Unveiling Bilberry: Unlocking a Superfood's Health Benefits

on Jun 16, 2023| Modified on Jun 19, 2023
Bilberry Health Benefits

In the realm of nutritious superfoods, the bilberry stands out with its remarkable health-enhancing qualities. This small, dark-hued fruit, a cousin of the more widely known blueberry, is a reservoir of potent antioxidants and beneficial nutrients.

Beyond just packing a powerful nutritional punch, bilberries are linked to an array of health benefits. From boosting eye health, managing diabetes, and promoting cardiovascular well-being, to reducing inflammation and combating oxidative stress, the bilberry is a true wellness champion.

In this article, we delve into the world of bilberries, exploring their many benefits, how they differ from blueberries, and how you can harness their potential to uplift your health and vitality.

What is Bilberry?

The bilberry, scientifically known as Vaccinium myrtillus, is a European and North American berry known for its exceptional antioxidant, vitamin, and nutrient content that greatly enhances overall health.

Top Health Benefits of Bilberry

High Antioxidant Content

Like other berries, Bilberries are rich in antioxidants that protect cells against free radical damage. They are particularly abundant in anthocyanins, the antioxidants responsible for their deep blue color. Regularly consuming bilberries can help prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. If fresh bilberries are unavailable, consider bilberry supplements containing standardized extracts with a similar antioxidant boost.

Eye Health and Vision Support

Bilberries have a long history of promoting eye health. They aid in improving night vision, slowing macular degeneration, and protecting against eye diseases like glaucoma and cataracts. The high anthocyanin content in bilberries boosts the production of rhodopsin, a pigment that enhances the eye's adaptation to light changes and improves visual acuity. To support vision health, take 160-480 mg of standardized bilberry extract twice to three times daily as a supplement.

Supports Cardiovascular Health

The anthocyanins in bilberries also promote cardiovascular health by reducing inflammation, lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and improving blood vessel function. These benefits contribute to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. Consider incorporating a bilberry supplement into your routine, aiming for a daily dosage of 100-200 mg of bilberry extract.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Bilberries are renowned for their anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate inflammation, a key factor in chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Regular consumption of bilberry supplements can aid in reducing inflammation and supporting overall health. Aim for a daily dose of around 150-250 milligrams of bilberry extract to help combat inflammation. A daily dose of around 150-250 mg of bilberry extract may help reduce inflammation.

Potential Diabetes Management

Emerging research suggests that bilberries may help control blood sugar levels and manage symptoms of diabetes. They may help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce glucose levels in the blood, making them a great addition to a diabetic diet.

Studies have recommended 400-600 mg of bilberry extract daily for blood sugar control. However, as this can affect blood sugar levels, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional before beginning a bilberry regimen if you have diabetes.

Bilberry vs. Blueberry: Understanding the Differences

Photo of Blueberries and Bilberries.

Although bilberries and blueberries may bear a resemblance and are often mistaken for each other, there are crucial distinctions in their physical characteristics and nutritional profiles.

Appearance and Origin

Bilberries are smaller, softer, and darker in color compared to blueberries. They are native to Europe, whereas blueberries are native to North America. Bilberries grow in single or pairs on the bush, while blueberries grow in clusters.


Bilberries have a stronger, more tart flavor than blueberries, which tend to be sweeter. The intense flavor of bilberries makes them a popular choice for making jams, pies, and other desserts in the regions where they grow.

Nutritional Differences

While both bilberries and blueberries are packed with antioxidants, bilberries are particularly rich in a type of antioxidant known as anthocyanins. This gives them their deep blue color and is responsible for many health benefits, including improved eye health and blood vessel function.

Bilberries also have thicker skin, which is thought to contain higher levels of beneficial bioflavonoids and other antioxidants. Blueberries, while lower in anthocyanins than bilberries, still provide a wide range of nutritional benefits, including high fiber content and Vitamin C.

Health Benefits

While both berries offer various health benefits, the higher concentration of anthocyanins in bilberries is linked to improved eye health, better blood circulation, and enhanced control of blood sugar levels. On the other hand, blueberries are renowned for their general antioxidant properties, support of heart health, and potential cognitive benefits.

The table below provides a comprehensive comparison of the benefits of blueberries and bilberries, highlighting the specific health advantages associated with each berry.

Benefits Blueberries Bilberries
Cardiovascular Health  
Eye Health
Antioxidant Protection
Blood Sugar Control  
Digestive Health
Cognitive Function  
Skin Health  
Immune Support  
Urinary Tract Health  
Weight Management
Bone Health  
Cancer Prevention
Vision Support  
Liver Health  
Digestive Ulcers  
Gallbladder Health  
Nervous System Health  
Cognitive Decline  
Blood Pressure Management  
Anti-Bacterial Properties
Anti-Viral Properties

The History of Bilberry Use

Long before the health benefits of bilberries were scientifically investigated, these remarkable berries held a revered place in traditional medicine. Throughout history, bilberries were cherished for their medicinal properties and were used to address a variety of ailments. The healing power of bilberries was recognized and utilized by different cultures across Europe and North America.

In traditional European herbal medicine, bilberries were often prescribed to treat gastrointestinal disorders. They were believed to alleviate symptoms of indigestion, stomach ulcers, and diarrhea. The berries were also used to promote healthy digestion and relieve intestinal inflammation.

