Bilberry Identification: A shrubby perennial plant that grows in the sandy areas of the northern US and in the woods and forest meadows of Europe. The angular, green, branched stem grows from a creeping rootstock to a height of 1 to 1-1/2 feet. The leaves are Bilberry Flower
alternate, weakly serrate, dark green and shiny on top and 1/2 to 1 inch long. The reddish pink or red and white, solitary, auxiliary flowers have a pitcher shaped corolla and appear in May and June. The fruit is usually blue-black; it may be red in some cases. The berry is 5-seeded.
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Bilberry Fruit Habitat: Tthe woods and forest meadows of Europe, western Asia, and the Rocky Mountains of North America.
Family: Ericaceae (Heath Family)
Other Names: Whortleberry, Black Whortles,. Whinberry, Trackleberry, Huckleberry, Hurts, Bleaberry, Hurtleberry, Airelle, and Blueberries.
Flowers: May and June.
Parts Used: Fruit
History: The bilberry’s blue-black berry, which is creamy white inside, has been valued as a food since prehistoric times. Commonly referred to as “European blueberry,” it is famed as a filling for pies, and for use in cobblers, jams, and other recipes.
In addition, for at least one thousand years, European herbalists have also recommended the plant’s fruits and leaves for medicinal purposes, treating a variety of complaints with a strong, boiled tea made from the plant. Urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and diarrhea are just a few of the ailments for which bilberry has been used.
Bilberry’s modern reputation as a healing plant was sparked during World War II, when British Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots noticed that their night vision was sharper than usual whenever they ate bilberry preserves before starting out on their evening bombing raids.
Constituents: Anthocyanosides, the bioflavonoid complex in bilberries, are potent antioxidants. They support normal formation of connective tissue and strengthen capillaries in the body. Anthocyanosides may also improve capillary and venous blood flow.
* Improve vision – The plant appears to assist the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye, in adjusting quickly to both dark and light. This is probably a result of the plant’s anthocyanosides, which have antioxidant properties and appear to boost oxygen and blood delivery to the eye.
Herbalists have also long considered bilberry useful for treating night blindness and daytime vision impaired by glare. The herb is also quite popular for preventing macular degeneration, a condition in which the light-sensitive area in the center of the retina breaks down.
It may also help slow the progression of cataracts, a clouding in the eye’s lens that is common in older people. In one study of 50 patients with age-related cataracts, it was found that taking bilberry extract along with vitamin E supplements stopped the progression of cataracts in nearly all of the participants. It remains unclear, however, whether the vitamin or the bilberry, or even the combination of the two, was responsible for this beneficial effect.
The herb has also shown promise in lessening the effects of diabetic retinopathy, a degenerative eye disease that affects people with diabetes.
* Improve varicose veins and other circulatory problems: The active ingredients in bilberry appear to enhance blood flow to vessels that circulate blood throughout the body. For this reason, the herb may benefit people suffering from poor circulation in their extremities, painful varicose veins, and hemorrhoids–all discomforts that can be expected to improve with enhanced circulation.
Preparation & Dosages:
For cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye problems: Take 80-160 mg of standardized extract or 1/2 teaspoon liquid extract two or three times a day.
For the prevention of diabetic retinopathy: Take 80-160 mg (standardized to 25-37% anthocyanosides) three times a day.
For varicose veins: Take 80-160 mg standardized extract three times a day.
For sore throat and diarrhea: Prepare bilberry tea by pouring 1 cup of very hot water over 1 or 2 tablespoons of dried whole berries (or 2 or 3 teaspoons of crushed berries). Let the tea steep, covered, for 10 minutes, then strain. Commercial teabags are also available. Drink up to 4 cups daily as needed.