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Bilberry - Blueberry
Vaccinum Angustifolium. The blueberry and the bilberry both contain a dark blue pigment, sometimes nearly black, that characterizes this type of Vaccinium. It is to this pigment, that is part of the anthcyanoside family, that we award some medical properties of these berries.
Other constituents, such as the flavonols (a type of flavonoid of which quercetin is a part of) do also have effects.
Finally, the tannins present in blueberries are probably responsible for their anti-diarrhea effect. Whereas the bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) principally comes from Europe, the blueberry is the fruit of diverse North American indigenous populations. The principal blueberry types are Vaccinium Myrtilloides and Vaccinium Angustifolium.
The US state of Maine and the province of Québec are the main producers of blueberries. The production and transformation of the blueberry is one of the most important parts of the North American food industry. In Europe, the medical properties of the bilberry have been known for more than 1000 years. It was used to treat diarrhea and dysentery, to interrupt lactation and to relieve symptoms of scurvy and dysuria. Also, its leaves were used to reduce the blood sugar level of diabetic people.
Furthermore, tradition says that the fruits are able to treat troubles of venous circulation and some eye illnesses, notably diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataract. These therapies are still popularly used by European doctors. We know that the Ojibwés and the Algonquins, indigenous populations of Canada and the USA, used the flowers of the Vaccinium Angustifolium against madness. They also used the leaves to purify the blood, to prevent infantile colic, after a miscarriage as well as to induce contractions of pregnant women.
Two different studies (2005) support the theory that blueberries and blueberry extracts can contribute to the slowing down of the cerebral function declination, which is linked to ageing and to some illnesses such as Alzheimer. More recently, a clinical study on elderly people who were starting to have memory troubles showed that the daily consumption of blueberry juice improved their learning and memory capacity.
Numerous researchers believe that the antioxidant activity of blueberries could contribute to the prevention of some cancers, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular illnesses. Numerous facts (in vitro and animal studies) seem to support this thesis.
On the other hand, studies on human beings has confirmed that the consumption of blueberries, as fruits as well as juice, temporarily increases the antioxidant capacity of the blood.
PMID: 12323088 [PubMed - listed for MEDLINE]