Surgery Recovery Bilberry Extract2022-02-28T15:57:14-08:00

For SURGERY RECOVERY, research shows that bilberry extract boosts formation of collagen, the fiber-like protein that knits connective tissue and fascia together. Bilberry is a circulation tonic that improves blood flow, decreases capillary permeability and fragility, prevents edema, and inhibits tiny blood clots due to platelet aggregation. Additionally, bilberry’s flavonoids calm excess inflammation, helping to ease pain and preserve the strength of scars. Bilberry extract also has strong antioxidant actions that protect against tissue damage and speed recovery from surgery.

The history of Bilberry

The bilberry plant is a deciduous, leafy, freely branched, perennial shrub that is found in heaths, moors, and woods in most of Europe, northern Asia, and in the mountain and subalpine areas of western North America and Canada. Its fruit is a coarsely wrinkled purple-black berry.

Bilberry is a member of the genus Vaccinium, which contains hundreds of species, many of which produce edible berry-like fruits with medicinal properties like cranberry and blueberry. Both the fruit and the leaves of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) are used medicinally. It has a long history of use dating back to ancient Greece, where its astringent qualities were used to treat diarrhea and dysentery. It has been popular in traditional European medicine for at least one thousand years, particularly for circulatory support.

Bilberry is rich in quercetin, tannins, and resveratrol, and importantly in a type of flavonoids called anthocyanins. These pharmacologically active phytochemicals offer a broad spectrum of therapeutic properties, including potent natural antioxidant and other medicinal actions.

Anthocyanins–from the Greek words for “plant” and “blue”–are the largest group of healing water-soluble pigments in the plant kingdom, and they are responsible for bilberry’s blue hue.

Bilberry has important actions that help surgery recovery

  1. For the vascular system, bilberry anthocyanins can improve blood flow in tiny vessels, the micro-circulation. These benefits extend to promoting healthy circulation and preventing fragile capillaries, which increases oxygen delivery to healing tissues. In addition, bilberry has some specific actions to promote optimal blood flow:
    1. A unique property of bilberry extract is that it reduces over-proliferation (angiogenesis) of blood vessels. As adult skin wounds heal, a period of robust capillary growth creates a dense vascular bed necessary to bring nutrients, immune cells, and oxygen to the healing area. The functional importance of this rapid blood vessel growth has recently been challenged. Specifically, unchecked capillary growth actually worsens inflammation. Tissues heal better when supplied by more mature vessels that provide better oxygenation. Bilberry extract serves post-op healing with both anti-angiogenic and anti-inflammatory effects.1,2
    2. Bilberry extract stabilizes membrane phospholipids, the fatty layer in blood vessel cell membranes. For this reason, it has been widely used in Europe for the treatment of venous disorders. More stable blood vessel linings improve the strength and function of the endothelium barrier, keeping capillaries strong, and increasing the formation of new capillaries and collagen fibers.
  2. Antioxidant actions: Bilberry extract helps to scavenge oxidants to protect healing tissues against cell damage from free radical attacks. Over time, bilberry shields the whole body from oxidative stress.
    Antioxidants are natural substances made in our bodies or from plants like bilberry or mineral sources that shield all tissues from scavenging free radicals, reduce cell damage, and quench harmful peroxides that damage lipids. Antioxidants boost our own innate protective enzymes, which reduce oxidative damage caused by reactive oxygen species. Higher tissue levels of antioxidants allow for optimal post-operative healing and offset the effects of anesthetic and painkilling drugs. Beyond surgery recovery, antioxidants also protect against chronic ailments including heart disease, diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration, and arthritis.
    Free radicals are unstable molecules that form when atoms or molecules gain or lose electrons. They are produced in higher amounts after the stress of surgery, as well as during normal metabolic processes, such as clearing cellular waste, exercise, inflammatory responses; or from exposure to medications, air pollutants, and industrial chemicals. Unstable free radicals have unpaired electrons, and they roam the body seeking other atoms or molecules to bond to. If they attach to tissues, these rogue free radicals cause damage to cells and DNA, called oxidative stress. Ongoing oxidative stress can lead to long-term injury to muscles, organs, and cells.
  3. Reducing Inflammation: Although the inflammatory process has a role in healing surgical wounds, taken too far it reduces scar formation and increases infection risk. Bilberry extract has strong anti-inflammatory actions that reduce excessive inflammation, which is of great importance in surgery recovery. Bilberry calms the release and synthesis of pro-inflammatory compounds such as histamine, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes, so that only the necessary amounts are released.
  4. Collagen benefits: Bilberry extract is highly effective at promoting the biosynthesis of collagen, maintaining its integrity, and preventing its destruction.

