The bilberry fruit is a native berry to the European continent, but is found in parts of Asia and certain regions of North America as well. It is closely linked to the other berries like the cranberry, blueberry and the huckleberry, but mostly resembles the American blueberry in taste and color. The bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) plant grows to a small shrub of about 16 inches and bears the fruit during summer. The berries then bloom around late summer and are a dark shade of purple. The bilberry fruit has several benefits and is a great choice to make for overall health. The following article will tell you all about the bilberry benefits:

Bilberry Health Benefits

There are several benefits of bilberry to speak of. Here are some of them:

Strengthens Vision
Bilberry benefits one in improving their vision. Bilberry helps in strengthening the vision and helps to prevent the onset of other eye problems. This is possible because it contains active compounds called anthocyanosides which help in preventing problems like cataracts, poor night vision and glaucoma. It also decreases the rate of macular degeneration and therefore bilberry benefits for eyes are several and far reaching. Read more on bilberry for eyes.

Digestive Health
One of the major bilberry benefits is that it helps in combating some of the stomach and digestion problems and therefore promotes digestive health. It has been a known fact that the consumption of the bilberry fruit helps to combat problems of diarrhea, indigestion and dysentery; along with some other stomach problems, infections and diseases.

Strengthens Immunity
Bilberry benefits also include the fact that they have a high content of antioxidants that help to fight the free radicals of the body. By doing this they help the process of oxidization in the body and strengthen the immune system. The direct result of which is that a person is not affected by the common cough, colds and infections as often.

Strengthens Blood
There are several flavonoids found in the bilberry fruit. These flavonoids are responsible for thinning the blood and thereby preventing fragility of the capillaries (thereby promoting heart health). Along with that it also treats several blood and vascular disorders like angina and varicose veins.

Promotes Women’s Health
Bilberry benefits are also inclusive of preventing and easing menstruation cramps in women. Along with that, regular consumption of the bilberry fruit helps to treat the onset of ulcers and preventing fibrocystic breast disease. And therefore it is a great choice to make for overall women’s health.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties
The bilberry fruit has anti-inflammatory properties. It helps in the recovery from any burn or wound. It also helps to clear the mucous membranes of the nose, mouth and throat.

Improves Heart Health
Bilberry consumption helps prevent the onset of low and high blood pressure. It also improves the supply of blood to the nerves and in the purification of the blood. It also helps to treat and prevent diabetes from setting in.

Other Benefits

* It is used in making jams and preserves along with wines and liqueurs.
* It is used for the treatment of sore and strep throats.
* It combats skin ulcers, itching and numbness.
* Bilberry contains active tannins which help to stop excess bleeding. This is possible due to its astringent properties.
* Bilberry tea is also taken and is said to prevent many health disorders.

Side Effects of Bilberry
Scientifically called vaccinium myrtillus, bilberries should be consumed in moderation, given the fall outs associated with them. Many people use the tea made from dried bilberry foliage, as it has helpful curative qualities related to diabetes, gouts, ulcers and arthritis. But the dosage of this is specifically 1 teaspoon (5g) for a single cup, not more than once a day. This should not be played with, as bilberry leaves are believed to induce poisonous effects in the human body, when used for a prolonged period of time. The poisonous effects of bilberry leaves are resultant of the tannins, complex phenolic substances present in bilberry leaves. It is due to these tannins that people undergo drastic weight loss, muscular contractions and sometimes even death. So, use bilberry leaf extracts only for the duration of treatment and not more than that.

Bilberry is also known for its anti-coagulation properties, wherein, it prevents blood from clotting. So, one of the possible bilberry side effects could rear its head if you are on medicines to induce blood clots, given bleeding disorders, wherein, your blood already takes a long time to clot. The anthocyanosides present in bilberries are actually active ingredients, which are used in blood thinning medicines, for those with thicker blood variety and subsequent problematic circulation can actually interfere with the course of these medicines that induce blood clotting. Thus, bilberries are a strict no no for people with even minor hemophilic symptoms. Read more on ‘Hemophilia’.

When excessive bilberry is consumed in combination with herbs such as fenugreek, ginseng and garlic, it could induce hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels in a person. So, naturally bilberries are not to be consumed by those people who are already on medication for hypoglycemia, as bilberry will tamper with the way of the medicine, by actually working to negate the effects of the medication.

If using bilberry tincture, the stipulated dosage is 10 - 50 drops droplets of it, diluted in water and taken in three installments throughout the day. When taking bilberry extracts, capsules powered anything between 80 - 120mg can be consumed twice on a daily basis by an adult. Only when consumed for blood thinning purposes, should bilberry extract be taken in a dosage limited within 80 - 480 mg per day in 3 installments. Also, see to it that the anthocyanosides content does not exceed 25%. When not adhered to these measurements, bilberry side effects can also range from not so serious effects such as diarrhea, dry mouth and eyes to extreme allergic repercussions including itchy hives, respiratory constrictions and inflammation of the lips, tongue, cheeks or the face in its entirety.

Most importantly, not enough bilberry studies have been conducted in order to test bilberry effects on pregnant or breast feeding women. So, ideally bilberry supplements like all other supplements should be avoided, as the gestation and the breast feeding period are extremely vulnerable periods with erratic behavioral patterns. So, keep away from it as you never know what it might cause your body to do.

Inspite of these side effects, bilberries have a number of beneficial uses. Not only is it used in the treatment of gastrointestinal problems, atherosclerosis, varicose veins, urinary tract infections and ulcers, it also has shown positive influences when it comes to reducing cardiovascular and cancer risks. To use bilberry for eyes is extremely helpful, when it comes to keeping cataract at bay. Bilberry magically enhances night vision. It also helps in reversing the condition of certain eye ailments such as macular degenration, retinopathy, nyctalopia or night blindness and senile cataracts. In cases where no reversal has been observed, a certain harnessing effect of bilberry has surely been observed. Also, bilberry cures diarrhea if one consumes a mixture of 5 - 10g of bilberry, in the dried and crushed form, commingled with about 200ml of water and then boiled for around 7-8 minutes. However, this concoction should not be consumed for more than 4 days as a rule.

So, evidently bilberry, also called whortleberry, blaeberry, whinberry and huckleberry, has a lot of therapeutic effects on the human body, when administered in the right doses. Side effects of herbs exist but come into play only when the instructions are ignored. Given the bilberry side effects, it is always advisable to consult a doctor before opting for it. Also, make it a point to check all the ingredients present in any bottled herbal mixture (anthocyanin pigment and tannin content in this case). Buy bilberry extracts from only trusted manufacturers, as numerous cases of harmful metal contaminants present in bilberry supplements, are reported every year. If you do follow these thumb rules, then bilberry side effects are unlikely to plague your life at all.