The list of bilberry health benefits is long. This article will introduce you to some of the most important ones....
by Carrie North, a writer specializing in nutrition and health issues
Herbalists and traditional
healers have been writing about the benefits of bilberry fruit since
1100 AD. Here is a brief look at both the possible and the probable
(supported by scientific research) health benefits of bilberry fruits
and their extracts.
Initially valued as a tasty fruit and used throughout much of Europe for making jams, pies, tarts and syrups, the use of bilberry fruits in herbal medicine became widespread during the 18th century, particularly in Germany.
Early doctors used preparations containing the berries for the treatment of bladder stones, urinary tract infections, liver disorders, coughs and other lung ailments. They were recommended for the relief of gastrointestinal problems, gout and rheumatism, as well as infections of the skin and mouth.
A tea made from the dried berries has been used since the early part of this century to relieve diarrhea and dysentery and as a nutritional supplement. The benefits of bilberry in the prevention of scurvy or vitamin C deficiency are well known.
During World War II, air force pilots reported that eating bilberry jam improved their night vision. Reports, such as these, led to the first laboratory and clinical studies of bilberry health benefits. Scientific evaluation suggests that the health benefits of bilberry fruit extracts are related to a compound they contain known as anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins are plant antioxidants responsible for red, blue or purple colors in fruits and vegetables. Most studies have been done using an extract of the fruit that has been purified and concentrated to contain at least 25 percent anthocyanins. So, in order to provide the most bilberry health benefits, the best dietary supplements contain a standardized extract containing 25% anthocyanins.
In modern European herbal medicine, bilberry fruit preparations are used to improve circulation and to treat night blindness and diabetic retinopathy. In Germany, they are allowed for use in the treatment of diarrhea and inflammations of the mucous membranes in the throat or mouth.
Laboratory studies suggest that the health benefits of bilberry extracts include the prevention of atherosclerosis, blood clots, stroke, heart disease and chronic inflammation.
In the test tube, the extracts have been shown to inhibit enzymes that cause the degradation of collagen, suggesting a preventive role in conditions such as emphysema, as well as arthritis and other age related conditions.
The bilberry health benefits supported by the most research are related to improved circulation and the reduction of collagen degradation that accompanies aging. Health supplements designed to support a longer healthier life sometimes contain bilberry extract.
Experts caution against relying too heavily on any single fruit, vegetable or the compounds they contain. In other words, even though the health benefits of bilberry are numerous, it is far from the only important ingredient in the human diet.
The best advice is to eat a variety of foods every day,
focus on numerous servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and
designed by those who are knowledgeable about bilberry health benefits,
as well as the health benefits of other herbs, botanicals and
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