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What is Bilberry Extract?

By Vasanth S.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Bilberry extract is derived from the dark purple berries of the bilberry plant, which is native to the northern regions of Europe. The small bilberry shrub, also known as Vaccinium myrtillus, generally reaches a height of 16 inches (40.64 cm) and features oval leaves and pinkish-white flowers. Bilberry extract is commonly used as a nutritional supplement to treat a variety of conditions, including diarrhea, heart disease and macular degeneration. Its effectiveness has not been determined scientifically, but the chemicals in bilberry extract generally have been found to have beneficial properties.

One chemical in bilberry extract is anthocyanidin, a flavonoid that causes the deep purple color of the bilberry. Its strong antioxidant properties protect the bilberry from the damaging effects of free radicals, and researchers have found that anthocyanidin can also protect human cells from free radical damage. In fact, anthocyanidin is a more potent antioxidant than vitamin C and vitamin E. An unique feature of anthocyanidins is that they are usually effective in both polar and non-polar environments.

Potential medical applications of anthocyanidin rely on its ability to protect collagen from free radicals. Collagen is the material that makes capillary walls and joints. Over time, free radicals damage the collagen, reducing its integrity. Since anthocyanidin can protect collagen from free radical damage, researchers are studying possible ways to incorporate anthocyanidin into the treatment of atherosclerosis and arthritis.

Another chemical in bilberry extract that has beneficial properties is tannin. It is an astringent, meaning it shrinks or constricts tissue to reduce inflammation. Tannins are a great first aid medicine, as they can help stop bleeding and reduce the risk of infection associated with cuts and burns. Tannins are also effective at reducing constipation and diarrhea. There is some evidence which suggests that tannins may help eliminate colon cancer cells as well.

With these great benefits, come possible side effects, however. Individuals who are sensitive to tannins may experience pain in the stomach or irritation of the kidneys. Tannins can also inhibit the natural absorption of minerals, including iron, which may lead to anemia if tannins are consumed for an extended period of time.

Bilberry extract supplements contain a high concentration of anthocyanidins, typically between 25 and 35 percent. The bilberry fruit is less potent than the supplement, but it still provides the benefits of an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory. Eating more bilberries generally increases the effectiveness of its properties. Another way to extract the anthocyanidins and tannins from bilberries is to brew bilberry tea from bilberries and bilberry leaves.

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Discussion Comments
By Euroxati — On Nov 11, 2014

@Krunchyman - Based on my experience, it seems like the reason why people felt let down by the bilberry extract products, is because they were expecting instant results. Unfortunately though, this wasn't the case for them.

Overall, I think one thing that we need to remember is that no matter what kind of supplement you're taking, one shouldn't always expect instant results.

After all, don't forget that any good product has to build up over time. This was certainly the case for me. A few months ago, I had begun to develop eye floaters. As a way to deal with them, I started taking one thousand milligrams of Bilberry, and forty milligrams of lutein per day.

After a few weeks, I was starting to have second thoughts, and was even considering not taking the supplements anymore. However, I stuck with it through the bitter. After two and a half months, I noticed that my floaters were slowly starting to fade away, finally. Now, I barely even see them anymore.

While that's not to say that every supplement will be helpful, since everyone is different, don't always expect instant results either. After all, most good things take time, and it's well worth it.

By Viranty — On Nov 05, 2014

@Krunchyman - My advice to you is to not be discouraged by some of the reviews that you read online. They're probably not even trying to discourage you, and may have a legitimate reason for disliking the product. After all, don't forget that the internet is both a place to share positive and negative opinions.

Based on my experiences, I have tried several bilberry products before, to help with some of my eye problems. From what I can tell you, it's definitely true that in the case of some bilberry products, they tend to "skimp" out, if that makes sense.

For example, while there are several bottles of bilberry that one can get for 1000 milligrams per capsule, there are also others that you can get for only 100 milligrams.

As far as I'm concerned, if you're trying to get as high of a dosage as possible, one hundred milligrams definitely isn't going to cut it.

On the other hand, it's also possible that it might be for people who only want small doses, so that's definitely something to take into consideration. The bottom line is that it's not always about what other people say about a product, it's about your opinion, which matters the most. What dissatisfies someone, might satisfy you, and vice versa.

By Krunchyman — On Nov 04, 2014

For the past few months, I have been dealing with many floaters in my eyes, as the result of an eye injury I had a while back. While I have heard that bilberry extract can be very beneficial, I'm still a little skeptical about what kind of brand I should buy.

While I have seen many positive reviews online, there are also some negative reviews that almost seek to discourage the user from buying any bilberry related products.

Adding onto this, when I was doing research on Bilberry extract, I came across an article that even mentions how some manufacturers might even skimp out on ingredients.

Also, if it's true that bilberries do help with eye floaters, how long will it take before I begin to see any changes in my vision? From what I've heard, it's definitely not an overnight process.

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