For FIBROCYSTIC BREASTS, bilberry extract is a botanical circulatory tonic which helps to prevent cyst formation in the breast tissue. Botanicals such as bilberry assist the lymphatic system in clearing congestion and accumulated fluids or wastes in the tissues may reduce fibrocystic pathology. Studies show that the therapeutic anthocyanins in bilberry promote human health by fortifying blood vessel walls and strengthening collagen, which is a critical component of the breast’s connective tissues.
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. Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is a close relative of blueberry, has a long history of use in traditional European medicine for at least one thousand years, particularly for circulatory support. Its fruit is a coarsely wrinkled purple-black berry. Bilberry offers a broad spectrum of therapeutic properties thanks to its healing phytochemicals called anthocyanins, which are potent natural antioxidants. Bilberry is also rich in quercetin, tannins, and resveratrol.
Anthocyanins – from the Greek words for “plant” and “blue” – are the water-soluble colorants responsible for bilberry’s blue hue. For the vascular system, bilberry anthocyanosides can improve blood flow in tiny vessels, the micro-circulation. It can reduce platelet clumping, deter cholesterol and fat deposits in blood vessels, and thus prevent thickening of blood vessel walls. In breast tissue these benefits extend to promoting healthy blood flow, and helping to scavenge oxidants to protect against cell damage. Overall this results in improved oxygen exchange, and also healthier hormone status within breast cells, which discourages cyst formation and overgrowth of fibrous tissue in the breasts.
A 1993 study followed 257 women who had fibrocystic mastopathy, who received at least three months treatment with anthocyanosides. The researchers discovered marked improvement in 34% of the women taking anthocyanosides: They observed that 27% had reduced symptoms including breast pain or swelling, and that for 6% of the women breast symptoms disappeared entirely. Overall, they concluded that anthocyanosides were significantly effective in reducing fibrocystic symptoms and mammary tension.2
Bilberry anthocyanosides appear to stabilize connective tissue by supporting collagen cross-linking, enhancing collagen formation, and inhibiting its breakdown, all of which improves the stability of breast tissue and texture, even during menstrual hormone fluctuations. These collagen benefits can also help the eyes, retina, gums, joints and veins. In addition, bilberry is anti-inflammatory: it lowers C-reactive protein, interleukins and inflammatory cytokines. This makes bilberry an invaluable botanical remedy for those who suffer from the cyclic pain of fibrocystic breasts. The astringent tannins in bilberry help reduce connective tissue swelling and inflammation.
As well as its actions on blood flow, bilberry extract improves capillary fragility, and reduces over-proliferation of blood vessels themselves. This is a unique property of bilberry, compared to most other anthocyanoside-containing, fruit-derived extracts. Bilberry would also be recommended for women who have varicose veins, hemorrhoids, or poor circulation.
Bilberry contains resveratrol which offers other benefits as well. As a botanical substance that mimics some of the benefits of estrogen but without its effects on the uterine lining, resveratrol has neuroprotective and chemoprotective properties.3 Women with fibrocystic breast changes often notice worsening of symptoms, with more painful or sensitive breasts, just prior to menstruation. This has been attributed to the effect of a deficiency of progesterone or increased estrogen on breast tissue at this time of the cycle. Because of its hormone stabilizing actions, resveratrol can help protect breast tissue from a worsening of fibrocystic changes due to an unstable and fluctuating hormonal environment during the menstrual cycle.
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, that provides a total amount of 160 to 320mg per dose. Our patients with fibrocystic breast symptoms have received excellent relief when consistently taking bilberry extract for months or years, as the cumulative benefits gradually build up.
Recommendation: Bilberry extract 160mg standardized to contain 25% anthocyanins, one to two times daily, best between meals as food may block bilberry’s absorption, or as directed by your health care provider.
- Lazze MC, Pizzala R, Savio M, et al. Anthocyanins protect against DNA damage induced by tert-butyl-hydroperoxide in rat smooth muscle and hepatoma cells. Mutat Res. 2003 Feb 5;535(1):103-15.
- Leonardi, M. “Treatment of fibrocystic disease of the breast with myrtillus anthocyanins. Our experience.” Minerva ginecologica 45.12 (1993): 617-621.
- Levenson AS, Gehm BD, Pearce ST, et al. Resveratrol acts as an estrogen receptor (ER) agonist in breast cancer cells stably transfected with ER alpha. Int J Cancer. 2003 May 1;104(5):587-96.
- Rangel, José Angel Olalde. “Synergistic phytoceutical compositions.” U.S. Patent No. 7,303,772. 4 Dec. 2007.
- Klein, Siegrid, Robert Rister, and C. Riggins. “The complete German commission E monographs: therapeutic guide to herbal medicines.” Austin: American Botanical Council (1998): 356-356.