Closely related to the cranberry, huckleberry and the blueberry family, Bilberry is a herb commonly found in Western Asia and the Rocky Mountains in the United States. Bilberry is a perennial herb that grows up to 1.5 feet high. The herbal plant produces blue-black berries and does well when planted in moist, fertile soil. It does not tolerate too much sun and needs a shady location. It needs fertile soil that is non-calcareous. The plant develops pointed leaves that are oval in shape and will give off small pink and white flowers that bloom in June. The flowers develop into berries which are ripe for picking by late summer. Like its cousins, the edible berry that grows on this plant is commonly used in a variety of food products like jams, cobblers and pies.
Benefits of Bilberry
The health benefits of herbal Bilberry came into light at the time of the Second World War, when it earned a high reputation with pilots for increasing night vision. Even today, the flavonoids, tannic and cinnamic acids contained within the berries are considered beneficial to good eye health. Regular intake is even supposed to treat cataracts too.
Bilberry is also widely recognized as a venotonic. This means that it protects against capillary damage and reduces the increased permeability of cells caused by edema, high blood pressure and diabetes. Right from the 1500s, Bilberry has been used in a small way to treat tuberculosis, stones, scurvy and biliary disease. Infections of the oral mucosa and conditions like diarrhea and pharyngitis are also supposed to be cured by the intake of Bilberry.
The high concentrations of flavonoids contained within the plant contain a rich supply of antioxidants. These antioxidants prevent oxidation and inhibit platelet aggregation.
Thus they may be helpful in preventing cancer as they help root out the free radicals contained within the body. Bilberry extract is touted as an effective diuretic too. It has therefore been used to treat kidney infections, stone and urinary tract infections. Bilberry was also found to curtail the growth of cancerous colon cells, in vitro.
Bilberry For Health Treatments
With so many uses to its credit Bilberry extract is a healthy herb supplement. Tea made of Bilberry plant is effective against sore throat, hemorrhoids and varicose veins. Bilberry is also supposed to improve the blood circulation within the body, thus reducing the chances of a heart attack.
The best news concerning Bilberry extract is that there are no known side effects. The extract is available over the counter in the form of capsules or liquids.
While there are no contraindications, pregnant women and nursing mothers should take the extract only after consultation with a doctor. Due to its capacity to prevent platelet aggregation, individuals on blood thinning medications should have this extract only under strict medical supervision. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar level, is another possible interaction. Since Bilberry has properties that may lead to a lowering of the blood sugar level, patients suffering from diabetes should have it with care. Hypoglycemia is dangerous as it may result in coma or death.