Health benefits of bilberry include relief from digestive problems and ulcers. Since many decades, antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of bilberry have been prized for their effectiveness in a range of disorders including diabetes, cancer and liver and kidney damage. Multi nutrient-rich bilberry is valuable in maintaining cardiovascular health, healthy and disease-free eyes, unobstructed blood flow and better functioning of overall body.
Bilberry plant is a close relative of the blueberries and is amongst the numerous species in the Ericaceae family. These are delicious berries which are native to Northern Europe and have been valued for its therapeutic effectiveness in the conventional system of European medicine since many centuries. Today, bilberry is cultivated in Northern Asia, Europe and North America and is becoming quite popular as a delicious ingredient in preserves, pies and jams as well as for its ability to treat a range of health conditions.
Bilberry is a spreading, low-growing, deciduous shrub with slender branches having tiny pinkish blossoms and bright green, oval and pointed leaves. The plant yields dark purple berries harvested during summer time and can used fresh or in dried form.
Nutritional Value of Bilberry
Bilberry contains a range of vital nutrients including vitamins such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) and vitamin K (phylloquinone). Mineral treasure present in bilberry comprises of copper, chromium, manganese, zinc and iron. Bilberry is a rich provider of alkaloids, carbonic acids and a number of phenolic components such as quercitin, anthocyanins, tannins, pectin and catechins.
Health Benefits of Bilberry
Most of the parts of bilberry plant such as leaves and dried or ripe fruit are utilized in the preparation of herbal medicines. Usefulness of bilberry in curing a range of diseases has been discussed as below:
Antioxidant defense: Antioxidant power of bilberry makes it a valuable multipurpose remedy. The fruit of bilberry plant consists of chemical components, anthocyanosides. These useful water soluble chemicals possess radical scavenging qualities which seek out for oxygen free radicals produced during energy metabolism and neutralize their effects. Such protective action prevents the occurrence of many problems caused as a consequence of oxidative stress.
Diabetes: Effectiveness of bilberry for preventing and curing diabetes has been appreciated since the earlier times and has also been advocated by the recent scientific findings. Bilberry assists in regulating the blood sugar levels in the body attributing to the rich concentration of anthocyanins. Studies conducted on bilberry suggest that dietary bilberry extract helps in improving the condition of hyperglycemia and insulin sensitivity in the people suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Protection against liver damage: Bilberry exerts protective effect against restraint stress stimulated liver damage attributing to the richness of antioxidants. Scientific research has shown the inhibitory and radical scavenging activity of bilberry extracts which enhances the level of beneficial glutathione and vitamin C in the body and reduces the concentration of nitric oxide in the liver tissues.
Prevention of cancer: Bilberry extracts have been found to be effective against the development of various cancers including colon cancer, breast cancer and leukemia. A comparative study conducted on different berries has rendered bilberry to be the most potent in inhibition of cancerous cells. This owes to the presence of phenolic components delphinidin and glycosides in bilberry which prevent the proliferation of malignant cells and induces apoptosis.
Protection against eye disorders: Bilberry is useful for the maintenance of eye health. Apart from the traditional usage, scientific studies have also advocated the effectiveness of bilberry extract in preventing age-related ocular disorders along with other eye diseases such as cataract and night-blindness. Powerful radical scavengers present in bilberry helps enhance the vision and may be useful for the restoration and homeostasis of corneal limbal epithelial cells. Another research conducted on bilberry has also suggested its beneficial enzyme stimulating activity which protects the eyes from endotoxin-induced uvenitis. Bilberry extracts stimulates the production of rhodopsin pigment which supports the eye to adapt to light changes.
Protection against kidney failure: Another amazing beneficial effect of bilberry is its defense against kidney damage. Scientific research has shown that bilberry extracts help in the normalizing multiple critical factors including levels of creatinine, serum blood urea nitrogen and nitric oxide. This inhibitory action again attributes to the antioxidant profile of bilberry which enhances the oxygen radical absorbance capacity in the kidney tissues and protects it from the oxidative damage.
Cardio-protective effects: Bilberry is effective in maintaining cardiovascular health which is one of the major causes of death all around the world. This heart protective effect attributes to the potential of anthocyanins present in bilberry which helps in improving the LDL and HDL cholesterol levels in the body. Research studies have also validated the positive effects of bilberry fruit on the blood pressure and vascular health leading to the inhibition of platelet aggregation and smooth muscle contraction. Another study has suggested the anti-ischemic and anti-arrhythmic activity of bilberry on the heart which helps stimulate the coronary flow and is instrumental in preventing multiple cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis.
Anti-microbial effects: As stated, bilberry contains phenolic components which have also been found to exert anti-microbial activity. This inhibitory action of bilberry works against various human pathogens including Salmonella, H.pylori, Bacillus, clostridium and Staphylococcus aureus and prevents the development of associated diseases. Recent scientific findings also suggest the potential of bilberry extract in fighting antibiotic-resistant organisms.
Digestive health: Bilberry has been used to cure stomach disorders such as diarrhea, indigestion and n nausea. This attributes to the astringent action of tannins and pectin present in bilberry which exerts therapeutic effect on the stomach inflammations and also heals inflammation caused in the mucous membranes of throat and mouth when applied topically.
Bilberry: word of caution
Although bilberry is generally considered safe for consumption, however a few exceptions that need to be considered have been mentioned as under:
People taking anticoagulant and anti-platelet drugs should cautiously use bilberry extracts as they may interact detrimentally or alter the effectiveness of the medication.
Some recent studies have also warned against the usage of bilberry extracts in high concentrations as excessive consumption of bilberry may cause toxicity and result in fatal complications in some individuals.
Other than that, natural caution should always be exercised while trying bilberry for the first time or during special phases like lactation and pregnancy. It is best to consult a medical expert to understand the appropriate dosage and discuss individualized concerns before accepting bilberry for therapeutic usage to get maximum benefits without any side effects.
Among the berries, bilberry is considered as an important and prized botanical owing to multiple beneficial properties. It helps in strengthening of capillaries, stimulates circulation and prevents disorders like varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Bilberry extract is also effective against stomach ulcers, encourages the production of helpful stomach juices and assists in soothing menstrual cramps. Anti-inflammatory properties of bilberry assist in curing the conditions like thrombosis and angina. It supports and toughens the collagen structures, stalls bacterial growth and assist in detoxification of the body. It is also recommended by the doctors prior to surgeries to reduce the associated bleeding later. Inclusion of such multitalented bilberries can deliciously boost the nutritional quotient of your diet and keep you healthy.