An Herb For Thought: Bilberry

BILBERRY

Bilberry

A relatively unknown but powerful antioxidant, bilberry has a number of positive health effects for the brain and heart. It can also help to protect the retina and improve range and clarity of vision.

Overview

Bilberry is a plant. The dried, ripe fruit and leaves are often used to make medicine.
It’s used for improving eyesight, including night vision. In fact, during World War II, British pilots in the Royal Air Force ate bilberry jam to improve their night vision, but later research showed it probably didn’t help. Bilberry is also used for treating eye conditions such as cataracts and disorders of the retina. There is some evidence that bilberry may help retinal disorders.

Some people use bilberry for conditions of the heart and blood vessels including hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), varicose veins, decreased blood flow in the veins, and chest pain.

Bilberry is also used for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), hemorrhoids, diabetes, osteoarthritis, gout, skin infections, gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, kidney disease, and urinary tract infections (UTIs).

It is sometimes applied directly to the inside of the mouth for mild mouth and throat soreness.

How does it work?

Bilberry contains chemicals called tannins that can help improve diarrhea, as well as mouth and throat irritation, by reducing swelling (inflammation). There is some evidence that the chemicals found in bilberry leaves can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Some researchers think that chemicals called flavonoids in bilberry leaf might also improve circulation in people with diabetes. Circulation problems can harm the retina of the eye.

Side Effects & Safety

The dried, ripe fruit of bilberry is LIKELY SAFE for most people when eaten in typical food amounts. Bilberry fruit products, such as powders or extracts, also seem to be safe for most people.

Bilberry leaf is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for most people when taken in high doses or for a long time. If you have diabetes, keep in mind that bilberry leaf might lower blood sugar. Be sure to ask your physician if Bilberry leaf is okay before you try it and also monitor your blood sugar closely.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy or breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of bilberry during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Be sure to ask your physician first or stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Surgery: Bilberry might affect blood glucose levels. This could interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. You may need to stop taking bilberry at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

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