One fascinating historical account of bilberries dates back to World War II. British Royal Air Force pilots consumed bilberry jam as part of their diet, attributing it to improvements in their night vision. This connection between bilberries and vision enhancement gained attention and sparked further interest in their potential benefits for eye health.

Bilberry Jam for Night Vision During WWII.

In recent years, modern research has provided scientific evidence to support the historical uses of bilberries. Studies have revealed the presence of powerful antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, in bilberries, which contribute to their remarkable health properties. These antioxidants help protect the cells from oxidative stress and support overall well-being.

Research has specifically focused on the impact of bilberries on eye health. Studies have found that the high anthocyanin content in bilberries can improve night vision, enhance visual acuity, and protect against age-related macular degeneration. These findings have validated the beliefs of our ancestors and shed light on why bilberries were regarded as a valuable resource for maintaining healthy eyesight.

The historical use of bilberries extends beyond digestive health and vision support. In various folk medicine practices, bilberries were employed to alleviate symptoms of urinary tract infections, inflammation, and circulatory issues. The berries were also believed to positively impact cardiovascular health, enhancing blood vessel function and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Bilberry Supplements: A Convenient Health Solution

While fresh bilberries are the best source of their health benefits, they are not always easily accessible, especially outside of Europe. This is where bilberry supplements come in. Available in capsules, powders, or extracts, these supplements can offer the same health benefits as fresh berries, making them a convenient addition to your health routine. Always look for standardized supplements containing a certain percentage of anthocyanins, and consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

How to Incorporate Bilberries into Your Diet

Bilberries can be consumed in several ways. You can eat them fresh or dried or use them in cooking and baking. They can also be taken as a supplement in capsule or extract form. Incorporating bilberries into your daily diet can be as easy as adding them to your morning cereal, blending them into a smoothie, or even enjoying them as a healthy snack.

Side Effects and Precautions with Bilberry

While bilberries are generally safe for consumption, it's always important to consider potential side effects and precautions. Overconsumption of bilberries may lead to minor side effects like stomach discomfort or skin rashes. Additionally, because of their potential impact on blood sugar levels, individuals with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar closely when consuming bilberries or bilberry supplements.

Where to Buy

Your local health food store will typically offer at least one brand of bilberry. Otherwise, here are a few popular brands on Amazon:

Bilberry Fruit Extract - 415 mg per capsule

Bilberry Fruit Extract - Rapid Release Softgels - 1,000 mg per softgel

Bilberry Fruit Extract - High Potency - 3,000 mg per two capsules


The humble bilberry, with its potent nutritional profile and extensive health benefits, is a superfood that should not be overlooked. It is vital in health and nutrition, boasting benefits ranging from enhanced vision to inflammation reduction and improved heart health. Whether you opt for fresh bilberries, experiment with them in your kitchen, or choose a supplement form, it is important to incorporate this healthful fruit into your routine. As always, any changes to your diet or supplement regimen should be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional. With its impressive nutritional prowess, the bilberry is a testament to the idea that great things often come in small packages.

Continue reading below to learn how bilberry has helped Earth Clinic readers, and please let us know if this supplement has helped you!

Related Links:

Vision Improvement Remedies


2 User Reviews
5 star (2) 

Posted by Mmsg (Somewhere, Europe) on 04/16/2012

Re: Iritis:

I've done "eye baths" with watered down bilberry extract with great success.

Replied by Mojo74
(Alberta, Canada)

I have had 2 flare ups with iritis in the last 4 years, the third one came the other day… I searched the internet again… my last flare up was earlier this year, and did NOT want to go through it again as you all know how painful this is. I went and bought Bilberry after reading this recommendation, and I've only been taking it for 1 day, but I have little pain, and no sensitivity to light. In this one day of taking Bilberry I am confident that this will work! Thank you so much, you have saved me from going through the painful episode of iritis! My eye is red and a little sore, but I'm sure that as long as I keep taking this every day that it will keep the iritis away. Thanks again! XXX

Macular Degeneration

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Jerry (Durham, Nc) on 08/07/2011

Bilberry for Macular Degeneration

In their book, "People's Pharmacy: Home Remedies" by Joe and Terry Graden, one person wrote in saying that his 78 year old wife was cured of Macular Degeneration from taking bilberry fruit capsules. She was cured within a few years of taking the pills. I did not see bilberry fruit capsules mentioned in this thread, so I thought I'd share that.


1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Tom (Regina, Sk) on 10/31/2010


Have you tried bilberry extract?

It is also known as the European blueberry, and does have successful medical trials going back at least 2 decades officially, as well as folk medicine hundreds of years.

Interestingly, it was not in England, but in Italy that most studies on bilberry extract and vision were performed, mostly in the late 1980s. One study achieved an unprecedented 97% success in halting cataract progression using bilberry extract and vitamin E. In another exciting study, bilberryextract improved vision in 75% of nearsighted subjects. A German study using a combination of vitamin E and anthocyanins found either a stabilization of myopia or an actual improvement in visual acuity in the majority of patients, whereas the control group showed further deterioration. The progressive nature of myopia is one of axioms of traditional ophthalmology: once you become near-sighted, the older you get, the more near-sighted you get, requiring a stronger prescription every couple of years. Hence, it is truly revolutionary to note that a group of naturally occurring flavonoids has been shown to either arrest or even reverse the progression of myopia.

To see a sample of the variety of bottles of bilberry capsules out there, just google bilberry. Hopefully it's not a prescription product over there.