A fruit that is related to blueberries, the bilberry is native to the European Continent and is known by different names. These include names or terms such as European blueberries, huckleberry, and whortleberry. Bilberries come in many different forms for the mass market and for an individual’s personal consumption. Bilberries can be prepared as pastry or pie, as a beverage like juices or smoothies, as a delicious jam spread, or consumed as fresh fruit. They may also be taken as a supplement usually taken in powder or juice form.
What are the Health Benefits of Bilberries?
Bilberries are known to have numerous health benefits due to the presence of polyphenols and anthocyanins. It is usually associated as a supplement that can have a range of positive effects particularly for diabetes, eye conditions and other health conditions. The eye conditions that bilberries can supposedly address include age-related macular degeneration, dryness of the eyes, cataracts, retinitis pigmentosa, and glaucoma.
Due to its significant levels of anti-oxidants, Bilberries have also been shown to fend off inflammation and help the body in preventing damage from oxidative stress which includes conditions such as IBD or inflammatory bowel disease, age-related cognitive decline, cardiovascular diseases, gingivitis, and type 2 diabetes.
Experts believe that the anthocyanins present in bilberries also contribute to the reduction of joint inflammation and help in the stabilization of collagen containing tissues such as ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. Studies also indicate that bilberries can also help enhance the strength of the blood vessels and can also be taken as an oral supplement to address hemorrhoids and varicose veins.
Limited studies have actually been conducted to look further into the possible health benefits of bilberries. The observations of experts, however, seem promising. Listed below are some of the possible specific health benefits of bilberries:
Bilberries can help with eye fatigue
Research suggests that bilberries can help alleviate the symptoms of eye fatigue. 281 individuals who used terminals displaying images and videos experienced improved tolerance in terms of eye fatigue.
Bilberries can also address other vision-related conditions
Initial data has shown that bilberry extracts can help in addressing conditions of the retina and other eye or vision-related conditions. In fact, animal test subjects which were provided with bilberry extracts showed decreased degeneration of retinal or eye cells.
Bilberries can address gingivitis or gum inflammation
Evidence suggests that bilberry may aid in the management of gum inflammation or gingivitis. After one particular study, experts concluded that test subjects who received 500 grams worth of bilberries yielded reduced inflammation of the gums.
What are the Possible Side Effects of Bilberries?
Tannin may cause allergies and other effects
As with other food items or medicinal herbs, there may be some risks or possible side effects in the use of bilberries and while they are considered generally safe and well tolerated by individuals, there is still a slim chance of an allergic reaction to bilberries. Tannin, a substance found in most other products and food items such as nuts, beans, chocolate, cranberries, blueberries, red wine, tea, and coffee, can also be found in bilberries and in bilberry-based food items and products. People who are allergic to tannin should naturally refrain from taking in any form of bilberry-based product to avoid any possible allergic reactions.
Experts claim that the tannin found in bilberries may have an adverse effect on an individual if taken in large quantities or amounts. While bilberry has also been shown to help people with type 2 diabetes manage and control their blood sugar levels, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should refrain from taking in bilberries as further research and study are needed to confirm the safety of bilberries for pregnant and lactating women.
Individuals are also cautioned on the safety aspect of supplements as they are mostly unregulated, with limited safety studies and with negative indications that go unreported to the Food and drug authority. As such, supplements such as bilberries should be taken with some form of caution and consideration.
Anthocyanins may not interact well with other medications
The anthocyanins present in bilberries may also negatively interact with other medications such as antibiotics, anticancer drugs, anti-arthritis medications, and beta blockers. Increased intake of flavonoids form bilberries may also cause a heightened tendency for bleeding when taken in combination with drugs meant for blood thinning such as warfarin, aspirin, and NSAIDs. The flavonoids in bilberries may also pose a problem for people with certain bleeding and blood disorders.
What is the Recommended Dosage and Preparation of Bilberries?
Due to the lack of available and reliable data on how to actually prepare and take in bilberries, an exact recommended dosage is currently not available. Typically, however, bilberries are taken as dried and ripe fruits in the amount of 20 to 60 grams on a daily basis. There are also some observations that mashed bilberry teas can be taken in doses ranging from 5 to 10 grams or one (1) to two (2) teaspoons. In addition, people need to consider their weight, age, medical history, and gender before they can actually come up with the ideal dose.