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Wild-grown and sweet, bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) are the dark purple cousin of the blueberry. And they have found their way into every imaginable culinary delight: jams, pies, sorbets, liqueurs, and wines. Medicinal use of bilberry dates back to the early Middle Ages. Tea brewed from bilberry leaves was used to treat diabetes. European herbalists used the fruits as a remedy for bladder infections and a variety of stomach and gastrointestinal complaints. In modern herbal medicine, extracts of bilberry fruit are used to treat atherosclerosis and other circulatory system problems. The fruit’s rich pigments act as powerful antioxidants in the body and may help protect against heart disease, as well as inflammation and oxidative stress that can lead to other health problems.
To benefit from the health enhancing effects of bilberry, enjoy a cup per day of the fresh fruit (blueberries are a perfect substitute if you can’t find bilberry). For a delicious tea, simmer 1 Tb. dried berries in 2 c. of water for 20 minutes; strain and drink. Extracts of bilberry should be standardized to contain a specific percent of anthocyanidins – check with your health practitioner for the appropriate extract for your wellbeing.