What Is It?
And Where Does It Come From?
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is a perennial small-branched shrubby fruit-bearing plant that grows in the North American Rocky Mountains, Western Asia and Europe.
Bilberry is also known as whortleberry, black whortles, whinberry, trackleberry, huckleberry, hurts, bleaberry, hurtleberry, airelle, vaccinium frondosum, and European blueberries.
What Does It Do?
And What Scientific Studies Give Evidence To Support This?
Bilberry has been used to treat a variety of minor medical conditions since the 16th century.
As a source of vitamins A and C and anthocyanosides, bilberries are a source of antioxidants. Antioxidants scavenge the body for free radicals and eliminate them before they can damage muscle tissue, vital organs, or DNA. As a result, bilberry may offer some protection against the onset of various cancers.
In addition to having antioxidant effects, anthocyanosides are also clinically proven to promote blood vessel health and proper circulation. Improved circulation may lead to vasodilation, enhanced vision, the prevention of macular degeneration, improved joint health, increased blood flow to the brain, normalize blood clotting, supply the nervous system with blood, and reduce blood pressure.
Indeed, and although clinical data to date is small, bilberry has been used anecdotally to enhance vision, to increase blood supply to smooth and skeletal muscle tissue and to reduce blood pressure.
As a source of quinic acid [C6H7(OH)4COOH - a sugar compound], bilberry - like its cousin the cranberry plant - may be useful for treating urinary tract infections and kidney stones. Additionally, clinical trials indicate that quinic acid may have beneficial effects on the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.1
| What Is Alzheimer's?
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive disease of the brain that ischaracterized by impairment of memory and a disturbance in at least one other thinking function (for example, language or perception of reality).
Many scientists believe that AD results from an increase in the production or accumulation ofa specific protein (beta-amyloid protein) that leads to nerve cell death. Lossof nerve cells in strategic brain areas, in turn, causes deficits in theneurotransmitters, which are the brain's chemical messengers.
The tannins in bilberry have been used successfully to speed wound healing after dental surgeries, and reduce throat inflammation arising from flues, colds and allergy attacks. Many tannins are found in tea preparations, and bilberry can be made into a tea for this purpose. Tannins are also effective as a treatment for diarrhea.
Finally, bilberry has been successfully used by insulin-dependant diabetics to reduce the need for insulin administration. Although clinical data is scant, researchers believe that glucoquinine - a compound in bilberry that's proven to reduce blood-sugar levels - is responsible for this effect.
Who Needs It?
And What Are Some Symptoms Of Deficiency?
Everyone can benefit from supplementing with bilberry (see above). Bodybuilders, diabetics, and people with vision difficulties, high blood pressure and immune system irregularities may benefit from bilberry supplementation.
Bilberry is not an essential nutrient and no symptoms of deficiency exist.
How Much Should Be Taken?
And Are There Any Side Effects?
Follow label directions.
No side effects are known, and bilberry extract is not known to be contraindicated with any prescription medication or over the counter dietary supplement.
- Hur JY, Soh Y, Kim BH, Suk K, Sohn NW, Kim HC, Kwon HC, Lee KR, Kim SY. Neuroprotective and neurotrophic effects of quinic acids from Aster scaber in PC12 cells. Biol Pharm Bull. 2001 Aug;24(8):921-4.