Bilberry is a perennial, ornamental shrub that is commonly found in various climates in damp woodlands and moorlands. In the United States they are known as huckleberries, and there are over 100 species with similar names and fruit throughout the Europe, Asia and North America. The English call them whortleberries. The Scots know them as blaeberries. Bilberry has been used as a medicinal herb since the 16th century.
Bilberry is also used in connection with vascular and blood disorders and shows positive effects when treating varicose veins, thrombosis, and angina. Bilberry's fruit contains flavonoids and anthocyanin, which serve to prevent capillary fragility, thin the blood, and stimulate the release of vasodilators. Anthocyanin, a natural antioxidant, also lowers blood pressure, reduces clotting and improves blood supply to the nervous system. Bilberry also contains glucoquinine that has the ability to lower blood sugar.
The herb contains Vitamins A and C, providing antioxidant protection which can help prevent free radical damage to the eyes. Vitamin A is required for sharp vision, while Vitamin C helps form collagen and is needed for growth and repair of tissue cells and blood vessels. Anthocyanosides support and protect collagen structures in the blood vessels of the eyes, assuring strong, healthy capillaries that carry vital nutrients to eye muscles and nerves.
Bilberry has long been a remedy for poor vision and "night blindness." Clinical tests confirm that given orally it improves visual accuracy in healthy people, and can help those with eye diseases such as pigmentosa, retinitis, glaucoma, and myopia. During World War II, British Royal Air Force pilots ate Bilberry preserves before night missions as an aid to night vision. Bilberry works by improving the microcirculation and regeneration of retinal purple, a substance required for good eyesight.
Dried Bilberry fruit and Bilberry tea has been used as a treatment for diarrhea and as a relief for nausea and indigestion. Bilberry is also used as a treatment for mild inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat.
Part Used: Berries, leaves
Common Use: Bilberry contains nutrients needed to protect eyes from eyestrain or fatigue, and can improve circulation to the eyes. Bilberry tea is administered to treat stomach problems and soothe the digestive tract. The leaves and berries are used in the homeopathic treatment of diabetes. Bilberries are used in making jams, preserves, liqueurs, and wines.
Care: Prefers filtered shade and moist, fertile soil that is acidic and non calcareous.