If you have a family history of vision problems or just want to maintain good eyesight as you age, there could be an herbal aid to go along with your routine of regular visits to the eye doctor. A recent study found that a combination of bilberry extract (Vaccinium myrtillus) and Pycnogenol® (French maritime pine bark extract) helped improved blood flow to the eye and reduced intraocular pressure associated with disorders such as glaucoma.
The study was conducted at Italy’s University of Chieti-Pescara in San Valentino, Italy. Approximately 80 subjects in their late 40s, all void of prior vision problems, completed the clinical trial. Participants took the supplement Mirtogenol®, 80 mg of bilberry extract and 40 mg of Pycnogel, in varied combination with latanoprost, a topical eye medication used to reduce eye pressure. Intraocular pressure and retinal blood flow were measured periodically throughout the 24-week trial. Researchers concluded that Mirtogenol® lowers intraocular pressure in those with previously elevated pressure. They also found that it could be helpful in reducing the risk of glaucoma because it prevents an increase in ocular hypertension.
Fresh bilberries hold a striking resemblance to the more common blueberry.
Photo by Robban Andersson/Courtesy Flickr
Bilberry aids in this process by modifying the capillaries in the ciliary body, which releases fluid within the eye. Bilberry has long been thought to be beneficial for eye health, with World War II British Royal Air Force pilots eating bilberry jam to sharpen their vision for night missions. However, a recent study disproved a link between bilberry and improved night vision.
Bilberry extract is taken from dried, ripe bilberry fruit and leaves and is used by herbalists to treat a variety of other health conditions as well. Bilberry plants contain tannins, which are most commonly used to treat diarrhea, and can reduce inflammation due to mouth and throat irritation. Flavonoids in bilberry leaf have been studied to improve circulation, which leads it to be used to treat conditions like diabetes and varicose veins as well.
Always consult your physician before starting any new health supplements to avoid possible medication interactions.