Friday, August 31, 2018

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus): the health benefits

Bilberry is often referred to as the European blueberry and has long been eaten in jams, pies, cobblers and cakes.

Vaccinium myrtillus L. is a small edible berry which grows on small wiry shrubs on hillsides throughout Central and Northern Europe. Bilberry is a shrub that grows to about 16 inches high.

It has oval, pointed leaves and small pink and white flowers. It is smaller and blue throughout the pulp, a visible sign that it is even richer in anthocyanins, pigments that are high in health promoting antioxidants.

Among the 450 species belonging to the genus Vaccinium, the traditional medicinal use of Vaccinium myrtillus L. has been documented since the Middle Ages, when its fruits were recommended for a variety of conditions, and from the 16th century the plant has been systematically mentioned in all major herbal treatises.

It has a long history of being used as a treatment for diabetes. Bilberry extract may play a significant role in the prevention and treatment of glaucoma via its effect on collagen structures in the eye. It has been used historically as a treatment for fevers, coughs, renal stones and urinary tract infections, intestinal and liver disorders, hemorrhoids, and infections of the skin and mucus membranes. It was also used to treat a variety of eye disorders including myopia, eyestrain, impaired night vision and cataracts.

More recently, bilberry fruit extracts have been used for the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, and mouth and throat inflammations. Bilberry extracts also can help protect the stomach against ulcers, it stimulates production of stomach mucus, which protects against digestive acids.

Researchers have long known that the pharmacologically active constituents in bilberries are flavonoids known as anthocyanosides. The major American use for bilberry fruit is to treat ocular disorders; it is used to aid night vision, prevent the development and progression of cataracts, treat diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, and prevent glaucoma. During World War II, British fighter pilots reported improved nighttime vision after eating bilberry jam.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus): the health benefits

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