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BILBERRY (Vaccinium myrtillus) - superfood for eyes

T

he bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), is a short, shrubby perennial plant that grows in the woods and forest meadows of Europe, western Asia, and in the Rocky Mountains of North America. As with many other plants of the Vaccinium family, the bilberry bears edible fruits similar to those of the American blueberry bush. Indeed, it is sometimes called the "European blueberry". The cranberry and huckleberry also belong to this plant family.

The bilberry's blue-black berry, which is creamy-white inside, has been valued as a food since prehistoric times. The fruit is well-known as a filling for pies, and for use in jams and other recipes. In addition, for centuries European herbalists have used the plant's fruit and leaves for medicinal purposes, treating a variety of complaints by use of a strong, boiled "tea" made from the plant. Urinary-tract infections, kidney stones, and diarrhoea are just a few of the ailments which bilberry has been used to treat.

The modern reputation of the bilberry as a medicinal plant was sparked during World War II, when British Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots found that their night-vision was improved if they ate bilberry preserves before starting their night-time missions. Subsequent research has revealed that bilberries do indeed contain powerful substances (antioxidant anthocyanosides) capable of protecting cells and tissues in the eye (and in other parts of the body) against free radical damage and deterioration.

Today, bilberry ranks among the most popular supplements for maintaining healthy vision and for assisting in the treatment of various vision disorders, including poor night-vision, cataracts, and macular degeneration (AMD). However it may be valuable also for other conditions, especially those associated with poor blood-circulation. Bilberry has anti-inflammatory benefits and is able to reduce symptoms of hemorrhoids. Until recently traditionally usage of bilberry was for acute diarrhea and diabetic retinopathy.

The beneficial components of bilberry
.Researchers intrigued by the improved night-vision of the bilberry-eating RAF pilots eventually identified certain active compounds in the berry called anthocyanosides. These substances appear to have the effect of fortifying blood-vessel walls, improving blood flow to the tiny blood vessels that keep eyes healthy, as well as flow in larger blood vessels that help maintain good circulation throughout the body. Anthocyanosides also appear to strengthen collagen, the protein that provides support to healthy connective tissue.

Other important healing substances in bilberries -- astringent compounds called tannins -- are helpful in the treatment of such problems as diarrhoea, sore throat, and mouth inflammations; a tea made from the dried berries can be either drunk or (when cooled) gargled. In Germany, the health authorities have approved the use of bilberry for treating mild cases of these ailments.

Bilberry and disorders of vision
Herbalists have long considered bilberry useful for treating night blindness, to improve daytime vision impaired by glare, as well as to prevent and treat macular degeneration and cataracts. Although specific evidence showing that bilberry is effective for vision-related problems is still quite weak -- some studies indicate at least some short-term effectiveness, while others find no benefit over use of a placebo (dummy pill) --, the herb's popularity persists. The plant appears to assist the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye, in adjusting quickly to both dark and light. This is probably a result of the plant's anthocyanosides, which have antioxidant properties and appear to boost nutrient and blood delivery to the retinal cells. These flavonoid compounds, the same above-mentioned anthocyanosides, are highly effective free-radical scavengers, possessing an antioxidant effect up to 50 times more powerful than vitamin E.

Macular degeneration
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a condition in which the light-sensitive area in the center of the retina gradually deteriorates. This is an extremely important cause of blindness -- in many countries, it is the most common cause. Several studies have shown that the potent antioxidants found in bilberry may be a natural way to prevent this degeneration of vision. Studies have shown that the rate of retinal degeneration associated with macular degeneration can be slowed by increasing the amount of anthocyanosides in the system, which can be achieved simply through dietary supplementation.

Cataract
Besides helping prevent macular degeneration, the herb may also help slow the progression of cataract. This is a clouding in the eye-lens that is common in older people, and is another extremely important cause of blindness. In one study of 50 patients with age-related cataract, it was found that taking bilberry extract along with vitamin E supplements stopped the progression of cataracts in nearly all of the participants. It remains unclear, however, whether the vitamin or the bilberry, or even the combination of the two, was responsible for this beneficial effect.

Diabetic retinopathy
The herb has also shown promise in lessening the effects of diabetic retinopathy, a degenerative eye disease that affects people with diabetes. This disorder is the third of the "big three" causes of blindness. It may be expected to become even more significant in future, since rates of diabetes are tending to increase.

Other conditions
Apart from visual complaints, bilberry is used to improve varicose veins and other circulatory problems. The active ingredients in bilberry appear to enhance blood flow to vessels that serve in its circulation throughout the body. For this reason, the herb may benefit people suffering from poor circulation in their extremities, painful varicose veins, and haemorrhoids -- all discomforts that can be expected to lessen with enhanced circulation.
In 1988, a single-blind, placebo-controlled trial of this herb studied 60 patients with poor circulation (or venous insufficiency). The results showed that bilberry extract decreased the participants' discomfort when taken over a period of 30 days. The study had some design flaws, however, and more research on the subject is clearly needed.

Forms of bilberry for treatment
Bilberry can be taken in the form of the berries eaten fresh or dried, tea made from the berries or leaves (see below), bilberry extract, and as powder in capsules. The extract usually contains the greatest percentage of anthocyanidins (anthocyanosides). In parts of Europe, high-quality, pharmaceutical-grade bilberry is converted into a potent extract from the whole, dried, ripe fruit. The content of anthocyanidins is then standardized to defined limits to ensure consistent effectiveness. Look for extracts standardized to contain between 23% - 37% anthocyanosides.

The dried fruits of the bilberry appear to be safe to take at commonly recommended dosages, but it is probably best to avoid the leaves because not much is known about their effectiveness or safety.
Bilberry extract can be taken with or without food.
Although bilberry is usually taken internally, it may also be used externally in the form of compresses and other formulations made from the strong tea (after cooling).

Specific uses of bilberry
For cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye problems: Take 80- 160 mg of standardized extract or 1/2 teaspoon liquid extract two or three times a day.
For the prevention of diabetic retinopathy: Take 80-160 mg (standardized to 23-37% anthocyanosides) three times a day.
For varicose veins: Take 80-160 mg standardized extract three times a day.
For sore throat and diarrhoea: Prepare bilberry tea by pouring 1 cup of very hot water over 1 or 2 tablespoons of dried whole berries (or 2 or 3 teaspoons of crushed berries). Let the tea steep, covered, for 10 minutes, then strain. Commercial teabags are also available. Drink up to 4 cups daily as needed.

Possible interactions and side-effects
Bilberry fruit extract has no known side effects when taken at recommended doses, even when used on a long-term basis.

Cautions
If you suspect that you have developed an eye problem or a circulation disorder, consult your doctor for a diagnosis. If you have a case of diarrhoea that persists beyond a few days, consult your doctor.

Bilberry + Schisandra

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Presentation:
2 x 10 tablets. 50mg Schisandra chinensis extract and 150 mg Bilberry fruits.
Health tips
In our 40s we needs EYE TEST
at least every two years

Our eye lens becomes stiffer, resulting in more difficulties with near vision. And this is inevitability. But yearly eye tests and early treatment can prevent macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma and cataract.

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