The legend of the bilberry’s ability to improve eyesight started back in World War II. The story goes that squadrons of English pilots all ate bilberry jam with their pre-battle tea, and their bombing accuracy was improved so much that the Germans were completely floored. In truth, it’s now known that it was the introduction of radar technology that gave the pilots such an unfair advantage in night time aerial battles!
The bilberry is a superfood found mainly in Europe, prized as a delicacy in most countries throughout and used in jams, desserts, liqueurs and all natural energy drinks. This purple-fleshed little berry is a cousin to the more common blueberry and cranberry. As a fruit they’re quite tart and tend to thrive in soil that has a poor nutrient profile.
There are also many health benefits that come from consuming them because of the high concentrations of flavonoid antioxidants, vitamins and anthocyanins they contain. Anthocyanins aren’t just nutritious; they’re also the dark-colored pigments that give the berry its deep purple color.
When the berries and leaves of the plant are concentrated in supplement form, the health benefits are magnified considerably, with the added benefit of not having to consume all the sugar contained in the raw fruit. As you continue reading, you’ll learn more about the health benefits of bilberries and how to find the best bilberry herbal supplements available.
Health Benefits of Consuming Bilberry
Improved Eye Health:
Rhodopsin production is increased in the eyes due to a unique antioxidant found in bilberry, called anthocyanidin. Rhodopsin is a photorefractive protein produced by the body to help us see at night time.
This benefit is a proven fact, however bilberry’s effects on the eye are steeped in almost mystical rumors about its ability to bestow cat-like night vision to those who take it, which has since been disproven by studies performed by the U.S. Navy back in the early 2000’s.
The anthocyanidins found in bilberries have shown significant promise in preventing the oxidation of the bad LDL cholesterol in our blood; a destructive process that leads to the thickening of the walls of our arteries (ie., arteriosclerosis). All antioxidants perform this function in the body, but several studies performed at the University of Maryland Medical Center have shown anthocyanidins to be superior at preventing oxidation.
The same antioxidant functions performed by anthocyanidins on the heart also has far reaching effects in treating diabetes. Most diabetics develop unbalanced LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, leading to circulation problems throughout the body. Anthocyanidins help keep levels balanced and have shown to even help lower glucose meter readings and 3-month hemoglobin A1C readings, in both type 1 and 2 diabetics.
Bilberry also provides antioxidant support to the eyes and helps prevent diabetic retinopathy.
The tannins found in bilberry help to reduce inflammation throughout the digestive tract, primarily working to improve the condition of the small and large intestines. The National Institute of Health has used concentrated bilberry extract on patients suffering from stomach ulcers and the results have shown to be very positive.
Few human studies have been done to prove or disprove the claim that bilberry improves memory. However, several rat-based studies have been performed, showing immediate improvement in working memory of the rats studied after just a single dose of the supplement. People who take bilberry say their memory and acuity improve drastically after taking it for a short time.
Anthocyanidins are a powerful immune booster that helps to curb the swelling that accompanies most allergic symptoms. This is another benefit that hasn’t been studied at length, but many people use bilberry purely for allergy relief and swear by it.
What to Look for Before You Purchase:
The manufacturer will usually have an anthocyanin percentage stamped on the label. Anything less than 25% anthocyanidins isn’t a true extract and more than likely won’t do anything for you, according to researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
While 25% is the absolute minimum of standardization for anthocyanidins, more is certainly okay and may actually hold more health boosting benefits. Some products go as high as 37% but will cost slightly more.
Avoid bilberry supplements with unhealthy fillers like gluten, sugar, yeast, sodium, starch, talc, shellac, and lactose. Definitely avoid products that use hydrogenated oils, magnesium stearate, and artificial colors in their pill and liquid formulations.
Here are a few additives to look for in your bilberry supplements which can help magnify the benefits of taking it:
• Gingko biloba and bilberry extract together make for a powerful natural glaucoma treatment.
• Grape seed extract is on its own a powerful eyesight boosting supplement, along with other proven benefits like cancer and heart disease prevention.
• Carotenoids like alpha-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin are all essential antioxidants that help keep your eyes healthy.
The Best Bilberry Herbal Supplements on the Market:
Gaia Herbs Vision Enhancement
These liquid gels from Gaia might seem a little pricier than most of the other recommendations on the page, but the value is in the ingredients. Aside from an enhanced bio-available bilberry extract containing 25% anthocyanins, Gaia has added 20mg of grape seed extract, 10mg of lutein, and 2mg of astaxanthin.
Grape seed extract contains a who’s who list of antioxidant flavonoids, vitamin E, and linoleic acid. This extract has been scientifically proven to lower cholesterol, protect against heart disease, improve the symptoms of diabetes, is a power anti-cancer supplement, and has also been shown to improve eyesight. Lutein and astaxanthin are both used to prevent eye diseases like glaucoma, retinopathy, Alzheimer’s, dementia, macular degeneration and many other irreversible conditions.
