Isn’t it funny how bilberry sounds like blueberry? As a matter of fact, both berries also look alike, and the bilberry is actually related to the antioxidant-filled blueberry. Just like the blueberry, bilberry is also used to make jams and pies. But were you aware that this berry has been used for centuries in food and medicine?
Botanical Name and Family of Bilberry
Bilberry is known botanically as Vaccinium myrtillus. It belongs to the Ericaceae or the Heath family and is often referred to as Blaeberry, Winberry and Myrtle blueberry.
What Is Bilberry?
This delectable berry is native to Northern Europe and has been valued for its therapeutic effectiveness in the conventional system of European medicine for many centuries. Bilberry is a shrub with slender branches that have pinkish blossoms and bright-green oval pointed leaves.
Bilberry is a berry that is found in Asia, Europe, Canada and the U.S. They are closely related to blueberries, cranberry and huckleberry. Besides their use in cooking to make cookies, candies, cakes, muffins and juices, bilberries have been widely-used for their medicinal properties.
Active Ingredients Found in Bilberry
Just like its relatives, huckleberry and blueberry, bilberry is the richest natural source of anthocyanins, which is an antioxidant that creates its dark blue color. Along with anthocyanins, it also contains polyphenolic compounds, flavonoids.
Bilberry also contains alkaloids, carbonic acids and a range of essential nutrients including the following:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Health Benefits of Bilberry
Traditionally, Bilberry has been used to treat diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoarthritis and diseases of the cardiovascular system and gastrointestinal tract. Bilberry has now been proven extremely beneficial as a visual aid and used to improve eyesight.
Scientific research has also advocated for the effectiveness of bilberry extract in preventing age-related ocular disorders as well as eye diseases like night-blindness and cataract. Reason being is the lutein compound present in the eye, in conjunction with the compounds in bilberry, helps strengthen vision.
Due to its strong astringent compounds, bilberry subsides stomach inflammation while it also heals inflammation caused by mucous membranes of the mouth and throat when applied topically. The anti-inflammatory properties within this fruit also help with curing conditions like thrombosis and angina.
Aside from improving eye health and fighting inflammation, bilberry also proposes the following benefits:
- Improves blood health
- Prevents cancer
- Controls diabetes
- Helps menstrual cramps
- Aids in skincare
- Prevents kidney failure
- Manages liver health
- Protects the heart
Different Ways to Use Bilberry
Bilberry can be consumed in a variety of ways like fresh, powdered, dried, extracted or in liquid form. Ripe dried fruits and leaves are used as medicine or you can also use them to make tea, pie filling and other beverages.
Side Effects of Bilberry
The benefits of this wonder-berry are seemingly endless. Bilberry is safe for general use in the quantities consumed as food. But people who are currently on anti-diabetic medications, who recently had surgery, or who are expecting a child must use this herb with caution. This is why you should always make sure you consult with your doctor before consuming any new fruits or herbal remedies.
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Guder A, Gur M, Engin MS. Antidiabetic and Antioxidant Properties of Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus Linn.) Fruit and Their Chemical Composition. J. Agr. Sci. Tech. (2015) Vol. 17: 401-414
Cignarella A, Nastasi M, Cavalli E, Puglisi L. Novel lipid-lowering properties of Vaccinium myrtillus L. leaves, a traditional antidiabetic treatment, in several models of rat dyslipidaemia: A comparison with ciprofibrate. Thrombosis Research. Dec 1996. 84(5); 311-322