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Bilberry Health Benefits, Nutritional Value and Uses

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What is Billberry?

Bilberry, a low-growing shrub often called European blueberry. It is because bilberry grows abundantly in the mountainous areas of Europe.
Bilberry has sharp edged, green branches and black wrinkled berries. Bilberry is closely related to American Blueberry. Bilberry grows in very acidic, nutrient-poor soils throughout the temperate and subarctic regions of the world. Bilberry has a creamy white meat. Bilberry fruit is smaller
and darker than that of blueberry. Most of the parts of bilberry plant such as leaves and dried or ripe fruit are utilized in the preparation of herbal medicines.

Health Benefits of Bilberry

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. It assists in regulating the blood sugar levels in the body attributing to the rich concentration of anthocyanins. Studies conducted on it suggest that dietary bilberry extract helps in improving the condition of hyperglycemia and insulin sensitivity in the people suffering from type 2 diabetes

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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 it 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. Its extracts stimulates the production of rhodopsin pigment which supports the eye to adapt to light changes.

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Protection against kidney failure: Another amazing beneficial effect of bilberry is its defense against kidney damage. Scientific research has shown that its 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 its 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.

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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 its extract in fighting antibiotic-resistant organisms.

Uses of Bilberry

  • Bilberry is a plant. The dried, ripe fruit and leaves are used to make medicine.
  • Bilberry is used for improving eyesight, including night vision.
  • During World War II, British pilots in the Royal Air Force ate bilberry jam to improve their night vision, but later research showed it probably didn’t help. Bilberry is also used for treating eye conditions such as cataracts and disorders of the retina. There is some evidence that bilberry may help retinal disorders.
  • Some people use bilberry for conditions of the heart and blood vessels including hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), varicose veins, decreased blood flow in the veins, and chest pain.
  • Bilberry is also used for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), hemorrhoids, diabetes, osteoarthritis, gout, skin infections, gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, kidney disease, and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  • It is sometimes applied directly to the inside of the mouth for mild mouth and throat soreness.