Bilberry for Eye Health

Bilberry for eye health
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A fruit closely related to blueberries, bilberry is rich in antioxidant compounds known as anthocyanins. Bilberryy is purported to improve the health of the eyes and protect against eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma.

The Research on Bilberry's Benefits for the Eyes

Few studies have tested the effects of bilberries on eye health. Here's a look at several findings from the available research:

Night Vision

The use of bilberries to improve night vision dates back to its use by British Royal Air Force pilots during World War II. Later research, however, suggests that it probably did not help and the National Institutes of Health deems bilberry "possibly ineffective" for improving night vision.

Indeed, a 2004 review from the journal Survey of Ophthalmology found little scientific support for the theory that bilberry can sharpen night vision in healthy eyes. In their analysis of 30 clinical trials, the review's authors also found "a complete absence of rigorous research" on bilberry's effects on night vision in people with diseases of the eyes.

Other Eye Conditions 

Some studies suggest that bilberry supplements may be of some benefit to the eyes. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), for instance, classifies bilberry as "possibly effective" for the treatment of eye problems linked to diabetes and high blood pressure (also known as hypertension).

In particular, bilberry may help prevent diabetes- and hypertension-related blood vessel damage known to impair the retina (a nerve layer involved in sensing light). The antioxidants in bilberry are also thought to strengthen the walls of blood vessels, as well as curb inflammation.

For a 2001 report in Alternative Medicine Review, investigators sized up the available research on natural therapies for diseases of the eyes.

Results revealed that bilberry shows promise in the treatment of glaucoma, although the report's authors caution that the evidence for this use is "very preliminary."

The report also indicates that bilberry may help treat cataracts, a condition linked to free-radical-induced damage. According to the report's authors, bilberry contains potent antioxidant compounds "with a particular affinity for the eye."

Side Effects

Bilberry fruit is generally considered safe for most people when the fruit is consumed in typical amounts. Little is known about the safety of bilberry in supplement form, particularly when taken regularly or in large doses.

There's some concern that taking bilberry extracts may lower blood sugar levels. You shouldn't take bilberry supplements within two weeks of having surgery.

Keep in mind that self-treating any eye condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

The Takeaway

Due to the lack of scientific support, bilberry cannot be recommended to improve the health of the eyes. Although bilberry is generally considered safe for most when consumed in regular amounts in food, little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of bilberry supplements.

If you're considering using bilberry to treat any eye condition, make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen. 


Canter PH, Ernst E. "Anthocyanosides of Vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) for night vision--a systematic review of placebo-controlled trials." Surv Ophthalmol. 2004 Jan-Feb;49(1):38-50.

Head KA. "Natural therapies for ocular disorders, part two: cataracts and glaucoma." Altern Med Rev. 2001 Apr;6(2):141-66.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. "Bilberry". NCCAM Publication No. D312. Created May 2006. Updated September 2016bilberr.

National Institutes of Health. "Bilberry: MedlinePlus Supplements". December 2010.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.