Bilberry Extract for Eye Health

Bilberries provide a popular herbal remedy for a variety of eye disorders

Bilberries provide a popular herbal remedy for a variety of eye disorders

During the Second World War, RAF pilots noticed that their night vision improved after eating bilberry jam.   Their anecdotal reports led to scientific research into the bilberry (1).

The health-promoting components of the ripe fruit consist primarily of flavonoid compounds known as anthocyanosides, and the modern medicinal form of bilberry is an extract containing a highly concentrated amount of these compounds.

These anthocyanosides are potent antioxidants, which help counteract cell damage caused by the unstable oxygen molecules known as free radicals (2, 3, 4).

Nowadays Bilberry is commonly recommended, especially in Germany, for a range of medical conditions, particularly:

  • Maintaining healthy vision, improving night vision, and poor visual adaptation to bright light.
  • Diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Varicose veins and haemorrhoids, especially in pregnant women.

Major Benefits

Bilberry is well known for maintaining healthy vision, as well as helping with various eye disorders. Particularly, bilberry helps the retina to adapt properly to light and dark, and has therefore been widely used to treat night blindness, as well as poor vision resulting from daytime glare. It has the ability to strengthen the tiny blood vessels called capillaries which helps to deliver oxygen rich blood to the eyes.  It may therefore play a significant role in prevention and treatment of degenerative diseases of the retina (retinopathy).

Bilberry is used for both cataracts and macular degeneration, two leading causes of sight loss in older people.  Glaucoma is another eye condition which benefits greatly from the use of bilberry extract.

Bilberry may lower the risk of some diabetic complications, such as diabetic retinopathy. One preliminary trial found that supplementation with a standardised extract of bilberry improved signs of retinal damage in some people with diabetic retinopathy.

In Italy, bilberry’s anthocyanosides have even been recommended as a treatment for myopia (short or near sightedness) (5).

Berry Power - powerhouse of 15 concentrated berry nutrients including bilberry

Berry Power – powerhouse of 15 concentrated berry nutrients including bilberry

Other Benefits

As the anthocyanosides in bilberry improve the  blood flow in capillaries as well as in larger blood vessels, bilberry extracts may be helpful for people with poor circulation in the extremities.

Bilberry extract is helpful in treating varicose veins, and in easing the burning and pain of haemorrhoids, particularly during pregnancy when both these conditions can be problematic.

People who bruise easily may also benefit from bilberry’s effect on capillaries.

Menstrual cramps is another area which is frequently helped with the use of bilberry extract, because anthocyanosides relax smooth muscle, including the uterus.

Animal studies suggest that bilberry anthocyanosides may fight gastric ulcers and may also reduce levels of triglycerides (a type of fat) in the blood.

Other research points to the benefits of bilberry  extract with gastric ulcers, due to its anti-inflammatory components, and there may be some benefit for urinary tract infections, as the proanthocyanidins found in bilberry extract are similar to those found in cranberries.

Bilberry, like cranberry, lingonberry and low bush blueberry, exhibited potential anticarcinogenic activity during in vitro screening tests (6).

In therapeutic doses, bilberry appears to be very safe and has no known side effects, even when taken over a long period of time.



1. Brown DJ. Herbal prescriptions for better health : your everyday guide to prevention, treatment, and care. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1996
2. Anderson O. Anthocyanidins in fruits of  Vaccinium  uliginosum L (bog whortleberry). J Food Sci 1987; 52:665-60,680.
3. Baj A, Bombarelli E. Qualitative and quantitative evaluation of  Vaccinium Myrtillus anthocyanins by high-resolution gas chromatography and high performance liquid chromatography.  J Chromatography 1983; 279:365-72.
4. Lietti A, Cristoni A, PicciM. Studies on  Vaccinium Myrtillus anthocyano
5. Braggio F,  Mazzacane D. Study on the effect of procyanidolicoligomerson retinicsensibility of myopicpatients. Annalidi Ottalmologiae ClinicaOculistica1988; 114:407-1
6. Bomser J, Madhavi DL, Singletary K, Smith MA. In vitro anticancer activity of fruit extracts from Vaccinium species. Planta Med 1996; 62:212-6