Bilberry P. E.

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus, Chinese bilberry name Vaccinium Uliginosum) , the European blueberry, first caught the attention of the medical community during World War II, when British Royal Air Force pilots who snacked on bread and bilberry jam before their night missions started hitting their targets more often. Today, the fruit is widely used in Europe to relieve eyestrain. It may be good for your eyes. Researchers speculate that bilberry may help prevent disorders such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma, all of which can rob you of your eyesight as you age. Some studies suggest that it may also help you see better at night, though researchers disagree on this point. In one small French study, 14 out of 14 air traffic controllers reported better night vision after taking bilberry extract for about 15 days. However, three recent studies aren't so promising. In one Florida study, 15 young men were given high doses of bilberry for three weeks with no improvement in their night vision. The same results were found in a 1999 Israeli study of 18 volunteers. And in a 2004 review of placebo-controlled trials, researchers concluded that bilberry did not improve normal night vision. Bilberries, along with blueberries and blackberries, get their deep blue color from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that protect cells from oxygen molecules called free radicals that can wreak havoc throughout the body. In particular, anthocyanins may improve vision by keeping the capillaries in the back of the eye from breaking down (macular degeneration) and the lens from clouding (cataracts) . They may strengthen capillaries and improve circulation elsewhere as well, reducing hemorrhoids and varicose veins. The dried berries are used in Europe to treat diarrhea because they contain tannins, bitter compounds that reduce tissue inflammation, and pectin, a soluble fiber that adds bulk to the stool and soothes the gut. In Europe, bilberry extract is the active ingredient in a number of over-the-counter and prescription drugs; no toxic effects have ever been reported.

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