilberry extract is a best-selling herbal supplement in the United States.
For general health benefits, take 80 to 120 milligrams (mg) of standardized bilberry extract (containing 25 percent anthocyanidin) as a nutritional supplement twice daily. For specific uses, other dosages may be advised.
Karen Appold is a medical writer in Lehigh Valley, PA.