The first recorded medicinal use of bilberries was in the 16th century, when preparations made from the berries and dried leaves were given to patients suffering with urinary tract infections, scurvy and kidney stones. During World War II, reports from British RAF pilots noted that they experienced an improvement in night vision after eating bilberry preserves. Subsequent scientific research gave some substance to their claim, and bilberry is used today to treat a range of visual disorders as well as other complaints. A study of 50 patients suffering age-related cataracts revealed that bilberry extract in combination with Vitamin E inhibited the formation of cataracts.
The dried, ripe fruit, and sometimes the leaves, are used.
One of the major constituents of bilberries are anthocyanosides, which are potent antoxidants. They help to prevent damage by free radicals, unstable oxygen molecules that harm healthy cells. Bilberry extract contains more than 100 times the amount of anthocyanosides than the fresh fruit. Bilberries also contain catechol tannins, flavonoids, iridoids glycosides (asperuloside and monotropein) and phenolic acids.
Bilberry extract reduces the levels of blood lipids and glucose and has antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-exudative and anti-ulcerous properties..
- Bilberry is used to maintain healthy vision and treat eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts.
- Anthocyanosides improve the permeability of capillaries, so can improve atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
- Strengthens connective tissue.
- Helps heal wounds.
- Reduces inflammation of haemorrhoids, varicose veins and phlebitis.
- Eases mouth and throat inflammations.
- May relieve symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease and menstrual cramps.
- May improve poor circulation.
- May fight stomach ulcers.
- May help diarrhoea (German doctors often prescribe bilberry tea to relieve stomach disorders).
Flora Force Products containing (herb)
Domestic & culinary uses
Dried berries are used to make bilberry tea. Fresh berries are not easily available in South Africa.
Small shrubs, bilberries are extremely difficult to grow and are thus seldom cultivated. Fruits are mostly collected from wild plants growing on publicly accessible lands in temperate and subarctic regions. In Europe, they are available frozen
Bilberry is a dwarf, 50-cm-high shrub, with thin ovate leaves. Flowers have ovoid petals, which are red or pink and appear in spring. The herb bears berries as a fruit.