Bilberry is a relative of blueberry, cranberry, and huckleberry, and its fruit looks and tastes much like the American blueberry. It has been used in traditional European medicine for nearly a thousand years, primarily to treat diarrhea and eye health.
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.
The key compounds in Bilberry fruit are called anthocyanidins. These compounds help build strong capillaries and improve circulation to all areas of the body. They also prevent blood platelets from clumping together (helping to reduce the risk of blood clots which may lead, for example, to heart attack or stroke). Anthocyanidins also boost the production of rhodopsin, a pigment that improves night vision and helps the eye adapt to light changes.
Bilberry fruit is also rich in tannins, a substance that acts as an astringent, thereby helping bleeding to stop. The tannins and anthocyanidins, therefore, may balance each other out when the whole Bilberry fruit is used for medicinal purposes. The tannins have anti-inflammatory properties and may help to relief mild inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. It act as a urinary tract antiseptic, control diarrhea, indigestion and might relief nausea.
Bilberry also contains Vitamins A and C, providing antioxidant protection which can help prevent free radical damage. Vitamin A is also required for sharp vision, while Vitamin C helps form collagen and is needed for growth and repair of tissue cells and blood vessels.
Bilberry also contains glucoquinine that helps control insulin and blood sugar levels.
Bilberry fruit and extract are considered generally safe, with no known side effects. There are no known scientific reports of interactions between Bilberry and conventional medications.