Written by Erica Mirabilio BHSc (Nat)
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)
Vaccinium myrtillus, commonly known as ‘Bilberry’ is a small berry from the Ericaceae family. The Bilberry plant is a leafy shrub which grows up to 60cm long and is mostly found in the woodlands. When flowering, this plant produces berries that are similar in appearance to the traditional blueberry – a purple-black colour with wrinkles and contains tiny seeds. The berries and leaves from the Bilberry plant are the parts used for medicinal health purposes.
History & Use of Bilberry
The Bilberry plant is native to European countries and dating back to the 12th century, German herbalists have been recommending Bilberry for health purposes. The medicinal properties were again recognised during World War II, where pilots had found that consuming Bilberries assisted them with their night vision. In addition to several medicinal applications, Bilberry was used as a means of consumption, commonly in the form of tea.
Bilberry may be used as a culinary ingredient for sweet condiments such as a natural jam, syrup or jelly; for beverages including tea, fresh juice or in smoothies; and for home-made baked goods such as traditional Bilberry pies and upside-down cakes or take a modern twist in baking tarts, muffins, crumbles or streusel. Forms which have been used less commonly include macerates, decoctions, infusions and also as a food colouring agent. To include Bilberry in your diet, keep an eye out for products such as dried, frozen or powdered berries.
The active constituents found in Bilberries include tannins (catechins), flavonoids and polyphenols such as anthocyanosides and proanthocyanidins. The Bilberry leaves also contain a potent polyphenol known as resveratrol, additional to flavonoids such as quercetin.
Polyphenols, flavonoids and tannins are all phytoprotective compounds which are naturally produced as a defence mechanism by the fruiting plant, as a response to harmful external pathogens or stressors such as pests, extreme weather conditions and high UV radiation. The phytoprotective effects inhibit the growth of bacteria or viruses in the plant. These constituents are commonly found in the skin of berries, producing the rich hues of red, purple and blue. Tannins have astringent effects on mucous membranes and are responsible for the bitter after-taste and dry mouth feeling you may experience after consuming tannin-rich foods. Great examples of other tannin containing foods include unsweetened green tea or concentrated natural cranberry juice. The polyphenol and flavonoid components of Bilberry provide various health promoting benefits such as its antioxidant action, which reduces free radical formation and damage to cells.
Some health indications for Bilberry:
– Maintaining overall eye health, including important structures, such as the retina and macula.
– Supporting healthy eye development and functions such as healthy eyesight, vision and also assisting the eye to adapt to variations of light intensity, for e.g. night-vision.
– In addition, Bilberry helps to support ocular health and function and maintain healthy eyesight by relieving symptoms of eye discomfort such as redness, soreness and dry eyes while also decreasing eye strain and reducing associated visual fatigue.
Administration forms of Bilberry include dried fruits, liquid extracts and most commonly, standardised extracts. Preparations which contain the dry fruit of Vaccinium myrtillus generally have a daily dose which ranges between 1.2g – 75g and may contain a standardised extract of Anthocyanosides at 40mg – 120mg. Therapeutic effects may take effect after durations of approximately 4 – 8 weeks.
Caruso’s Bilberry for eye health contains 15g of Bilberry and 60mg of Anthocyanosides.
For more information, please contact one of our friendly naturopaths from Carusos on 1300304480. Always read the label and follow directions for use. If symptoms persist, worsen or change unexpectedly, talk to your health professional. This medicine may not be right for you. Read the warnings before purchase. If you would like to purchase Caruso’s Bilberry or browse our product range, please visit here.
- ANC Clinical Overview – Bilberry
- Braun & Cohen (2015). Herbs & Natural Supplements, 4th, vol. 2.