Parts used medicinally: Dried ripe fruit.
Bilberry is indigenous temperate regions like Europe. It is a rich source of a particular class of antioxidants called anthocyanins. These are said to help improve the health of blood capillaries, especially the small ones in the eyes. For this reason, bilberry is commonly used for conditions affecting the heart and/or blood vessels.
What is Bilberry?
Bilberry is a small shrub, about 30-40cm tall, that produces dark blue (almost black) berries. Its name comes from a Danish word meaning ‘dark berry’ and it is closely related to other vacciniums such as common blueberry and cranberry. Bilberry is one of the richest natural sources of anthocyanins, a pigment that gives plants their red, blue and purple hues as well as possessing strong antioxidant properties.
It has wonderful vaso-protective properties, meaning that it literally protects the blood vessels and so is commonly used to treat disorders of the vessels such as varicose veins and Raynaud’s syndrome. People with fragile capillaries such as those who often get nosebleeds or bleeding gums also benefit massively from this wonder fruit.
Bilberry is also great at improving circulation through the tiny capillaries, like those of the eye and helps to enhance blood flow to those areas. This is one of the reasons it is often used to treat vision disorders that are caused by impaired circulation to the retina.
Did You Know?
- Bilberry jam or wine was consumed by pilots during World War II to improve their night vision.
- Thanks to its anti-inflammatory action, it is an ingredient of a botanical drug formulation called SAMITAL, which helps to treat oral mucositis (pain and inflammation of the mouth) in cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy.
- Traditionally it was used to help ‘dry up’ breast milk when nursing mothers were ready to stop breastfeeding.
Bilberry & Me
- When suffering from a sore throat, try spraying a tincture/extract of bilberry to the back of the throat to help minimize the pain and inflammation.
If you are pregnant/breastfeeding or on drug medication, be sure to consult with a professional before trying these remedies.