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Botanical Agents

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

12 years, 3 months ago

415  0
Posted on Dec 30, 2005, 8 p.m. By Bill Freeman

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The Bilberry plant is closely related to blueberries and currants, all of which belong to the genus Vaccinium. The specific activity of Bilberry comes from concentrated fruit pigments called

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:

The Bilberry plant is closely related to blueberries and currants, all of which belong to the genus Vaccinium. The specific activity of Bilberry comes from concentrated fruit pigments called ‘anthocyanins’ which have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system. The bilberry fruit contains important tannins, which act as antibacterial and antiviral agents, as well as vitamins A and C. The most popular products are extracts standardized to contain 15 to 25 percent of a chemical called anthocyanosides. Bilberry is also available as tinctures and concentrated drops. An average dose of an encapsulated extract standardized for 20 to 25 percent anthocyanosides is 60 to 120mg.

ROLE FOR ANTI-AGING:

The anthocyanosides in bilberries can improve circulation, protect fragile capillaries and cause biochemical reactions in the eye; they have a positive effect on enzymes crucial to vision and the eye’s ability to adapt to the dark. Anthocyanosides have also been shown to alleviate symptoms of diabetes and heart disease. The herb’s shortterm effect on vision is most noticeable within the first four hours of taking it; thus, it can be useful if taken before a visually demanding task like driving all night or reading the entire Sunday paper. Research suggests that bilberry supplements may also help to slow the progression of cataracts and reduce the effects of diabetic retinopathy (a common complication of diabetes and the leading cause of blindness in the US and many other Western countries). In lab tests, bilberry has been shown to prevent the oxidation of "bad" LDL cholesterol, which may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. However, whether bilberry has the same effect in vivo remains to be seen. Although scientists don’t know what components of the bilberry leaf are responsible for these effects, recent research has shown that taking a dried leaf extract will cause a drop in glucose levels. The same research also showed that bilberry leaf can lower blood triglyceride levels, a heart disease risk factor. In vitro screening tests have suggested that components of the hexane/chloroform fraction of bilberry may also have potent anti-carcinogenic properties.

THERAPEUTIC DAILY AMOUNT:

20-60 g dried fruit. 240-280 mg of extract standardized to 25% anthocyanosides.

MAXIMUM SAFE LEVEL: Not established

SIDE EFFECTS/CONTRAINDICATIONS:

Tests have shown bilberry to be completely non-toxic, even when taken in large doses for an extended period of time. Bilberry is safe for use during pregnancy and may even be beneficial for the prevention and treatment of varicose veins and hemorrhoids.

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