Bilberry: Evidence Based Benefits and Side Effects

What is Bilberry?

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is a well-known traditional herbal medicine used in the treatment of several ailments. Studies have shown that it contains all the essential nutrients required for a strong immune system.

Bilberry
Bilberry

Possible health benefits: What is it good for

Abdominal disorders

It contains anthocyanins that exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Tea brewed from the dried fruits can help in the treatment of diarrhea which accompanies colitis, an inflammatory condition of the colon.

It was confirmed from an animal research study that its consumption decreases bowel movement frequency.

Oral and dental infections

The anthocyanins have strong anti-aggregation potential which inhibits the growth of bacteria, and thus contributes to oral hygiene.

Regular intake of tea or juice is believed to reduce infection and swelling in the mouth.

In an in vitro study, the activity of dental infection-causing bacteria was reversed after the administration of the fruit juice.

In a clinical experiment, administration of the extract in rodents with mouth sores showed a drastic reduction in oral inflammation.

Bilberry Photos
Bilberry Photos

Diabetes

The leaf or berry extract can lower the blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.

According to a clinical trial involving 37 patients with type 2 diabetes, the fruit extract successfully brought down the blood glucose levels with no adverse effects.

Cancer

Its antioxidant properties lower the risk of cancer by preventing any damage caused by free radicals.

A research study on a group of patients affected with colorectal cancer supported its use as an anticancer remedy.

Another positive outcome was achieved from a laboratory experiment on liver cancer-affected rats fed with the extract.

Bilberry Pictures
Bilberry Pictures

High cholesterol

It has a high percentage of dietary fibers, polyphenols, and anthocyanins that prevents hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol), minimizing the risk of heart disorders in adults.

An animal research study revealed that a diet rich in bilberry can lower the LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels, but not HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.

Pneumonia

The berry extract has been found to be effective in eliminating respiratory tract infections.

In a clinical study, the juice extract used against infected human bronchial cells helped in inhibiting the growth of pneumonia-causing bacteria.

Swollen ears

Ear infection leads to internal accumulation of fluid and edema which causes inflammation and intolerable pain.

A scientific experiment involving mice with swollen ears showed a significant reduction in inflammation after being fed with the extract.

However, more research is required to medically approve it for common ear ailments.

Bilberry Plant
Bilberry Plant

Kidney damage

Certain food additives and non-prescribed medications can lead to progressive loss of kidney function.

A diet rich in antioxidants can reverse the damage to ensure proper functioning of the kidneys.

Some animal studies demonstrated the positive impact of the extract on damaged kidneys.

Blood pressure

Hypertension or high blood pressure is one of the adverse effects of obesity.

new study on obese mice showed that consumption of the fruits can keep the blood pressure in control and alleviate the associated health problems.

Skin allergies

Regular exposure to UV rays can trigger oxidative stress, causing destruction of skin cells.

Chronic skin allergic conditions such as eczema, pruiritis and dermatitis can be alleviated with topical application of the extract.

Its benefits have been interpreted from some pharmacological studies on human skin cells.

In one laboratory experiment on mice with skin allergy, itching disappeared in a few weeks after its administration.

Glaucoma and other eye disorders

People with eye problems may benefit from the berry for improving their visual condition. It is believed to correct night vision but lacks strong clinical evidence.

There is a possibility that it could repair damaged optic nerves as a result of glaucoma, as analyzed from some studies.

Retinal damage is a serious condition of the eyes caused by several health complications. The extract showed protective effects on damaged retinas in a laboratory study.

A series of clinical trials supported its use for the treatment of asthenopia, a condition marked by weakness and pain in the eyes.

Animal model studies also provide some scientific basis for the use of the extract in reducing uveitis, severe inflammation of the middle layer of the eye.

 

Bilberry Images
Bilberry Images

Safety and Precautions

Side effects– The berry rarely leads to any side effects. However, some people might experience abdominal discomfort and allergic reactions. Excessive consumption of the leaf extract must be avoided as it might lead to some adverse effects.

Patients with blood clotting disorder should consult their physician before consuming the herb.

Bilberry Tea
Bilberry Tea

Use during pregnancy– It would be advisable for pregnant women as well as breast-feeding mothers to avoid its consumption.

References

http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-bilberry.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bilberry

http://www.drugs.com/mtm/bilberry.html

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-202-bilberry.aspx?activeingredientid=202&activeingredientname=bilberry

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/bilberry

http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21568