Blueberry's Cousin March 28 2021, 0 Comments

This is a re-print from the Herb Blurb Column I wrote in Equine Wellness Magazine, one of the largest publications in North America focused on natural and alternative therapies for horses.  

Did you know there is a very tasty cousin of the blueberry that not only can improve your equine’s eyesight but also provide awesome antioxidant support for overall immune health? 

 Plant parts and uses

 The Bilberry berry and leaf can be used for its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant support.  Compounds called anthocyanosides found in the plant strengthen blood vessels, increase blood flow and oxygen to the eye and assists the retina adjust between light and dark.  Additionally, the berry is high in Vitamin C and A, both very efficient antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body while Vitamin C assists in the production of collagen, which helps strengthen soft tissues and blood vessels.

Bilberry berries can be eaten directly or dried leaves and berries can be made into a tea.  Bilberry is also a very popular jam in Europe, with a taste somewhat similar to Huckleberries.

Most common uses for horses

Bilberry is a common ingredient in eye support herbal supplements for horses.  Because horse’s retinas are particularly sensitive to oxidative stress, this plant rich in antioxidants is a popular supplement for keeping equine eye health in top shape.  Horses with Uveitis, or prone to Uveitis, squamous cell carcinoma, and other common eye diseases are sometimes recommended to be supplemented with Bilberry.  Additionally, as a horse ages it is exposed to more oxidative stress and could benefit from the antioxidant boost the Vitamin A and C in bilberry provides.  You can dry the leaves and berries and top dress on feed or create a tea to mix into feed to serve your horse. 

Home grown

 Bilberry is a very hardy small shrub that grows well in North America.  This shrub prefers well drained, acidic soil, with only water when soil is dry and prefers to be pruned after harvest time.  If your area is cold, then plant in full sun, and if hot, then plant in the shade.  The berries are ready to harvest in late summer when they are darkest in color and only ripen on the bush, so do not harvest early.