These capsules from Source Naturals defy the rules when it comes to anthocyanin content. Each capsule contains 37% anthocyanin. Most products offer 25% but higher standardization of this nutrient has been shown to be much more effective at helping not just to help prevent eye problems and improve all round health, but to also help alleviate the symptoms of painful lifestyle-inhibiting eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts.
A higher ratio of anthocyanins has also been shown to reverse the complications of macular degenerations in several laboratory studies. Each Source Naturals Bilberry Extract capsule also contains 10% the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, and 6% the RDA of calcium.
This is the product you want to take if you’re looking to seriously assess the effects of bilberry consumption on your eyesight!
At first glance there doesn’t seem to be anything special about this bilberry extract supplement from Life Extension. However, it has one of the most potent forms of the extract, boasting a 36% anthocyanin content. They’ve also added the amino acid l-leucine, an essential amino used for building muscle and maintaining brain tissue.
The extra anthocyanins contained in this supplement are perfect for people who’re already suffering from eye diseases and eye problems like astigmatism, cataracts and macular degeneration. The higher ratio of anthocyanins in this product is also preferred by people who suffer from sensitivity to light. These capsules contain a highly-concentrated form of bilberry, meaning they’re much smaller and easy-to-swallow than other products.
Solgar Bilberry Gingko Eyebright
This Solgar product is fortified with bilberry, gingko biloba, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and selenium. Gingko is renowned for its effects on improving blood flow, essential for proper brain and eye function. In fact, gingko biloba is most known for its nootropic benefits on improving alertness and concentration.
Solgar has also added a carotenoid mixture containing: alpha-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and cryptoxanthin; each of which are essential for good eyesight. Zeaxanthin in particular is a carotenoid that’s been found deficient in nearly everyone who develops severe degenerative eye conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.
Studies have shown conclusively a 31% improvement in the vision of people who suffer from glaucoma when they consume bilberry extract and gingko together for at least a two-year period.
Nature’s Way always delivers a good product. This premium quality standardized bilberry extract offers 25% anthocyanins and contains the plant’s berry and leaf extract. Each capsule contains 80mg of bilberry extract, but also packs an added punch with the addition of 125mg of elderberry extract too.
Elderberry is loaded with antioxidants, B-complex vitamins, and vitamin C, and is often consumed to prevent and cure the flu and common cold. This is a gluten-free product that’s certified vegetarian-friendly.
This bilberry extract from Good’N Natural doesn’t come with any extras, but contains 1,000mg of bilberry per capsule. This product is a winner with people who don’t want any dangerous additives to go along with their daily dose of bilberry extract!
Good’N Natural tablets contain no gluten, dairy, yeast, egg, sugar, sodium, or animal byproducts like collagen. This is a dream for vegetarians, lactose intolerants, and people who suffer from celiac disease!
Spring Valley Softgels
This is another no frills bilberry supplement with 1000mg per capsule. Spring Valley has added 5mg of lutein; a carotenoid antioxidant used primarily to clear free radicals from the eyes. This eye health booster has 25 – 35% anthocyanins, extracted from berries in Northern China.
This soft gel formulation is widely used by diabetics for treating high blood sugar and retinopathy. It’s hard to find a better deal than this if you’re not looking for a huge list of extra ingredients. All Spring Valley products are made with vegetarians and allergy sufferers in mind: this formulation is gluten free, dairy free, and contains no yeast.
Botanic Choice Liquid Extract
Next up is this liquid bilberry extract from Botanic Choice. Bilberry purists love taking liquid extract instead of pills, claiming the night vision boosting effects are much more noticable when taken this way. Each dose contains 1000mg of extract with 25% anthocyanins, prepared using a 1:1 ratio.
Drops are really convenient if you have trouble swallowing pills. Botanic Choice doesn’t use alcohol in their extraction process, nor do they add any to the finished product itself. This is a gluten free, dairy free, yeast free supplement that won’t cause side effects.
Aspen Naturals Loose Dry Powder
If you like to pack your own capsules or prefer to add your superfood supplements to a smoothie or mix them in with food, this ground loose powder from Aspen Naturals is just what the doctor ordered. This half pound of powder cost just $20 and will go a long way when compared to pre-filled capsules and liquid drops, which only last a month at most before you have to order more.
There’s nothing special added to this Aspen Naturals’ product, just bilberry extract and nothing more. This powder’s standardized to 25% anthocyanins and has a pleasant, slightly tart taste when mixed with water.
Like any superfood supplement, bilberry has a lot of claims surrounding its purported benefits to human health. The anthocyanins that are abundant in bilberry extract are certainly worth trying if you suffer from any of the ailments mentioned earlier on this page.
The disease prevention benefits are also worth considering, as bilberry isn’t expensive to purchase. If eye problems, heart disease, diabetes, degenerative brain disease, or digestive problems run in your family, the small cost of using bilberry extract every day is far outweighed by the long term health benefits.
Go ahead and give this superfood supplement a try.
Don’t forget to suggest it to your friends if they suffer from any of the health problems bilberry can help with!