Did you know that bilberries are quite popular in the European regions? They are collected by children right from the trees and eaten as a delicacy.
Well, this is one childish habit that should not be abhorred, because the bilberries have a great number of health benefits.
If you know how to stay away from the wild bilberries and consume the edible ones, even you could get the goodness of these wonderful fruits.
Various names have been bestowed upon the bilberries depending on the region of the earth where they grow, but the nutritional goodness that is present in them remains the same.
These tiny tarty berries are known to provide people with a wide gamut of benefits, right from enhancing vision to better health for the heart.
Quite understandably then, there is much more to the bilberries than just bilberry cake!
Bilberries—What Are They?
Bilberries are tiny blue-black colored berries that are grown on shrubs. They are mostly found in the European countries, most notably Great Britain, and in several North Asian countries as well.
Since they are somewhat blue in color, people mistake them from blueberries, and indeed, one of the colloquial names for it is European blueberries.
They are also called as whortleberries, winberries, and wimberries in different parts of Europe.
These berries belong to the Vaccinium genus. They are a group of several different species of this genus, most notably the Vaccinium myrtillus. They are related to the real blueberries and huckleberries through their genus.
Though bilberries were known as a popular fruit over several centuries, their real medicinal properties came to the fore only in the 16th Century.
During those times, bilberries were used in traditional medicine as an astringent, antiseptic and an anti-inflammatory ingredient to help people come out of various ailments.
Since the 16th Century, bilberries have gained a widespread popularity in Europe for their health benefits and this popularity did not take much time to spread to the rest of the world as well.
In fact, during the World War 2, fighter pilots went on a steady diet of bilberries in order to improve their visual abilities.
These pilots claimed that they could see and hit their targets more easily due to their consumption of these berries.
Bilberries are primarily known for the following health-promoting benefits.
The main advantage of a regular consumption of bilberries is that it can promote visual abilities.
If you have a problem with the eyes, such as blurred vision or inability to focus, then bilberries can help.
They improve the circulation to the ocular area and enhance the pigmented area of the eyes, which make them more visually capable.
Also, problems such as macular degeneration, cataract and glaucoma can be taken care of by using bilberries.
Bilberry has been very effective in improving night vision. Being a close relative of blueberry, it contains high levels of the natural antioxidant compound.
These antioxidants prevent free radicals from causing any damage to the eye. It also strengthens the small blood vessels that carry oxygen to the eyes.
Bilberry is high in flavonoids known as Anthocyanosides, which quickens the regeneration of Rhodopsin, a purple pigment used as rods in the eye for night vision.
It is also useful in treating macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and cataract. One study has shown that combination of bilberry extracts and vitamin E reduces the progression of cataract.
Studies have shown that supplementation with bilberry improves eye adaptation to darkness for people with poor vision.
It does not work with people having good vision, though. Bilberry extracts are known to improve the functional ability of eyes and other organs.
Bilberries improve blood circulation to different parts of the body. Due to this, the immunity of the body increases and the metabolic functions are enhanced. They also help in strengthening the blood vessels within the body.
Bilberries, like most other berries, help in controlling the cholesterol level within the body.
Another important benefit of the bilberries is that they can help in the treatment of cysts and ulcers in the stomach and breast region. This health advantage of the bilberries is still being looked into.
Bilberries also help in improving digestive health. A steady consumption of these berries can help in the elimination of problems such as diarrhea, dysentery, and indigestion.
The bilberry can curb even acidity and flatulence. Eating bilberry mixed with honey is a popular home remedy for diarrhea.
A traditional use of bilberries has been in the maintenance of menstrual health. They can help prevent menstrual cramps and regularize the menstrual flow in women who have irregular periods.
If you have a burn or a wound anywhere on the body, then bilberries can help due to their anti-inflammatory action. They can help the wound to heal faster and prevent further infection.
They can help the wound to heal faster and prevent further infection. They also help arrest bleeding. If there is a heavy itching sensation, then bilberry can help.
Application of its juice on the area of the itch can help, and it can also help cure numbness that might set in on different regions of the body.
Several heart health benefits can be achieved through a regular diet of bilberries. Since bilberries improve blood circulation, they promote heart health.
They can bring an increased amount of blood into the heart and take care of problems such as the onset of high and low blood pressure. Bilberries also help to keep the blood purer.
It is also useful in treating bruising, general subcutaneous bleeding, and easing inflammation that occurs in osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gum disease.
Bilberry leaves can be used to treat diabetes due to its hypoglycemic properties.
It can be used as a topical treatment in the form of infusion or decoctions, like tea or liquid extracts for eyes and mouth inflammation, skin infections and burns.
It is known to treat chronic venous insufficiency, varicose veins, pain, itching, and skin ulcers in the legs. It may also prove to be effective in treating Raynaud’s disease.
It is also very effective in curing and treating peptic ulcers, fibrocystic breast disease, and painful menstruation.
It is available in tincture as well as capsule form. And fresh bilberries are always there to be plucked.
To reduce cataract, macular degeneration and other eye problems take 80-160 mg of standardized extract or 1/2 teaspoon liquid extract two or three times a day.
For diabetic retinopathy take 80- 160 mg (standardized to 23-37% anthocyanosides) at least three times a day
To treat varicose veins consume 80-160 mg standardized extract three times a day.
For sore throat and diarrhea make bilberry tea by pouring 1 cup hot water in 1 or 2 tablespoons of dried whole berries or 2 to 3 teaspoons of finely crushed berries. Strain and drink at least 4 cups a day.
In some individuals, consumption of bilberry internally may interfere with iron absorption. Lactating and pregnant women should avoid it, completely.
Bilberries—Where to Get Them
The widespread popularity of bilberries ensures that you can get hold of them quite easily. Since they are natively grown in Europe, they are most easily available there in supermarkets.
Various bilberry products, even a particular type of bilberry tea that has several health benefits itself, are easily found.
If you do not live in Europe, even then you may find bilberry products on your store shelves, or you may find the berries themselves.
The Internet is a great option to get bilberries too, especially if you are not living in a region that naturally produces this berry. Several online retailers ship bilberries to different parts of the world.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
Health Benefits of Bilberries
- It can promote visual abilities
- Bilberries improve blood circulation
- They help in controlling the cholesterol level
- They can help in the treatment of cysts and ulcers in the stomach and breast region
- Bilberries also help in improving digestive health
- A traditional use of bilberries has been in the maintenance of menstrual health
- Several heart health benefits can be achieved through a regular diet of bilberries.
– Are there bilberry products available in your area?
– Do you consume bilberries?
– Are there other berries you can gobble up instead?
– Are there alternative source of this similar health food that you can eat?
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