Sweet, sour, cooling
Cardiotonic, nutritive, restorative, astringent, anti-inflammatory
Cardiovascular, eyes, brain, liver, kidney
Also called Wild Blueberry, bilberry has been used for centuries both as medicine and food. Bilberries contain many times the amounts of anthocyanins and bioflavonoids as commercially grown blueberries. Anthocyanins are bioflavonoids (micronutrients) which are the pigments giving our foods their red, blue, and purple color. The saying “eat the rainbow” directs us to consuming a diet rich in many different colors, and holds true when it comes to health benefits. These micronutrients are responsible for a number of metabolic processes, such as repairing oxidative damage, improving microcirculation, and reducing chronic inflammation. Bilberries are a safe herb to restore nutritional deficiencies which can feed tissues such as hair, skin, nails, and the vital organs. Having nourished blood will hydrate these tissues, brighten the eyes, and give the skin a healthy glow.
Much like goji, bilberries help rebuild “jing”, which refers to our regenerative essence, as described in Chinese Medicine. In addition to building jing, and something that goji does not do, bilberries have an astringent quality that help prevent leakage of jing that happens from lifestyle issues such as overwork, stress, and excessive emotions.
Folklore during World War II has it that pilots of the Royal Air Force would eat bilberry jam to improve their night vision during bombing raids. Today, bilberry is used widely as a preventative and treatment for a variety of ocular disorders such as macular degeneration, cataracts, retinopathy, glaucoma, and impaired night vision. This effect is due the anthocyanins action of nourishing the blood and opening the vessels to clear out waste products from capillaries and reduce local and systemic inflammation.
Bilberry’s astringent property can be used to treat loss of fluids such as frequent urination or sweating. In Europe, bilberries are used to treat venous insufficiency that leads to spider and varicose veins, which occurs when the valves in the veins of the legs that carry blood back to the heart are damaged or lack the strength to move it up the body.
Modern research is exploring these anthocyanins for their anticancer properties and as a preventative against Alzheimer's disease with promising results. Studies also show that anthocyanins prevent oxidation of cholesterol in our blood vessels to prevent the accumulation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which may help prevent atherosclerosis leading to heart attack and stroke.
- In vitro anticancer activity of fruit extracts from Vaccinium species
- Anthocyanosides of Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) for night vision--a systematic review of placebo-controlled trials
- Vision preservation during retinal inflammation by anthocyanin-rich bilberry extract
- Natural therapies for ocular disorders, part two: cataracts and glaucoma
- Effects of Bilberry Supplementation on Metabolic and Cardiovascular Disease Risk
- Anthocyanin-enriched bilberry and blackcurrant extracts modulate amyloid precursor protein processing and alleviate behavioral abnormalities in the APP/PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer's disease
- Anthocyanins: targeting of signaling networks in cancer cells
- A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo-Controlled Study to Compare the Safety and Efficacy of Low Dose Enhanced Wild Blueberry Powder and Wild Blueberry Extract (ThinkBlue™) in Maintenance of Episodic and Working Memory in Older Adults
- Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) - Herbal Medicine - NCBI Bookshelf
- Polyphenol-Rich Bilberry Ameliorates Total Cholesterol and LDL-Cholesterol when Implemented in the Diet of Zucker Diabetic Fatty Rats