Bilberry (Vaccinum myrtillus) is a European berry shrub very similar to the blueberry or huckleberry. Like many herbal supplements, the use of bilberry goes back centuries, with medicinal usage recorded as early as the beginning of the 16th century.
Bilberry’s modern usage began in earnest during World War II. The story is that British and US pilots began eating bilberries as part of their diet. They soon discovered a marked improvement in their night vision as they flew missions over Europe.
The bilberry, a relative of the cranberry, huckleberry, and American blueberry, is a plant with bright green leaves and bell-shaped flowers that grows wild, primarily in northern Europe.
The bilberry looks very much like a blueberry, but its flesh is darker – somewhere between deep purple and crimson – and its flavor is tarter.
The depth of color of the bilberry‘s flesh is caused by those anthocyanosides – also found in dark berries to varying degrees. The fruit also has antimicrobial tannins, which are found in purple grapes and dark teas.
Still, the dainty bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) continues to be an object of affection among scientists for its abundance of anthocyanosides, chemical compounds that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.