Health benefits of bilberry include relief from digestive problems and ulcers. Since many decades, the 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 the overall body.
What is Bilberry?
Bilberry plant is a close relative of 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 their therapeutic effectiveness in the conventional system of European medicine since many centuries. Today, they are cultivated in Northern Asia, Europe, and North America and are becoming quite popular as a delicious ingredient in preserves, pies, and jams as well as for their 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 be 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). The mineral treasure present in it comprises of copper, chromium, manganese, zinc, and iron. It is a rich provider of alkaloids, carbonic acids and a number of phenolic components such as quercetin, anthocyanins, tannins, pectin, and catechins.
Health Benefits of Bilberry
Most parts of the bilberry plant, such as the leaves and the dried or ripe fruit are utilized in the preparation of herbal medicines. Here are the main ways that bilberries can be used to cure a range of deadly diseases;
The antioxidant power of bilberry makes it a valuable multipurpose remedy. The fruit of bilberry plant consists of chemical components called anthocyanosides. These useful water-soluble chemicals possess radical scavenging qualities. They seek out for oxygen-free radicals produced during energy metabolism and neutralize their effects. This protective action prevents the occurrence of many problems caused as a consequence of oxidative stress.
The effectiveness of bilberry for preventing and curing diabetes has been appreciated since early times and has also been advocated by recent scientific findings. It assists in regulating the blood sugar levels in the body, due to the rich concentration of anthocyanins. Studies suggest that dietary bilberry extract helps in improving the condition of hyperglycemia and insulin sensitivity in the people suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Maintains Liver Health
Bilberry exerts a protective effect against restraint stress stimulated liver damage owing to the presence of antioxidants. Scientific research has shown that the inhibitory and radical scavenging activity of bilberry extracts enhances the level of beneficial glutathione and vitamin C in the body and reduces the concentration of nitric oxide in the liver tissues.
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 is because of the presence of phenolic components like delphinidin and glycosides in bilberry. They prevent the proliferation of malignant cells and induce apoptosis.
Maintains Eye Health
Bilberry is useful for the maintenance of eye health. 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 it helps enhance vision and may be useful for the restoration and homeostasis of corneal limbal epithelial cells. Another research conducted on bilberry has also suggested that its beneficial enzyme stimulating activity protects the eyes from endotoxin-induced uveitis. Its extracts stimulate the production of rhodopsin pigment which supports the eye to adapt to light changes.
Prevents Kidney Failure
Another amazing beneficial effect of bilberry is its defense against kidney damage. Scientific research has shown that its extracts help in normalizing multiple critical factors including levels of creatinine, serum blood urea nitrogen and nitric oxide. This inhibitory action is again due to the antioxidant profile of bilberry, which enhances the oxygen radical absorbance capacity in the kidney tissues, thus protecting it from oxidative damage.
Bilberry is effective in maintaining cardiovascular health, one of the major causes of death all around the world. This heart protective effect is attributed 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 its fruit on blood pressure and vascular health leading to the inhibition of platelet aggregation and smooth muscle contraction. Another study has suggested that the anti-ischemic and anti-arrhythmic effect of bilberry on the heart helps stimulate the coronary flow and is instrumental in preventing multiple cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis.
Bilberry contains phenolic components which have also been found to exert antimicrobial 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 its extract in fighting antibiotic-resistant organisms.
Aids in Digestion
Bilberry has been used to cure stomach disorders such as diarrhea, indigestion, and nausea. This is due to the astringent action of tannins and pectin present in bilberry, which exerts a therapeutic effect on stomach inflammations. It also heals inflammation caused by the mucous membranes of the throat and mouth when applied topically.
Word of Caution: Although bilberry is generally considered safe for consumption, however a few exceptions that need to be considered have been mentioned below:
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 this berry 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 its multiple beneficial properties. It helps to strengthen 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 this fruit assist in curing conditions like thrombosis and angina. It supports and toughens the collagen structures, stalls bacterial growth and assists in detoxification of the body. It is also recommended by doctors prior to surgeries in order to reduce the associated bleeding later. Including these multitalented bilberries can deliciously boost the nutritional quotient of your diet and keep you healthy.