The Medicine and The Magic: Bilberry | An Herb to Help The Eyes and Screentime Fatigue That Even WWI
GENERAL EFFECT: Antioxidant
HOW TO USE HER: My mother makes me a Bilberry tincture
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Vaccinium myrtillus
At work, at rest or play, almost everything we do nowadays is in front of a screen. Our increased digital lifestyles are a cause for more sedentary lifestyles, less sleep, mental health issues and often less discussed: screens are harming our eyes.
Eyes strain due to prolonged viewing of digital screens because images and words on the computer and such are made of pixels, tiny dots that your eyes have to work super hard to keep in focus. Furthermore, the retina, the tissue tucked in the back of the eye and responsible for detecting light is getting overused and abused. Studies have shown that increased exposure to blue light damages retina tissue cells, causing symptoms such as complaints, discomfort and impaired vision.
We do not yet know the prolonged and permanent effects of staring at artificial light all day long because screen technology is still so new in human history, but there are certainly short term symptoms like nearsightedness, dry eyes, headaches, blurry vision, decreased night vision and so on that are coming about. Some studies are pointing to that the onslaught and exposure to screens is producing irreversible, long term internal damage to the eyes.
I regularly take breaks from the screen during my work day - I will literally get up from my desk go outside and stare at something far in the distance and in nature. I also use blue light lenses like from Zigi and Marai. Additionally, I supplement unavoidable screentime with herb protocols including, Bilberry.
Bilberry is a fantastic herb to protect vision. Noted as medicine since even the middle ages, Bilberries are a staple in European herbalism also known as European blueberries. A cousin to, but not the same species as the American blueberry, they are darker than a blueberry and this is the secret to their medicine.
The secret to Bilberry’s potent medicine is found in the pigment that makes them dark blue. Anthocyanin is a pigment found in berries for example that depending on pH makes food appear red, purple, blue or black. Anthocyanins behave as antioxidants - they neutralize free radicals that are a natural product of metabolism and normal chemical reactions within the body, but that are responsible for aging, disease and degeneration within the body nonetheless.
The antioxidants in Bilberry are thought to specifically protect the demise of retinal tissue within the eye, in fact, Bilberries are most known and popular amongst herbalists for their capacity to improve vision, especially night vision and now the degradation and fatigue of the eye due to prolonged screen time.
During World War II, British Royal Air Force pilots had a secret weapon: herbs. They swore by Bilberry jam before flying night missions and that the practice would sharpen night vision. Using Bilberry for vision is so potent Nutritional Herbology explains, “a single dose is said to improve one’s night vision within hours”. The tradition soon spread to American pilots and for the whole war men were using plant medicine, relying on mother nature to fight.