Bilberry, a blueberry-like perennial from Europe, was used to treat diarrhea and mouth sores for many centuries. We know that the Abbess, Hildegard of Bingen wrote about its medicinal uses in the 12th Century. But it was not until World War II that Bilberry became known as an excellent treatment for night vision. It was then that several British pilots noticed that their vision had improved significantly during nighttime bombing raids after they had consumed Bilberry jam. Word got around, and in no time many pilots were eating Bilberry to prevent night blindness.
Now, after numerous studies on the effectiveness of Bilberry, herbalists recommend it for cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, along with improving night vision and overall eyesight. Because it’s a powerful antioxidant and astringent, it helps the body rid itself of free radicals caused by oxidation. And thanks to those studies, and the Commission E (The German FDA), it turns out that Hildegard of Bingen was correct to suggest that Bilberry treats mouth sores and diarrhea after all. More studies are needed to confirm that it helps lower blood sugar and treat varicose veins.
There can be some herb-drug interactions with Bilberry, specifically with some blood thinning or diabetic medications. Some people can also be allergic or sensitive to the tannin level in the berry itself, which is considered high and can cause constipation with long-term use. It is generally considered safe for children and pregnant women as long as a health care provider is consulted first.