Even though there are new medications and supplements that are quite amazing, we must not forget about herbs and supplements. In fact, more people are looking back to older solutions for problems that they face today. Bilberry is a perfect example of that. Interestingly, the plant looks very similar to blueberries, but it’s different. In use for hundreds of years as a medicinal plant, you’ll find bilberry supplements, jam, tea and other forms for sale.
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What is Bilberry?
Bilberry is a shrub very similar in nature to blueberries. In fact, the bilberry is so close that it’s often mistaken for a blueberry. However, there are some key differences between the two plants. First, bilberry plants stay smaller, generally reaching about 12 inches in height. The berries that grow on the plant also tend to be softer and sweeter than blueberries with a tart aftertaste. In addition, bilberries do best in cool climates, but also grow in warmer climates when afternoon shade is available. Regardless, they are a beneficial plant to have in your garden. In addition, bilberry supplements are also quite effective.
What is Bilberry Good for?
Before taking any sort of bilberry supplement it’s important to examine the benefits. The plant extract taken for many different purposes over the last couple hundred years, but what do we know the plant is actually good for? Below is an overview of different benefits of bilberry as proven, or at least suspected by science.
Bilberry plants are good for skin protection, eye health, weight loss and improving blood flow in the lower extremities. These benefits can all be obtained with very few side-effects for most people, which only serves to make this supplement more impressive. Read below for a more in-depth look at the benefits of bilberry herbs and the berries that look so similar to the blueberries you’ve likely been consuming most of your life.
Bilberry Benefits for Skin
One of the main causes of aging skin today is sun exposure. That’s because UVB radiation makes its way into the skin and does oxidative damage to the skin. At the same time, it depletes collagen. There is information that suggests bilberry benefits for skin might be real and usable. You receive these benefits by using a topical solution with anthocyanins infusions. This is the compound in bilberries that gives them their color. However, the anthocyanins also protect the skin against UV-B radiation. This is much in the same way that they protect plants by absorbing radiation. While more testing must be done, a sort of bilberry sunscreen might help reduce skin aging over time. Therefore, bilberry extract for skin health is a useful topical product.
Bilberry for Eye Health
One of the most well-known benefits of bilberry supplements is its use for promoting eye health. In fact, studies show that these powerful plants help support healthy eyes. One study shows the use of bilberry for cataracts as a way to slow down the progression of this eye-clouding condition. This is great news because cataracts are a leading cause of blindness. Another study testing the use of bilberry extract shows that the supplement reduces retinal inflammation which causes vision loss in some patients.
While it’s not clear if bilberry worked to help improve nighttime vision for the U.K.’s Royal Air Force during WWII or if pilots even took the supplement during that period, there is clear evidence that bilberry supplement capsules are useful for promoting good eye health overall. It’s clear that bilberry is good for eyes, but is that that isn’t the only use for this incredible supplement.
Using Bilberry Tea and Supplements for Weight Loss
There are some early studies around bilberry tea for weight loss as well as bilberry supplements themselves for losing weight. While the studies only use rats so far, they show promising results for the anthocyanins found in bilberry at high levels. This antioxidant helps suppress weight gain, improves blood fat levels and reduces body fat levels. There’s never a guarantee that the effects of a compound on rats have the same results with humans, but the results of these studies are promising.
Bilberry is well-known for being a healthy food source with lots of antioxidants, fiber, and other healthy vitamins and minerals. But, whether you take a supplement or eat fresh bilberries they help encourage weight loss in some people. However, more studies are needed to further substantiate these effects.
Bilberry Can Help Reduce CVI Symptoms
CVI or Chronic Venous Insufficiency is an unpleasant condition that causes poor circulation in the legs, discoloration, and discomfort. These symptoms are normally reduced through the use of compression stockings, But, there is evidence that taking a bilberry supplement helps reduce the symptoms of this condition as well.
How to Consume Bilberry
Bilberry is difficult to obtain fresh in the United States and in many parts of the world. For this reason, most people that bilberry in supplement or extract form. Manufacturers make the extract dry berries. Then, they preserve it in capsules which makes it convenient to take in a uniform dose.
Many take bilberry as a supplement and many drink it as tea. For people with access to fresh bilberries, they eat them raw just as you do a blueberry. They also mash and process bilberries into jams and jellies.
Enjoying Fresh Bilberries
Bilberries are also tasty when you pick them off the vine, but many people find them too tart. Some like to eat the ripe berries on their own, while other people cook them down with sugar into jams and pie fillings. It is worth noting that they also make a great smoothie!
