September 2012
The Herb Lady

Bilberry – For Eye Health

To improve their vision on night flights during WWII, pilots in the European theater were often fed bilberry jelly. Bilberry, an herb, is still consumed in the form of jelly, but it is also consumed in other forms like fresh fruit, pills, capsules and teas.

Research tells me bilberry is a potent antioxidant. An antioxidant is able to cross the blood-brain barrier to neutralize free radicals in the brain and other nerve tissue including the eyes.

Bilberry is an ingredient in a mixture called Perfect Eyes. This mixture was created to provide broad coverage in eye health. It also contains lutein, beta carotene, zinc, selenium, eyebright, taurine, curcuma root and other nutrients beneficial for eyes. This product will possibly/probably help to prevent macular degeneration at the same time it protects the eyes from smog, sun rays and other common irritants. If I had eye problems, I would take Perfect Eyes.

My dictionary tells me bilberry (Vaccinium mythillus) is one of many species of blueberry. Further research reveals it is a shrub of the heath family. One of my herb encyclopedias has a long listing of these plants under bilberry, blueberry and huckleberry. Even cranberry is a member of the same family with many common names like low bush, high bush, dwarf, rabbit eye, ballberry and more.

In this part of the world, we commonly call commercially grown bilberries "blueberries." The ones growing wild or in a native environment are usually called "huckleberries" and ripen in the spring or early-summer. One species or genus grown locally has berries ripening in the fall. These berries are filled with seed that can aggravate by getting between your teeth. They don’t taste good at all, but they are edible. I ate them when I was a child. This shrub grows taller and sturdier than the earlier-ripening varieties. Some people call this variety winter huckleberry, but I call it sparkleberry.

During my youth, the female members of my family made an annual trip to the huckleberry patch for a huckleberry picking. The fruit was used in a variety of ways. Pies, jelly, jam, muffins, pancakes or just eaten fresh. We didn’t know about preserving food by freezing back then.

I never heard of anybody going sparkleberry picking though. This fruit was simply undesirable. However, there is good in all things. The hard sparkleberry wood makes excellent walking canes. I once knew a man who gathered this wood and created the canes as a hobby. There is an area where sparkleberry bushes line the ditches along a lovely country road. In this area, the man found plenty of material for his hobby.

Blueberries are definitely beneficial for our eyes as well as our general health. It’s wise to make them a regular part of our diets. Also remember, there are supplements available for eye health.

Check with your doctor before taking any herbal nutritional products.

Nadine Johnson can be reached at (866) 570-7302, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or P.O. Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577. She has a long history of involvement with herbs. She is also an independent distributor of Nature’s Sunshine Products.