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The pharmacological actions of bilberry have not been significantly investigated in clinical studies, so information is generally derived from in vitro and animal studies or based on known information about key constituents found within the herb. Most of the research undertaken to understand the pharmacology of the herb has focused on the polyphenol content. ANTIOXIDANT

Anthocyanosides are the main phenolic constituents in bilberry and have well established antioxidant activity (Kahkonen et al 2001, Roy et al 2002). Reduces ischaemic reperfusion injury Bilberry anthocyanosides have been shown to improve ischaemia damage, preserve capillary perfusion, inhibit increased permeability of reperfusion and save arteriolar tone in an animal model of ischaemic reperfusion injury (Bertuglia et al 1995).

Ophthalmic conditions Bilberry's significant antioxidant activity is believed to be responsible for much of its activity in the eye, in particular, prevention of cataract.

Clinical note — Cataract

Growing evidence suggests that senile cataract development may in part be linked to the endogenous generation of free radical molecules, such as superoxide derived from oxygen and light in the aqueous humour and lens (Varma & Richards 1988, Varma et al 1982, 1994). As such, substances with significant antioxidant activity such as anthocyanins, vitamin C and vitamin E have been investigated as potential prophylactic treatments.

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