Bilberry Background and Benefits
Bilberry is the common name for several species of plants in the Vaccinium genus, especially V. myrtillus. They are low-growing shrubs that are closely related to blueberries and are often mistaken for blueberries. Bilberry plants are also known by many other common names, including fraughan, myrtle blueberry and windberry.
Bilberries are native to northern Europe, including the British Isles. They are difficult to cultivate, so bilberries are typically harvested by hand from wild plants. The fruits are small and soft, so it takes care to remove them without damaging them or uprooting the plants. Fresh bilberries are therefore sold only in European markets and gourmet stores, although frozen bilberries are available throughout the year.
The species Vaccinium vitis-idaea is also known as a bilberry as well as more specific common names such as cowberry and lingonberry. Its fruits have been used in traditional medicine for a variety of purposes, especially gastrointestinal conditions. The primary active ingredient in bilberry extract is anthocyanins, which are dark red or blue plant pigments. Anthocyanins also have strong antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants help support the body’s ability to manage the the effects of excess free radical activity, which are highly reactive chemicals that cause cellular damage. Bilberries may therefore be capable of providing a variety of beneficial effects.
Uses of Bilberry
The most common use of bilberry extract is to maintain a healthy circulatory system. Eye health, relief of menstrual discomfort and digestive support are also common reasons for taking bilberry extract.
Eye health support
The anthocyanins in bilberries help to maintain the health of the retina by supporting the blood flow to the eyes.
Oral supplements of bilberry extract may help support digestive health and function by relieving stomach discomfort, bloating and flatulence in addition to maintaining regular bowel movements.
Anthocyanins such as those found in bilberries are often taken to maintain healthy circulation. Related uses of bilberry include relief from bruising, discomfort and swelling, especially in the legs.
Bilberry extract can relieve the discomfort of menstruation.
Signs You May Need Bilberry
The antioxidant properties of anthocyanins may also indicate the use of bilberries for people with a range of age-related conditions. The most common signs that you may benefit from bilberry extract are age-related conditions such as poor eye health and function. Other age-related conditions including circulatory symptoms such as hemorrhoids and slow blood clotting may also benefit from bilberry extract. Women who experience menstrual discomfort may consider taking bilberry extract.
Other Ingredients That May Be Of Interest
Trans-resveratrol - Several plants produce this natural phenol in response to injury or attack. Common dietary sources of trans-resveratrol include bilberries, blueberries, grapes and mulberries.
Beta carotene - Beta carotene is a bright red-orange pigment that is abundant in plants such as carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkins. It is the most common dietary source of vitamin A.
Synonyms and Similar Forms of Bilberry
Vaccinium genus, V. myrtillus, fraughan, myrtle blueberry and windberry