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Bilberry Overview

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is a small deciduous shrub found growing mostly in the fields of Europe - England, Scandinavia, and Siberia. It is a close relative to our North American blueberry. The bilberry, itself, is a round, bluish fruit with slightly acidic taste. In Europe, bilberry has been used for food and medicinal purposes such as, diarrhea, dysentery, and scurvy for a thousand years. Bilberry is the subject of much scientific investigation in the prevention and treatment of eye disease: cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, poor night vision, and retinopathy, as well as treatment of varicose veins and hemorrhoids, and to speed wound healing and reduce bruising.

Because bilberries are a very rich source of antioxidant anthocyanosides, researchers have focused on their ability to protect capillaries from free radical damage. Because capillary damage is a primary factor in a number of diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts, bilberry extracts are often promoted as a way to treat and prevent these conditions. Anthocyanosides may also promote the formation of connective tissue through their protective effects on collagen synthesis and repair and, thus, may also improve vascular circulation.

Research shows that bilberry has anti-inflammatory benefits and is able to reduce symptoms of hemorrhoids. Improved visual acuity has been noted in anecdotal reports of night vision (bomber pilot story) and diabetic retinopathy. A 20% reduction in capillary lesions was noted in one study following daily intake of 600 mg of bilberry extract for 6 months. In Germany, Commission E approved the internal use of bilberry for acute diarrhea, and mild inflammation of the mucous membranes in mouth and throat.

Dosage: Eat 1/2 to 1 cup of fresh bilberry or blueberry daily. Standardized extracts of 100 – 500 mg per day (25% anthocyanosides) in 2 to 3 divided doses.

Side Effects: Under recommended intakes, bilberry extract is safe. In some cases, under doctor’s supervision, it may even be recommended for use during pregnancy for prevention and treatment of varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

Sources: and

Research Overview

Bilberry research shows the following effects:
1. Protects healthy tissue from anti-cancer drugs
2. Contains high levels of antioxidant components
3. High free radical scavenging activity
4. Contains reservatrol, an antioxidant found in red grape skins
5. Contains high levels of anticarcinogenic material
6. Acts as an anti-angiogenic
7. Prevents leukocytes from adhering to venules
8. Protects capillary perfusion
9. Protects from ischaemia reperfusion injury
10. Protects against microvascular damage
11. Positive effects of bilberry last after the substance has left plasma
12. Reduces fluid accumulation in tissue
13. May be effective in treating chronic fatigue syndrome
14. Helps prevent cardiovascular disease
15. Helps improve eye functioning
16. Reduces DNA damage and unnatural cell death
17. Helps prevent cataracts
18. Helps prevent ulcers
19. Enhances protective potential of gastrointestinal mucosa
20. Bilberry is high in quercetin
21. Bilberry is high in flavonols

Bilberry Abstracts (17)

Bilberry Citations (10)