Eating Bilberry Jam
When cooking down with sugar bilberries turn into a delicious bilberry jam which you spread on toast, enjoy in sandwiches, and on pancakes. Moreover, bilberry jam sells all over the world.
Trying Bilberry Tea
Bilberry tea is made from the dry berries and produces a tart drink that offers many health benefits. Occasionally people consume bilberry leaf tea, but bilberry leaf is harmful when taken in large amounts. Moreover, it doesn’t offer the same health benefits, so it is not the most effective.
Using Bilberry Supplements
While there are not enough studies to recommend an exact dose to take when using bilberry supplements, most health experts generally agree that taking between 100mg and 480mg of bilberry extract daily is safe.
It’s important to note that the berries of the plant are beneficial and generally safe, but not all parts of the plant are safe to use. The leaves have high levels of tannins in them and cause health problems. Those might include muscle spasms, weight loss, and even death if you consume them in high enough doses over a period of time. That’s why it’s important to verify the quality of your bilberry supplement product to help you avoid bilberry side effects.
Is it Safe to Take?
Yes, bilberry supplements and the fresh berries are generally safe to take by anyone two years of age and older. There are potential medication interactions that come with taking the medication. Since bilberries have a high number of anthocyanosides in them, they interfere with the natural blood clotting process. So, if you take anticoagulants such as warfarin, consult with your medical professional before proceeding.
Bilberry also lowers blood sugar levels in the body, which is problematic for patients on diabetes medication. For anyone taking medication for diabetes, it’s important to avoid using bilberry supplements. This is because because they enhance diabetes medication. It’s also a good idea to avoid taking bilberry with other supplements that lower blood sugar levels.
Growing Your Own Bilberry
Bilberry plants are grown around the world, but they do best in cool climates with acidic soil. The bilberry growing zone range is between the USDA plant hardiness zones of 3 to 8. When growing the plant in warmer zones you must take special care to protect the plant from overheating. To avoid overheating, move your container to a cooler location.
Bilberry bushes are hardy and easily grown in a wide range of soil locations. If you’re looking for a new berry plant to grow, these beneficial berries make an excellent addition to your property. What’s more, they’re perennials and offer fruit for years to come after planting.
Start by raising containers to grow berry plants, and get a minimum of two plants. However, more plants are better because they must cross-pollinate in order to produce berries. Or, put new plants in the ground around your property in early spring after the final frost. Also, take care to add soil that drains well. Then, plant each bush at about eight inches in depth. Plant in holes that are twice as wide as the bilberry bushes, and at the same depth as the roots to give the roots room to grow outward. Then, cover the new plant fully with soil and layer two inches of mulch over the top. Finally, water deeply and wait for growth.
Comparing to Other Berries
Bilberry is a well-known and popular fruit, especially throughout Europe and the U.K. But it’s not the only berry around and there are several others that look very similar. Below we’ll look at how huckleberries, blueberries, and bilberries are alike and how they are different.
Bilberry vs. Blueberry
Not only does the bilberry look very similar to the blueberry, but both food sources offer many of the same benefits. These berries are both rich with antioxidants and can be used to promote eye health, blood flow, weight loss and also to boost skin health if used properly. Both are tools for good health, though bilberry extract and bilberry supplements are a bit easier to obtain today than blueberry extract and supplements are.
Bilberry vs. Huckleberry
Huckleberries and bilberries are very similar in size and color. However, huckleberries range in color more than bilberries. If you’re looking for bilberry vs huckleberry health comparison, that’s difficult, because both plants are very similar in nature. They have a similar flavor and offer access to many of the same antioxidants. Interestingly, if you eat a dark berry that’s close to blue in color you get benefits from the rich antioxidants, regardless of the type of berry.
It’s clear now that the bilberry has been in use for hundreds of years for some purposes that aren’t yet proven by science. However, there are plenty of legitimate uses for the plant. While there’s no solid evidence that bilberry supplements boost your nighttime vision, they help promote eye health and serve as a tool for preventing some eye illnesses.
This powerful plant also serves as a potent source of vitamins and minerals and helps promote weight loss when taken as a supplement or by using bilberry tea regularly. If you want a way to boost your overall health, adding a source of high-quality bilberry into your diet is a great idea. It might not transform your life or your health, but it will improve it ways that are worth further research. Additionally, for people with specific health problems such as clouding eyes or CVI the supplements might have a big impact on overall health and wellbeing.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.