Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is a small, blue berry and is a cousin to the blueberry. Originating from Europe, the bilberry is blue on the outside as well as blue all the way through to its core, whereas the blueberry is blue on the outside and white in the middle. The blue color is attributed to a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanins. Bilberries have been used for medicinal purposes since the middle ages and during World War 2 British fighter pilots would eat bilberry jam before their flights to improve their night vision.
Traditionally bilberry was used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, gastrointestinal inflammation, hemorrhoids as well as can be used to ‘dry up’ breast milk. The fruit was also used to treat scurvy and for urinary tract infections.
The largest antioxidant found in the bilberry, anthocyanins, have shown to have clinical health benefits to include, peripheral vascular disorders including Raynaud’s syndrome, venous disorders, capillary fragility, nosebleeds, can reduce inflammation, diabetic and hypertensive retinopathies, photosensitivity, lowering cholesterol, glaucoma and improving night vision.
Bilberry is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, manganese, calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamins B1, B2, B3 and fiber.
You can eat them fresh, dried or in your favorite recipe that would otherwise call for blueberries. Plus, they can be used to make jam, or you can simply mash them with a fork to use as a quick spread on your toast. They can also be consumed in supplement form for more consistent benefit.
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