The use of Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) as an herbal remedy stems back almost one thousand years to Europe, where it was mainly used to relieve diarrhea. Bilberry is a 16-inch tall shrub with pointed, oval leaves and small white and pink flowers which bloom between April and June. Its dark purple berries ripen in late summer. Bilberry is a relative of the cranberry, blueberry, and huckleberry. Its fruit looks and tastes similar to the American blueberry. Bilberry fruit contains high concentrations of tannins, substances that act as both an astringent and an anti-inflammatory. This fruit also contains flavonoid compounds called anthocyanidins. Flavonoids are plant pigments that possess outstanding antioxidant properties, foraging out dangerous particles in the body known as free radicals. Bilberry has been connected with the prevention of cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration.
Anthocyanidin (a flavonoid) is the primary compound in bilberry fruit, building strong capillaries and improving circulation throughout the entire body. Anthocyanidins may prevent blood platelets from clumping together, which minimizes the risk of blood clots (associated with heart attack and stroke). Bilberry fruit contains tannins, a substance that acts as an astringent, stopping bleeding. The tannins and anthocyanidins may equalize each other when the whole bilberry fruit is used for medicinal purposes. Anthocyanidins increase rhodopsin production, a pigment that assists the eye's ability to adapt to light changes and enhances night vision. The tannins possess anti-inflammatory properties and as mentioned previously may relieve diarrhea.
The Bilberry herb has been also been associated with the care and treatment of number of ailments including atherosclerosis, cataracts, diabetes, diarrhea, macular degeneration, night blindness, and retinopathy, and is considered a strong antioxidant by many experts. Though the medicinal benefits of Bilberry are not certain, thousands of people continue to seek bilberry for its health-related properties.