The anthocyanins in bilberry extract have been shown to benefit collagen metabolism in several ways:

  1. strengthening the natural cross-linking of collagen that forms the matrix of connective tissue
  2. protecting collagen against oxidative damage by scavenging free radicals.
  3. shielding collagen against cleavage by enzymes secreted by leukocytes during inflammation
  4. preventing the release and synthesis of pro-inflammatory compounds including histamine, serine proteases, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes, which could degrade collagen
  5. stimulating collagen synthesis and the required interlacing of collagen fibers.

Studies confirm the many ways that Bilberry Extract enhances surgery recovery

Bilberry extract strengthens collagen and protects it from inflammatory damage and degradation. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and more than twenty different types of collagen have been identified in humans. In vitro research demonstrates that bilberry extract offers significant collagen-stabilizing action. To properly heal a wound, collagen attracts cells such as fibroblasts and keratinocytes to the wound site, ultimately leading to scar formation and wound remodeling.3,4

Research has clarified bilberry’s blood flow benefits, which help the surgery healing process. In an Italian study, the anthocyanosides in bilberry decreased vascular permeability by enhancing collagen cross-linking.5,6 This means that blood vessels were stronger and had less tendency to leak, or be overly permeable, because bilberry helped their connective tissue to be more robust.

The anthocyanins in bilberry extract have been shown to be effective in protecting damaged capillaries and stimulating capillary repair. Included in their effects are an ability to decrease capillary permeability and fragility. Capillaries are the tiniest blood vessels that permeate all tissues. If they sustain damage and leak, they become unable to deliver oxygen and nutrients to their tissues. Edema and fluid accumulation can result from leaky blood vessels. Bilberry helps to prevent interstitial fluid build-up or edema, and to improve capillary perfusion. It also increases intracellular vitamin C levels, and prevents leukocyte adhesion, reducing the risk of tiny blood clots.

Our patients’ experience with Bilberry Extract

In our clinic, we look for a bilberry extract with a high amount of the key active constituents, including 25% anthocyanins, the dark blue medicinal pigment in bilberry, in a total amount of 160 to 320mg per dose. Our patients undergoing surgery, or recovering from injuries or chronic wounds, tell us that taking bilberry extract leads to faster healing than expected, less pain at the wound site, and robust scar formation.

Recommendation: Bilberry extract 160mg standardized to contain 25% anthocyanins, taken one to two times daily, best between meals as food may block bilberry’s absorption, or as directed by your health care provider.

References

  1. Matsunaga N, Tsuruma K, Shimazawa M, Yokota S, Hara H. Inhibitory actions of bilberry anthycyanidins on angiogenesis. Phytother Res. 2010;24:S42–7.
  2. DiPietro LA. Angiogenesis and wound repair: when enough is enough. J Leukoc Biol. 2016;100(5):979-984.
  3. Besse,Jonadet M, Meunier MT, Bastide J, Bastide P. Anthocyanosides extracted from Vitis vinifera, Vacciniummyrtillus and Pinus maritimus. I. Elastase-inhibiting activities in vitro. II. Compared angio-protective activities in vivo. J Pharm Belg 1983; 38:41-6.
  4. Song, Juxian, et al. “Protective effect of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) extracts on cultured human corneal limbal epithelial cells (HCLEC).” Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives 24.4 (2010): 520-524.
  5. Kadar A. Influence of anthocyanoside treatment on the cholesterol-induced atherosclerosis in the rabbit. ParoiArterielle 1979; 5:187.
  6. Bertuglia S, Malandrino S, Colantuoni A. Effect of Vacciniummyrtillus anthocyanosides on ischaemia reperfusion injury in hamster cheek pouch microcirculation. PharmacolRes 1995; 31:183-7.
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